Steven Branfman, Raku Master


One thing I’m learning quite quickly is that self-expression can’t be taught, especially when it comes to the specific fields that we discuss here on the site. In all of these subjects, even in something quite far removed as industrial design or architecture, you have boundaries of sorts and there’s only minor ways in which you can make a mark on a project. Often the best works come to fruition when the maker flows and lets nature take its course, this usually comes with time and experience. Pottery in-particular is a perfect example of this as you’re literally shaping something from scratch, so you never lose touch with the object from start to finish. Unfortunately without your own creativity coming through the objects will have no warmth or depth, and can often lead to cold and stale pots with no real character.

I guess this is where the fascination with studio potters comes from. I never really understood it before, but I can see why more and more people warm to these pots that are a pure ‘expression’ of ones self. Potters like Ken Matsuzaki and Svend Bayer come to mind. A few weeks back I watched this video that I’m embedding here today, it epitomises the importance of having your own principles and sense of purpose in your work. Otherwise your pieces will lack any sort of context in the grand scale of things. Steven Branfman has specialised in the Raku technique and process for over 30 years. In this video we’re introduced to his workshop and studio, showcasing his skills on the wheel and the Raku technique in general. It’s something you don’t read about too often, so it’s this knowledge is very much welcomed.

The visuals by Brian Smith and Brian Tortora of Twin Lens Media definitely make this short film. Some of the studio shots are quite mesmerising with the wheel spinning and the kiln blazing at over 1000 degrees centigrade. Overall it’s obvious to see Steven is inspired by functional vessels, but his career has matured and he now concentrates on decorative pots. Saying that, his functional side is clear for all to see in the shape of the vessels, making vases, tea bowls and the like. Hopefully you enjoy this bite-size video and it will make you think about how to add depth and character to your own work, no matter what creative field that might be.