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Colleen Black-Semelka

Canadian-born, I fell in love with clay soon after discovering the medium. Reared on the prairie, my first ceramic piece was made at our farm; a mold of my horses’ hoof print! After receiving an undergraduate degree from the University of Manitoba I encountered many art teachers. First introduced to raku in San Francisco in the 1980’s, I then studied hand-building in Germany and perfected wheel skills with Valerie Metcalfe in Winnipeg. Since the early 1990’s North Carolina has been the crucible of my creativity. Art Professor Yun-Dong Nam at UNC Chapel Hill challenged my sculptural abilities. I had two great mentors: the late Sally Bowen Prange and iconic master Paul Soldner.

Raku is a Japanese term implying ease and spontaneity. This ceramic technique has its origins in 16th century Japan, traditionally used in the tea ceremony. The process includes rapid kiln firing and smoking the clay, generating dynamic chemical changes and sensuous surface effects. The volatility of the process imprints on my work. Originating with simplicity, raku invites one to release control and embrace change.

It’s this element of surprise that makes raku so interesting. I create glazes and experiment with alternative firing methods using metallic lusters, crackling, and smoke-blackening effects. While attempting to maintain elements of traditional forms my work incorporates an inventive perspective by transcending accepted conventions.

Raku philosophy reminds one there are very few mistakes and many opportunities for growth. My work reveals new forms when viewed from different angles, with reflective properties of the glaze further embellishing the viewer’s experience. It’s in the eye of the beholder. Enjoy!