Friday, April 5, 2013

Freeform Friday: Plastered

... plaster molds, of course. What did you think I meant?

This week I have been in the ceramics studio, aka the glaze cave, all day every day. I am in the middle of a big push to restock my tile and pendant designs for my first big Spring show. And I have new designs as well - I try to reveal new designs twice a year. I am working on some of the meaning behind my images in my Folklore Friday posts - this batch has quite a few animals/totems/guides.  I thought a little insight into the process of my ceramics pendants might be interesting...

New designs for Spring 2013. (Tree of life, owl, fox, penguin, hare, raven, cat)

My "Mythic Nature" designs are my original series of icons and symbols inspired by myth and nature. Each design is hand carved from my sketch. I really sculpt as much as I carve... smoosh some clay on, shape it, carve it, smoosh more on... You can see the raven head pendant in the rough there in the top right. Each one takes hours to do... 

Soft clay pressed into the molds. 
When the originals are complete, I cast them in plaster. This mold was cast in a mold box, and holds 4 designs. This is a one shot deal. If something goes wrong in the pouring, or plaster the original is lost. The plaster sets in app. 30 minutes, but takes a few days to fully dry. 

When I am pressing pendants - the plaster of the mold actually assists the process. It absorbs moisture, and as the clay dries a bit - released easily from the mold. Here they are all scraped free of excess clay and ready to come out. If I am in production mode, I can make anywhere from 6-12 before the mold needs to dry a bit. 

Why is the penguin not being used? Sadly - The original was very tall, and the mold very deep... it doesnt release well. I have to start over with that one... Or try RTV next time. 

RTV is a 2 part silicone mold making material that many of us use... ( remember those textures I made?) It creates a flexible mold and as such allows for undercuts, more three dimensional items. You can see the depth of the fox head mold on the left. This is my first time using RTV with a pendant design. It takes longer as the RTV isn't absorbent - the clay has to set up in the mold.  Patience? If I must... 

 Pressing the pendants is the quick and easy part of the process. Here on the left - rough, fresh from the molds. On the right: stage 2! Nichrome wire for loops - embedded in the clay for your beading uses. Dust mask and scrubby - I sand the edges and holes to make everything perfectly smooth. Dry clay is the enemy; safety is exceedingly important!

 There! Loops, sanded, details touched up with a carving tool. ( Pencil for scale. No secret use of a pencil in my process. ) Now they dry for as long as it takes - day or 2... Then into the kiln for the bisque fire...

As evidences by the bowl below - I have quite a bit still to do. So back to the glaze cave... Mr Fox is waiting for his close up!



  1. How lovely to see your process :)

    I think I may have to cave in to the pain of US postal prices to ge me one of them foxes!

    1. Jess - are you on FB? Twitter? I will post new pix as things are finished. It probably wont be until early May as I have a bit of travel and then a big spring show... so you may get foxes from round 2. Then if you are shopping you can see it all before you ante up for shipping!

  2. I love to learn about the behind the scenes of an artist's process. I feel so much more in tune with what you are doing and I appreciate the hard work that goes into each beauty! I love them all! The rabbit and the fox are calling to me. Thank you for sharing and for giving me some inspiration as well. Enjoy the day. Erin

  3. Wonderful pieces and I just love seeing how other people work! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Great to see your process and your pieces are wonderful. I'm in love with the fox.

  5. I loved seeing your process, Jenny. I just may NEED a bunny, once it hops out of the final firing. Let me know when.

  6. Very cool post, Jenny! You are so talented!

  7. Thank you everyone! I appreciate being appreciated! They are a bit of work, but fun to do... and I think they are worth it. Off to glaze more...

  8. So very interesting to see your process-- isn't that RTV stuff wonderful? I'm thinking of trying it with some complex sculpts I've done, to see if I can re-create them, just don't want to remove the colorants. I love this series, your images are very knowing, they seem to be communicating secrets. Special.

  9. I really love these Jenny, and the process is so interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Those are really great pieces! Would love to see how you finish them. Thank you for sharing in detail!


We would love to hear what you have to say, please leave a comment.