Mold Making!

Inspired by the recent factory tours in Stoke I have done this year and my love of Kate Malone’s work (her Instagram #Kate_Malone_Ceramics is great by the way! I bought one of her famous pumpkins that featured in her Waddesdon Manner exhibition this year during her open studio – photos on my Instgram #pstratfordceramics) I have long wanted to make my own mold. But it looks messy and a little complicated. And messy it is, but complicated less so, as I found out!

Until this weekend despite my desire to make a plaster mold, I hadn’t actually found something I wanted to create and repeat multiple times. More often than not the same thing can be hand built to the same dimensions using the same templates and tools. However this weekend I came across my first Munchkin pumpkin! Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t the first time I’d ever seen one, but they aren’t usually for sale in the local supermarket and if they are they’re priced at something ridiculous. However these ones were just £1! And were beautiful. Sumptuous, perfectly shaped and a gorgeous deep orange colour. I had to have one! (Two. I bought two).

Now that I had an object of desire I wanted to reproduce (channelling my inner Malone) I needed some plaster. As you may have read in earlier posts, I’m used to working with plaster to make wedging boards and my local art shop, which is usually quite pricey, sells 2.5kg buckets of plaster of paris for £7.95. Which isn’t too bad – online it can be a little cheaper but postage usually brings it to around £10 or so. Plus the wait. And impatient I certainly am! So I ran down to the art shop to purchase my plaster – but they were out of stock! They only had 1kg bag left. After a little friendly chat and explanation of what I was doing, they very kindly said they had a couple of kilos in the warehouse which they could bring in the next day and even more kindly said that because of the wait, I could have 3kg for the price of 2.5kg – woo hoo!

I headed back home one happy potter. The next stage was a little tricky however.

I knew I needed to cast the pumpkin in a container, as I don’t have the wooden molds that you see in the videos online or blogs. Hmm. I also knew I needed to re-use the mold in order to get the same shape for both sides, or have two disposable molds. HMMMM. After a lot of thinking and trying out of cardboard, chopping boards, emptying food and trying to find matching shapes, I came across a bucket container I had from a previous batt wash purchase. The bucket was perfect in shape, not too big and not too small, and tall enough to fit the clay, the munchkin and the plaster. Sorted!

In order to make extraction possible, I lined the container with a plastic bag before putting in a clay base, then building up clay around my munchkin. It was tricker than I had thought to get a nice smooth, even surface. I had previously marked the halfway point of the pumpkin with black marker, so that I knew where to bring the clay up to. It also occurred to me it’d be incredibly difficult to remove once set due to the air vacuum, so I poked a hole down one side. This could also serve as a marker so I knew which way to line up the molds when casting. I read about needing to ‘soap’ the item as well, to make sure it released easily from the plaster. I wasn’t sure what ‘soaping’ was, I understood the concept and read about people using some specialist kind of soap or oil… I just went for the fairy liquid, diluted just a tiny bit, and tried to be careful to keep the bubbles to a minimum.

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Evertyhing was working out wonderfully! Until..

I mixed up half the plaster (500g) with approx half a pint of water. It immediately went into little rocks. CRAP. I hurredly tried to add more water… didn’t work… pass it through a sieve… didn’t work… perhaps it would be fine?! I poured it over the munchkin.

3 hours later it still had not set.

I scrapped the custard like mix out and started again. This time, I thought, I’ll sieve the plaster before it goes in the water and I’ll be really accurate with my measurements.

For a second time in just a few hours, the plaster was slopped off the top and thrown in the bin. I was annoyed. I’ve used plaster many times before. What was I doing wrong? It hadn’t behaved like nay plaster I’d used before.

The next morning I wandered down to the art shop to collect my two extra kilos. I wasn’t looking forward to this – what if the plaster behaved exactly like the last attempts? I spoke to the store manager and he said, helpfully, to follow the instructions. I couldn’t be mad I felt, because they’d given me 0.5kg plaster for free. But it didn’t matter how much I paid, if the product didn’t work. On the way home I did some googling and read that if the plaster was damp it can create these pebble like beads and is essentially unusable. I think this must be what had happened – it described the condition of the plaster accurately. Perhaps this last bag had been sat on the shelf for a long time in damp conditions. Who knows.

Nonetheless I persevered on, determined to cast my Munchkin.

This time I went for the full kilo and one pint of water.. straight away, the plaster felt different in my hand as I mixed it, and I knew I was on to a winner! I poured the plaster over my munchkin and it set beautifully in less than 10mins. WHOOOPPEEEEEEEEEE!!

The plastic bag trick worked well and I was able to remove my clay and plaster easily. I turned it upside down and pulled the clay off – and out came the munchkin! OH NO. OUT CAME THE MUNCHKIN. I knew if I wanted make the second cast, I’d need to try and line up the pumpkin. Arse.

I used the shape of the stalk of the munchkin to line up the second clay setting as best I could. The fairy liquid seemed to have worked well last time, so I repeated that process by painting on a few layers of soap and letting them dry. The final kilo of plaster worked perfectly as well, and before I knew it – I had made my first casts!

The edges were a little untidy and the two surfaces a little uneven, so I used the grater tool (that’s definitely not its proper name) to neaten up the edges and smooth out the top surfaces.

 

 

I let the plaster molds dry a little more and in the afternoon I had a go at making my first munchkin!

I made two discs of clay and pressed them into the mold. I added a little extra for the stalk side, evened out the edges, scored, slipped, stuck the two together and smoothed out the join. As you can see the clay munchkin is a little smaller than the real one, but I was really happy with how it turned out! I think it might be smaller because I trimmed down the edges before putting the two halves together. It seemed to have lost some of the volume of the original munchkin.

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This morning I had another go at making a munchkin. I did the same work with two even discs of clay but this time, I worked up the edges a little – in the photo below, the first munchkin is on the left and the second is on the right. I’m really happy with both to be honest!

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The biggest problems I experienced were with the plaster (but I think I know why now) and finding a suitable reusable mold shape.

Of course before they’re fired they’ll need a hole poked in the bottom of them, and they’re a little late to be ready in time for halloween, but overall I’m really happy with how they went and I’ll happily make as many munchkins as I can over the next few weeks! I’m thinking I can cut out some faces or use underglaze to paint them different colours and spooky designs. Of course I’ll post the results when they’re finished!

Now I just need to find something else worth casting..

Happy Halloween!

PS xx

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Two Glazes:One pot!

Earlier this year I wanted to make some high contrast pots. I invested in some Amaco Potters Choice glazes. However my lighter colour choice, toasted sage, came out more grey than white.

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I decided that the Amaco Celadons, which can be used with the Potters Choice looked a lot like the Mayco Foundations glazes I have and thought I might try out a combination piece! I did two layers of Mayco and two of Amaco and fired at the higher Amaco glaze temperature and I’m really happy with the results!

One little bowl and two espresso cups

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The glazes are Mayco Milk Bottle White, Amaco Seaweed (green) and Indigo Float (blue).

This was the contrast effect I was looking for with the bowl and mugs I made for my work colleagues – but at least now I know for the future how to get the glaze effect I want!

PS xx

HEY CLAY!

Hey!

Well haven’t you heard? The Crafts Council’s Hey Clay! Events are happening all over the country 8-9 April!

If you’re inspired by the Great Pottery Throw Down or just want to get your hands dirty or try something new, then why not see what’s happening near you! A lot of events are free and loads are family friendly!

I’ve submitted a request to attend two workshops, one involving enamel painting on bisque and one slip casting porcelain. Hello!? When else would I get to try something like these??

I can’t wait! Hopefully I booked early enough to get a place. Feeling huge pottery love right now.

PS xx

Amaco Glazes

SB got a whole new bunch of Amaco Glazes around Christmas time – Potter’s Choice cone 5/6, which alone in 2-3 coats give lovely vibrant colours, but also layers and striped, create some really beautiful effects! Having worked on my pieces at home recently, and therefore used my own Mayco/Botz glazes, I’m only just getting back pieces I made with SB and the Amaco glazes.

I wanted to share with you some of the pieces I’ve gotten back over the last two weeks – which if you follow me on instagram you’ll have seen already, because I love them. I LOVE THEM. Seeing these colours puts the biggest grin on my face. You’ll also see my lovely wave roller from Scarva which is my new favourite tool! £10 is a lot to spend on a small roller, but the depth and clarity of design are much, much clearer than the sugar rollers I have used for my star pieces.

  1. Slab built wave rectangle flower pot
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  2. Small round wave trinket box (available to buy from my Etsy shop)
  3. Pink and blue wave mug
  4. Slab bowl with stamp detail design

I’m going to have a play around with colours and textures in the next few weeks and post the results. There is an entire Facebook Group dedicated to these glazes and some of the results are just stunning!

So far they’ve behaved well for me, interacted with each other but not run at the bottom so I’ve had no problem with pieces sticking to kiln shelves or such the like. I’ll have to ask SB what temperature she’s firing at, but so far I’ve been really, really happy with the results!

Is it too early to start a Christmas list?

PS xx

P.S. Throw Down Semi Finals Tonight!!

*SPOILER ALERT*

Devastated Nam went last week. His Russian Dolls weren’t up to scratch, so it was the right call, but he was by far my favourite. I loved his creativity, his designs had clarity and were really playful in different, dyNAMic ways, he seemed like a really genuine and compassionate human being. Let’s see who survives the Great Toilet Challenge and what Johnny Vegas gets up too this week!

Ceramic Review vs Clay Craft

Look what the postman delivered this week!

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There is a new clay loving magazine on the shelves this month – Clay Craft!

Whilst the shelves have been dominated by Ceramic Review for years now, there is a fresh face on the block, riding the wave of The Great Pottery Thrown Down, Etsy and all things crafty.

But how do they compare as publications? Where should you be spending your hard earned money? They’re both about clay, so what’s the difference?

Yes the focus of the two publications is clay and ceramics, but I would say strictly speaking, the two publications aren’t necessarily addressing the same audience. Ceramic Review is a high quality, bi-monthly international publication mainly focusing on the work of experienced and innovative potters around the world and sharing stories and events (retailing at £9.90 per issue). Clay Craft is monthly publication, more ‘magazine’ than ‘review’, aimed at everyone from beginners to professionals. The first edition is full of project ideas, a glossary of terms, a review of aprons, short articles with lots of images a directory of events (retailing at £4.99 per issue). I managed to register early and get my first copy for free due to a promotion! The first issue also came with a free kidney tool worth apparently £3 (I wouldn’t have paid £3 for it but it was certainly a pleasant surprise when it fell out of the packaging!).

I’ve been receiving Ceramic Review for almost a year now and the quality of the publication and the writing is evident from the thickness of the page, clarity of colour and style of image as well as the artists interviewed. It really is a joy to hold and read. Every issue has a ‘how to’ section where an artist will demonstrate the steps in a process and the international theme is present throughout the content and events covered. I believe it’s very clear that Ceramic Review targets artists and art lovers alike. What it is not, is an introduction to ceramics as a hobby.

Clay Craft however is much more orientated towards the hobbyist. Although the magazine says it appeals to all abilities – I can’t really see an established ceramic artist gaining much from the content in terms of the level pitched in the first issue – how to make a pinch pot. Now this isn’t a bad thing and perhaps future issues will be different. In fact, when I was first becoming interested in clay and ceramics, this is exactly the kind of magazine I was looking for! I needed (and often still do) a step by step process and terminology explained. I still find myself googling questions well into the night when I can’t figure out what I am supposed to do, e.g. how long to fire a kiln for and how is this different for bisque and glaze firings. Or what are the differences between a quick firing as compared to a long slow firing…?

I can’t imagine Ceramic Review really addressing these questions because the answer is probably obvious or has too many variables, but this is certainly a topic I can imagine might be covered (hopefully!) in Clay Craft.

So is one publication for the ‘Artists’ and one for the ‘Hobbyist’? Well, no. Ceramics Review offers an insight into the art of ceramics and is a visual feast. The inspiration offered by Ceramic Review is not for professionals only and I know I love reading it and my work has certainly benefited from reading it. On the other hand I can imagine a professional ceramicist using Clay Craft to get people/students interested in clay through quick projects or for going back to basics and trying a different technique.

Clay Craft feels cheaper to the touch with a glossy cover and lighter pages than Ceramic Review, but it is jam packed with imagery and full of offers, which is always great for those of us that like a bargain! Which I do. Very much. And at £4.99 per issue, you get two issues for the price of one Ceramic Review. Although it should be noted both publications have offers on for subscriptions at the moment! (Perhaps a nice Valentines gift idea for someone? *ahem*)

I think there is certainly the space in the market for both publications as they bring very different things to the pottery table. Ceramic Review has a solid base and large following, whereas Clay Craft need to establish a readership for which I think a lot will depend on their ability to come up with imaginative and easy to follow projects. However in doing that, they may neglect the intermediate/advanced potter (although freebies may keep people buying, if not reading). As with all things pottery related – time will tell!

I however, look forward to reading both!

PS xx

2017 is here to stay

Well. Politics, both domestic and global, seems intent on repeating mistakes that were sworn to never be repeated. It’s been a tumultuous start to the year and one that many would like to forget, but as it is, 2017 is here to stay.

On an individual scale, life has been busy. There doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day or days in the week. Since the holidays and heading back to work, it’s been difficult to find time to do anything other than get on top cleaning/sorting/tidying the house however finally this weekend I got a few hours to myself and I thought – let’s see how a little bit of throwing goes!

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And actually, despite perhaps two-three months without throwing, it actually went reasonably well! I decided to try and batch throw a few mug shapes. Four mugs were produced, a bowl and a jug.

However, the jug and bowl were sacrificed in the turning stages – I need to practice turning as much as throwing!

 

I decided on pulling a few handles as well and again, this didn’t go as badly as I imagined. After being left to dry for a little while, four were selected and added to the mugs. Again I need to work on making my handles a little longer and thinner – they’re quite chunky at the top and this looks unbalanced when attached to the mug.

I carried on throwing this evening – the wheel was out, so why not! It’ll be at least a few days if not weeks before I use it again, so why not make the most of it? I played around with some recycled clay and indenting a thrown shape. It’s a little basic, but I quite liked the rippled rim and little narrow spout of these two, so I decided to keep them.

I even managed to convince Beloved to have a go this evening! Spreading the ceramics love throughout the household! I’ll have Little One making little cups and bowls in no time!! In fact, that’s a great idea.

After all the making before Christmas and the slurry from wp-image-455328090jpg.jpgthe wheel, my scraps tub was full and so the process of reclaiming began. That’s truly something I love about clay, there is so little waste.

I’m hoping that in the next few weeks I can make enough to do a biscuit firing and then two more glaze firings – one with the Mayco Foundation glazes, a low temp, and one using the Botz glazes, high temp. Although there’s no point just throwing anything in, it’d be nice if the kiln was full of things I wanted to make and give. In which case, it might be a while before the firings happen – but that’s ok. Good things come to those who wait!

Also, the second series of the Great Pottery Thrown Down starts this week! The contestants look a bit ‘cherry picked’ and seem to be far more experienced than amateurs.. but I’m looking forward to it all the same! For inspiration if nothing else.

PS over and out! Take care of each other xx

Kate Malone’s Open Studio!

This weekend was one I had been waiting for since meeting Kate Malone at Waddesdon Manor – Kate’s open studio!!

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I left Little One at home with Beloved as I wasn’t sure what her studio would be like (as it happened there were loads of kids in and out!), but I also knew that if I wanted to pick up a Kate Malone master piece (which I did, if possible) that I’d need to be there early!

Kate’s studio was easy to find down a little alley and what can I say… what an incredible space! A feast for the eyes. It was a well organised, beautifully lit place with a little kitchen, loads of work space and that huge wonderful kiln at the back. Upstairs was like a little Japanese studio, incredibly calm with windows the length of the building.

There was literally a pile of her famous pumpkins as we walked in the door on the left and some of her beautiful mugs, hearts and trinkets to the right. A pumpkin immediately caught my eye, a stunning blue, green and grey medium sized pumpkin. I grabbed it! I had to have it. I had a figure in mind and it was pretty much the top of my budget, but the piece was so striking, intricate and lush.. I felt like this was my chance to own a real Kate Malone piece and a pumpkin at that! The lovely assistant put it to one side for me and I investigated the studio.

Upstairs I met Rich Miller of The Great Pottery Throw Down fame! I contained my excitement and managed to have a chat about his pieces without my voice breaking with glee and even got to chat about the show! I had picked up one of his cups almost as soon as I went up stairs and after taking up so much of his time I felt like I owned the mug of his I had been clinging too, and so I purchased this as well.

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It really is a beautiful mug, well weighted and a beautiful handle. A great little cup! He used water colours to paint the different images which were reduced in size and then converted into little enamel transfers which were floated into place. The detail is stunning and Rich was an incredibly nice guy.

Upstairs I managed to snap a few pics of Kate’s personal collection – the pineapples, snapdragons and beautiful flower vases.

When I went back downstairs I managed to say hello to Kate again, she’s a very warm and happy lady! I tried to put into words my thanks to her for opening up the world of clay and ceramics to me through the TV show and her own exhibitions. I don’t think I really got any of it across, I probably sounded like a mumbly eejit.. but I tried. Clay means a lot of me, it’s my vehicle for creativity and stress relief.. it helps me balance my life. At a time when I felt like I was losing my identity, it has helped me forge a new one. I love it.

And now, I have a little Kate Malone treasure to call my own, my very own pumpkin. It’s been a great weekend!

…Can’t wait till next year!

PG x