After being unable to get into the ceramics studio for any technical help I asked if I could do anything in the mean time so that when I was able to book with a technician it wouldn’t take as long. I booked a session with Gay to make a plaster mold of my form.
I decided I wanted to create something from a set of traditional Korean soju cups I bought while I was in South Korea. Their significance in relation to my research centres mainly around how delicate they are, but how they’re used over and over again. While Korea was under Japanese rule there was a strong emphasis on eradicating traditional Korean culture among citizens. Using a Korean ceramic form speaks of identity and tradition.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to successfully create a plaster mold using the method Gay showed me. A vacuum formed inside the mold and I wasn’t able to remove the ceramic piece from the mold without breaking it, so I had to cut the plaster away.
– gather failed attempts at mould,
– refamiliarise myself with slip casting technique in Ceramics Bible,
– gather together pieces made before Christmas on the wheel,
– establish timeline to ensure I will have work for WIP show (Jan 25th)
– on days where I’m not able to access the ceramics studio, make literally anything else, always be making,
After struggling to get into the ceramics studio I bought some basic air drying clay and work on making a collection of small pinch pots to get used to using clay and my hands, as well as have a body of work to start from.
I wanted to try and use the fact that clay holds memory to my advantage so I overworked the clay before forming it into pinch pots, and unsurprisingly they all collapsed when they eventually dried. Some held their shapes, but most turned into crude flat discs. While these were wholly unsuccessful I was glad to get my hands in some clay and also to produce a collection of something.
To get myself back into the swing of making I went to the ceramics studio and worked on throwing on the wheel. I’d been thinking about ceramic techniques over the summer and had been watching tonnes of videos, yet being back on the wheel I was surprised at how out of practice I was. I definitely need to practice a lot more. I was able to make a few forms, this isn’t necessarily the direction I’d like to go in but it was enjoyable working with clay again.
Small bowls thrown using porcelain clay. I’d been trying to get into the studio for several weeks – lots of staffing issues meant I couldn’t work on slip casting, so I got some porcelain buff and worked on some throwing.
It was much harder than I expected it to be, definitely isn’t like riding a bike and will require loads more practice.
Start adding to blog
– Collect all notes made so far and add to blog:
– journal notes
– Confirm appointment with Claire for Monday 15th
– Bring small shot cups & photos of failed mold
– Buy clay from Gay and charge to my materials account /
(Speak to Claire first to work out what clay I can use for free to start with.)
– Experiment with unfired clay in water
– add to blog
– Locate pieces made before Christmas
– add to blog
Making the Cottle
Using the lathe I worked with Claire to center the clay and create the shape that’ll form the step I need at the top of my finished mold. This step is important when making a slip cast mold – if the mold was just flat at the top there wouldn’t be room for a spare at the top of my form. This is useful as I can overfill the mold and the excess at the top – the spare – can be trimmed away which will help introduce air between the mold and the drying slip.
Once this base was made I formed a cottle around the outside, once this was in place I clamped the edges to make sure it didn’t slip apart. I tied it all together with string, rolling clay around the base to ensure the plaster didn’t leak out of the bottom.
I mixed together 3lbs of plaster with water making sure to mix it well – a bad mix means there’s more chance of air bubbles forming in the mold and creating undercuts inside the form. Once the mixture was about to turn I poured it into the cottle and waited for it to set. Once it was done I removed the cottle and filed down any sharp edges.
Once the molds were dry (I left them in the drying cabinet overnight) I was able to start making my forms.
Things to remember:
- I should make a couple more molds in a few weeks so as to not overwork the ones I have, the more I use them the more water is introduced into the plaster. Rapid drying of the plaster can eventually damage the mold so it would be good to have back up molds just in case.
- When using these molds I should never leave them in the drying cabinet for more than ten minutes at a time, as this can cause the plaster to crack.
- The slip machine needs to be turned on for at least half an hour to an hour before use, I should factor this into my making schedule.
I began with a plan to make two successful forms. Mixing the slip was a lot easier than I expected and has definitely opened up the possibility of working with different kinds of slips once I’ve got my head around this step first.
I worked on making one form really thick, and another really thin. The slip I worked with was a lot more watery than usual but this lent itself really well to creating thin walls. In future the slip will have to be thicker for consistency.
A thinner form only took ten minutes in the mold, a thicker took about 13-15minutes. Once I’m working with denser slip I’ll need to experiment more with my timings as casting will be a lot quicker.
I ended up making four forms, all of different thicknesses.