Raku is an ancient Japanese firing-technique, which Terra Cotta pottery in Botswana has Africanised in style. The firing technique involves manual removal of the red-hot pottery from the kiln at specific temperatures and submerging it in different organic materials, like leafs, dung or sawdust.

This temperature shock produces fine cracks in the surface-glaze and the smouldering organic smoke penetrates deep into these cracks, producing most attractive, ancient looking irregular crackle effects. The shade of grey-black on the unglazed areas depends on the kind of material used, its temperature, colouring, moisture and the general weather when firing.

Raku is a risky and uncomfortable way of firing, with high breakages, unexpected outcomes and health-risks for the artists due to the acrid fumes.

The charm and fascination of this technique lies however in these surprise-effects, which gives the pottery its unique look. Our designs are mostly inspired by African life and nature with all its shapes and textures and are never exactly repeated twice. Firing large, narrow-necked, thin or flat pieces is very difficult due to the stress on the material during the severe temperature shock.

Cracks that have occasionally penetrated through the actual clay body can be fixed by the medieval practice of allowing milk to sour in it (repeatedly if necessary) and then cleaning it before usage. This closes pores and fine cracks rendering the vessel waterproof.

Terra Cotta pottery uses only lead free and food approved glazes (most are imported from Germany), and our pots can withstand domestic oven temperatures. Unglazed, smoked outer surfaces have been polished with clear wax. This can be repeated from time to time - if you wish- to keep up the smooth and lustrous appearance.

ULRIKE VON SCHWERIN - FRANKEN

Rika Franken was born to a graphic artist mother and a father of aristocratic descent with a restless but innovative spirit in 1960 in Germany. After High school she moved with her family to the Westerwald region where she trained as a ceramic designer in the town of Hoehr- Grenzhausen. She received her ceramic diploma and worked as a pottery designer for another year to save up for her long time dream to travel to Africa. She finally left for Botswana to visit relatives working for the GVS. Rika fell in love with the country, people and nature and decided to stay on. She met a local pottery lady of 82 years while working at a safari lodge in the African wilderness, who taught her about traditional Tswana pottery and its difficult dung firing technique.

She worked briefly for the National museum and Art Gallery in Gaborone, and taught Art and Ceramics for 2 years at the Gaborone Polytechnic. Finally she had the chance to start her dream pottery empowering local ladies in the village of Gabane. "Pelegano Pottery" is a pottery inspired by local and other African traditional designs on typical red clay. She trained 6 village Ladies and her project eventually won the support of the UNDP. After successfully localising the project (it is still running today), she left with her husband for 2 years to travel through Africa on a motorbike and side car, which tremendously inspired her artistic mind.

On their return they settled down and had their first son Telian-Kabo and acquired land just outside the capital Gaborone building their artistic dream house. Twins Miran-Opelo and Danyas-Leboko arrived next. With long-time friend and assistant Wendy Keorapetse Phatsima from Gabane village, Rika here established the little home pottery called "Terra- Cotta". The 2 Ladies experimented a lot and eventually got taken in by the Asian Raku firing technique coupled with African inspiration and the color palette of glazes from ancient Egypt.

Pots are created as unique Art pieces, designed with traditionally inspired or organic patterns and often have social or other messages. Botswana's nature remains the main inspiration, with seeds, leather, cloth, and glass attached but also special themes and photos as messages. Rika has exhibited solo and with different Artists at various venues over the past 20 years and won many National awards. The pottery is valued by collectors all over the world and was exhibited and sold on exhibitions in Japan, Germany, the US and the UK.

WENDY KEORAPETSE PHATSIMA

Wendy was born in 1970 in Gabane village in Botswana and completed her primary education there. She realised early on that she was practically inclined and wanted to do something with her hands.

Speaking excellent English she was hired By Rika to decorate her house in the traditional African style of dung and mud plastering, painted with traditional African patterns. She agreed to stay on with Rika to learn pottery, and was a keen and avid learner.

Rika sent her to learn throwing on a potter's wheel with Martin Kabwe at 'Pelegano Pottery'.

When Rika and her family moved to their new house, she followed and has worked in 'Terra Cotta' Pottery since over 10 years now. She once travelled to Germany with Rika, a huge experience.

Wendy's openness and consistent interest in Pottery and other ceramic literature has helped her develop her own style over time. She creates pots with generally typical Tswana shapes, but loves organic protrusions, legs and knobs with few but strong decorations and colours.

Wendy, who is also a mother of two sons and a beekeeper, has exhibited alongside Rika on many exhibitions, particularly in the Botswana National museum, at Botswana craft gallery and the Thapong Art Gallery.

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