During elementary school, I began taking ceramics classes at The Art League in Alexandria, VA because watching potters throw pieces on the wheel had always fascinated me. I loved it, and continued taking classes through high school. To maintain my skills, I took an advanced ceramics course my freshman year of college, and one of the students was a 70-year-old man who basically had his own ceramics studio and kilns in his basement and backyard. He invited the rest of the class over to help him do a raku firing, which involves taking the still-glowing pieces out of the kiln, throwing leaves or other organic material at them, and then smothering them under a metal pail on a sawdust bed. This dramatic technique yields dramatic colors, and this close-up of one of the pieces I helped him fire shows the textures and sheen that result from raku.