I start by throwing bottomless cylinder. I keep the walls thick in hopes that doing so will make them last through a few firings. Occasionally I have squeezed them into a square shape, this time I didn't get back to them until they were too stiff to alter. I also made two cylinders that will stack on top of each other, therefore creating extra room in the kiln.
Using a hole cutter, I punched holes all around to support the bead wire. I tested them out and adjusted some of the holes, so that the wire would match up and insert easily. They don't have to be pretty because these racks don't last that long during the raku process. I am lucky if they go through three firings, occasionally they have made it through just one. If you use them in a high fire situation, I am sure they will last longer. We don't use raku clay in our studio. It's too easy to have a mix up and we have found that we had just as much loss with raku clay as with cone 10 stoneware. Something that we did learn after moving to North Carolina is that the Highwater clays we buy don't work in raku. Our locally made STARworks clay handles the process quite well. These bead racks are made with STARwhite with grog. When these are dry I will bisque fire them and then they will be ready for action.
This is a bead rack that has been through a couple of firings. I have started to add a "basket handle" made of discarded electric kiln elements to the top. It makes the ring easier to lift out of the kiln. You can see that this one has snapped off... nothing lasts long through the raku process!
I learned about adding these handles from Tracey Broome's blog.
What I like about the bead racks is that the heat from the ring ignites the combustible material in the metal can quickly, giving much better results. The beads on their own cool off too quickly on their way to the can and take too long to ignite the paper.
I would be happy to answer any questions about the bead racks and/or raku. I would also love to hear if you have a method of firing beads that works well for you.
You can also find this post on Sunday Ceramics. Be sure to head over there and see what other ceramic artists are up to.