Lesley McKenzie

Lesley Initially trained as a graphic artist before starting up her own business in 1996, fusing her love of animals and nature with the broad ranging artist talents she is now well known for.

Working as a freelance sculptor for Border Fine Arts over a four- year period she produced over 100 animal studies for the company, whilst during this time continuing to develop her own unique painting style and also discovering raku ceramic and the beautiful possibilities it held for creating lifelike, one off, handmade animal sculptures.

Lesley’s raku sculptures are made using earthenware clay to which she adds paper pulp to aid with the raku firing. The sculpture must be hollow and this is achieved by wrapping a thin skin of clay around paper stuffing to create the basic body shape. As the clay hardens she works in the details and finer points.

The sculpture is then dried before bisque firing and glazing. After glazing the piece is raku fired, this is a fast firing technique where her gas kiln reaches 980 degrees C in about an hour. The kiln is then opened up and the red hot sculpture is carefully removed and placed in a metal chamber containing wood shavings which then produces a lively fire pit. Next the chamber is sealed and the fire suffocates as it consumes all the available oxygen leaving a thick acrid smoke and an oxygen starved atmosphere. The thermal shock of the process causes tiny cracks to appear in the glaze, these cracks and any unglazed areas absorb carbon from the smoke resulting in a rich crackle glaze with a beautiful smoky finish.

Lesley uses glazes containing copper oxide which react to the oxygen levels and can produce some wonderful bronze effect finishes.

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