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"Small Deer Vase" etched horse hair pottery by Acoma Pueblo Indians
Horse Hair Raku is a method of decorating pottery through the application of horsehair and other dry carbonaceous material to the heated ware. The burning carbonaceous material creates smoke patterns and carbon trails on the surface of the heated ware that remain as decoration after the ware cools. Although preparation is similar to pit fired pottery and other primitive firing techniques, horsehair Raku is generally considered an alternative form of Western-style Raku fired, because it uses Western-style Raku kilns, firing techniques and tools.
Horsehair Raku usually utilizes burnishing and/or Terra sigillata techniques to prepare the unglazed surface before bisque firing. The bisque ware is heated in a kiln, then removed while still extremely hot. The decorating is performed when the ware is between 480 and 700°C; lower temperatures do not effectively combust the horsehair and other materials, while higher temperatures cause the carbon makings to burn off leaving no lasting decorative effect. Strands of horsehair (the horse is a very spiritual animal to the Native American so most of the hair is gently obtained from free roaming reservation horses) are laid across hot ware leave a wandering linear smoke design on the surface. Other materials which can be used to create surface effects include sugar sprinkled on the hot surface to leave spotted smoke marks and feathers applied to the hot surface to give dark, feather shaped silhouettes. Additionally, leaves can be used to attain a leaf shaped pattern on bisque surface.
The final piece is then hand carved using traditional Native American designs and, in some instances, adorned with turquoise.
No special care is required, and a soft cloth is all that is needed to dust. As in all fine art your pottery should be kept out of direct unfiltered sunlight.