Introduction: Steampunk Raku Howl's Moving Castle

Picture of Steampunk Raku Howl's Moving Castle

It's about time I posted some details about my epic ceramic project from the winter. The process was long, there were a few bumps in the road and a few scares but I finally finished my beloved castle and it's time to show it off!! I have had a love for ceramics and building whatever pops into my head out of clay ever since I took a ceramics class for my elective back in 2007. There is something so relaxing and fulfilling about building something with your hands that becomes a functional/beautiful permanent thing. My Howl's Moving Castle project began with a love for the movie itself. When I first saw Hayao Miyazaki's film, I instantly fell in love with the characters and the dreamlike story. Who wouldn't love a magical castle that transported you through dimensions?

The only tools I used was some basic clay, ceramic throwing tools like sponges and ribs and trimming tools. The most important tool you can have in this process is patience! Don't add too much in one day and make sure everything dries very slowly to prevent cracking. 

I began the construction process by making the base of the castle and the upper part in two separate pieces so that I could make sure it was very stable and not too heavy. I planned on gluing them together after the Raku process. I began by hand throwing the bowl shapes and the cylinders for the top and the bottom and then over time, adding on hand made pieces. I used rolled up paper for the pipes so they would keep their shape.  

I had to plan the piece very carefully so that it was not to big to fit into our Raku kiln and I also had to keep in mind that we needed to somehow pick up this molten hot piece of clay once it was done firing and move it to its reduction can. I made some handles for the sides and the back that would appear to be pipes and hopefully compliment the style of the castle. I wasn't able to find good photos of every side of the castle to know how to accurately reproduce every detail so I pretty much made some things up but the spirit of the castle was definitely there. 
It is important to let the piece dry slowly and evenly. Too fast and cracks happen. This piece took about 6 months to dry and I added pieces in steps and then would wrap it as tightly as possible at the end of the day in heavy plastic wrap so it would dry very very slowly. 

I after completely building all the pieces on, I let the entire piece dry lightly covered for a month until it was white and bone dry. 

Before raku firing, we had to put the piece in a bisque kiln to get the rest of the remaining moisture out. If you don't do this, the piece will explode in the firing process. The piece was placed in the bisque kiln to dry for a week and then was turned on very slowly. Raising the temperature at a moderate rate so avoid any breakage since this is a very delicate piece. Once it is bisqued, it is ready for the raku process!

I painted various parts of the piece with raku glazes. Some where very shiny, others where crackly and others looked like slick oil. This brings the steampunk feel to the piece. 

Usually a Raku piece is so small it is not a problem to just pick it up with the tongs but this castle was very large (the largest they have attempted to put into the Raku kiln) and needed THREE people to lift it out of the kiln and place onto the prepared sand pit where it was then covered with a metal trash can. Normally you would put the piece in a can and then the lid over it for the reduction process but in this case, we used a bucket for the base with some sand and newspaper inside and then put the can over the top. 

You can watch the video process here. It's quite the sight to see especially when flames start shooting out the side like a jet engine!!

When we pulled the paper away and I saw that beautiful copper I almost fell over. The piece managed to make it through this whole process and didn't explode AND the color turned out perfect! All that broke was a wing when we put the can over the top right after it came out of the kiln. I managed to glue that on later and you can't even tell! I got so dang lucky on this one I couldn't believe it.

You can see how the different glazes came out so well. They still need to be cleaned up to show the detail but they are looking good!

I have entered this piece into the Oregon State Fair Art Competition. You can see it in person at the Hart of the Garden building where it is on display with a lot of other awesome artwork. Guess the judges are a fan of Howl too because I won first place :) It's nice when hobbies pay off isn't it?


smithhenry (author)2016-06-19

Five years on and this still holds up as impressive! Just a flawless execution. Totally awesome.

Steam Master (author)2015-11-06

Really cool!

radcock (author)2014-11-12

Does anyone know of any exams of this being made from another material?

superdavedjd (author)2013-09-23

what raku glazes did you use and do you have the recipes for them?

sarahlynnmurphy (author)2013-07-11


ginabobeana (author)2013-05-22

That is absolutely AMAZING!!!

Pixie Puddle (author)2012-10-01

that is brilliant, :)

Kaiven (author)2011-11-01

That is amazing. Fantastic job!

mouseinstructables (author)2011-08-14

This is incredible! I never expected anyone to reproduce this. Great work!

recklesskiba (author)2011-07-16

wow... you ... are hotter than what the kiln did the the castle just because to made a howls castle model. and it is absolutely awesome looking

kblalock (author)2011-06-07

I love you. O_O

Brooklyntonia (author)2011-06-02

Truly beautiful. I've recently inherited a pottery wheel and have been experimenting with ceramics myself. I know how much work this was, and you did an amazing job!

TimPayne (author)2011-05-03

This is incredible!

natumendez (author)2011-04-21

It's excellent!
Contratulations!, and thanks for sharing.

Honus (author)2011-04-12

That's awesome!

Rob K (author)2011-04-11

Good work.

I love his movies.

Kiki's Delivery Service
Princess Mononoke
Spirited Away

thingy (author)2011-04-11

Excellent... From one Howl's nerd to another.

gvnmcknz (author)2011-04-10

Steam Boy next?

lizzomarek (author)gvnmcknz2011-04-11

steam boy would be awesome!

capricorn (author)2011-04-11

Lizz, I'm honestly impressed that you could get that beast out from the Kiln without breaking anything.

A Top pottery team you have there, I assure you.

Thanks for sharing this with us and bring in more Raku please. I'm a potter and I'm hungry for this

Two thumbs up for you :D

SHIFT! (author)2011-04-10

Very cool! It's always nice to see an anime let alone a Miyazaki project on this site!

SinAmos (author)2011-04-10

I love it. You inspire me.

Morte_Moya (author)2011-04-09

Wow! You just made my day with this stunning work of art!

mrlunna13 (author)2011-04-09


What an incredible piece of ART! Your imaginative work and artistic craftsmanship will take to far places. Continue to build your portfolio and never stop dreaming. I can see you at par with the great artists.
Jesse M.

bigloaf (author)2011-04-09

Wow, My wife and I are Raku artists here in New Hampshire. To get that piece of art to survive the Raku process is amazing!! You might want to contact Ceramics Monthly or Pottery Making Illustrated with your story and a picture of your results .I think the pottery world would love to see your work and hear about your process. I can see your work as a cover feature article.

lizzomarek (author)bigloaf2011-04-09

Thank you! I got really lucky :-D and I had a lot of help from the very knowledgeable people at Willamette Art Center. They helped me come up with a plan to bring my vision to life! I had a lot of people tell me it would not work and the whole thing would explode in the kiln. People who had been doing this for years! I say who cares if it does! 90% of the fun was just building it :)

Housedog (author)2011-04-09

Incredible piece of work Liz! I had no idea it was made of clay. It looks like an elaborate metal sculpture. You must be a very interesting and talented person! Do you have a store front in Portland where we could meet you and/or view/purchase your creations?

lizzomarek (author)Housedog2011-04-09

I don't have a storefront as of yet but I am working on it! I am new to the Portland area and am currently looking for the perfect spot to set up shop :)

lifeshard (author)2011-04-09

I am very impressed. When I first glanced at the project i read "cake maker" and then i thought thats pretty involved and detailed for a cake haha. Then I put on my glasses and wow, what a project. Your talent is not being wasted on something someone eats after all. Ceramic is a great medium for Steampunk I never thought of that. Great job and great instructable I will look forward to seeing more of your work.

theexternaldisk (author)2011-04-09

looks great! Wish I had one... maybe later.
Great sculpture from a great movie. Now go sculpt it's music!

thepelton (author)2011-04-08

Neat. Loved the movie. Like the sculpture. Did you use newspaper in your Raku tub?

lizzomarek (author)thepelton2011-04-08

Yes I did use newsprint :)

Greasetattoo (author)2011-04-08

Very cool...

I have the Paper Version!

Gerekr (author)2011-04-08

Oh MY!!! This is absolutely wonderful; thank you SO MUCH for documenting your process. Extremely edifying AND inspiring!!!!

The three of us have been taking park-dept. wheel throwing for a couple of years, so have some vague idea what an accomplishment this is. REALLY makes me want to try some Raku, too, 8-)

(What sort of stickum did you use to re-attach that broken wing bit??)

lizzomarek (author)Gerekr2011-04-08

I used a ceramic epoxy :) Worked like a charm! You can get it a home depot or a craft store :-D

smallstrangegod (author)2011-04-08

that is so RAD! awesome job! :)

skittlespider (author)2011-04-08

Wow, this is THE most amazing ceramic creation I have ever seen!!! You did an exceptional job!

dimtick (author)2011-04-08

really amazing piece! GREAT JOB!!!!!!!
I haven't seen the movie. gonna have to check it out now.

pie R []ed (author)2011-04-08

Beautiful work! I love Studio Ghibli and Steampunk, so when I saw the title I was hooked. I used to do some ceramic work. Nothing even close to this level of detail / awesomeness, but I under stand the process and challenges of this piece and I applaud you!

Crabby (author)2011-04-08

Well, that's the coolest thing I've ever seen made from ceramic. And it's likely to be one of the coolest things ever to be made from ceramic.

Excellent job.

zazenergy (author)2011-04-08

holy toledo! this is unbelievable! I absolutely loved the film and it's great to see how you've translated the castle into a really beautiful piece of art.

Kaelessin (author)2011-04-07

Wow that copper glaze came out very nicely! Good work!

About This Instructable




Bio: Hi my name is Liz! I own Artisan Cake Company in Portland Oregon. I make 3D sculpted cakes and lots of toppers on a daily ... More »
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