Shari Bray


I am primarily a ceramicist.  I typically use the Japanese raku firing process to finish my pieces and give them their distinctive surfaces.  My raku work is non-traditional in that I don’t rely on the lustrous effects generally associated with the raku firing process.  Instead, I use the raku firing process as a medium to “paint,” exploring a variety of subjects, including figurative, natural, and contemporary subject matter.   My work is representational, often with a nod to the classical arts.  I like to explore different themes and usually work on multiple projects simultaneously to keep my perspective fresh.  The raku process provides a unique warmth and a feeling of antiquity to the work.  The process is never entirely controllable.  Each piece is unique and can never be replicated identically.  However, over time and with experience, I have learned to fairly consistently predict results and repeat genres. 

Saggar work gives me a chance to explore the random and uncontrollable nature of the process.  I love the rich, warm reds, pinks and oranges.  I have also stretched the process to include underglaze base colors to enhance and deepen the intensity of the colors I can achieve. 

The prints on clay give me a chance to be “painterly.”  Although I had a double emphasis in college in the studio arts with ceramic sculpture and oil painting, for the past two decades, I have involved almost exclusively with clay.  But my love of painterly surfaces and the classical arts always finds a way to “peek through.”


Saggar firing is a primitive decorative firing process where prepared pots are nestled into saggars* filled with organic materials, such as salt, seaweed, or leaves, and/or not-so organic materials such as copper wire and/or Miracle-Gro. The materials ignite and fume during firing within the saggar, leaving a chemical residue or shadow on the pot. Ware produced this way may display random and dramatic markings, with colors ranging from distinctive black markings to flashes of greens, oranges, pinks and red tones. *A saggar traditionally was a lidded ceramic jar into which the prepared pot was placed with organic material surrounding it.  Shari uses “the poor man’s method” which is to use a couple layers of heavy duty aluminum foil as the saggar.


Raku is a primitive firing process developed hundreds of years ago by the Japanese to produce ware for the tea ceremony.  Raku is generally regarded to have been introduced to America by Paul Soldner in the 1960s.  Because of the nature of the firing process, the final outcome of a piece can not be completely predicted.  A once fired (bisqued) piece is coated with special glazes.  In the American raku process a red hot piece is removed from the kiln and put in something combustible (such as newspaper, leaves or sawdust).  This creates a reduction atmosphere which influences the outcome of the glaze and blackens any exposed clay body.  Shari uses Raku in an unorthodox manner to create a representational images.  The process adds a richness and a sense of antiquity.

Prints on Clay

Using underglazes instead of paint, Shari prints images on clay. She further embellishes the surface with brush work to create a complex surface and to tell a story or capture a moment in time.