Horse Hair is a special technique where horse hair is used to decorate the surface. Basically, the idea is to burn the hairs onto the surface to create lines. Hairs are laid upon a hot surface, that have just come out from the kiln, they will burn onto the pieces leaving localised carbon marks. The process can equally be used with other types of horse hair, sawdust, sugar, feathers, or indeed anything which will carbonise when applied to a hot surface. For this type of technique the piece needs a good finishing touch therefore terra sigillata has to be applied to obtain a shiny surface. The preparation of the pieces is the same of Raku Dolce. For a Raku kiln to be optimal the temperature will have to reach 500°C.
As the work is taken out from the kiln and immediately exposed to cold air, the best clay is the one enable to resist the thermal shock. Once the pieces are removed from the kiln, they have to be placed on a comfortable table, to be able to start decorating the surface with the horse hairs. It is also possible to spray ferric chloride on the hot work which gives a yellow or brown background to the horsehair marks. It is not the easiest techniques, due to the many variables involved but when it works, the results are stunning. The creations cool very quickly and the hair will no longer carbonise if the surface is cold.
It’s possible also to imprint additional marks by sprinkling more sugar onto the surface of the piece before it cools down or by rolling feathers onto the ware while it is still hot. If you want to darken the interior of the pieces, drop combustibles inside onto the pieces while they are still hot. The smoke will darken the inside. When the pot has cooled you can usually just brush away any burnt remnants leaving the carbonised markings. It’s possible to apply a mixture of water and wax to the surface to denote all lines. This technique will result in a high contrast between black and white.