Frances Smith

Frances Smith

Monday, 12 August 2019 12:34

Carmel Lumley

Playing with ideas and mud!  What’s not to like? In ceramics, the visual and tactile combine at every stage of the process. 

The physicality of using mud and my hands supplies a creative counterpoint to the conceptual basis of my art-making.

I love to explore abstract ideas such as change, using concrete visual metaphors.  Constructing installations of multiples is central to my practice, and simple forms are hand-built or slip-cast.  Complexity and specificity are then provided by colour, carving and gloss.

I live in Brisbane producing ceramics primarily for exhibition, and aim to create a calm and playful gallery space.

How did the people of Hobart respond to the event?

The Triennale was well-supported by local galleries, TMAG, UTAS and those further afield around Tasmania who planned exhibitions for the Triennale period.

A few local artists worked with Nanna Bayer and Selena de Carvalho on the fire sculpture and preparing plinths for the exhibition display. Waldies School, in Lower Snug, was also a busy hub in the 2 years-long lead-up – meetings, workshops and storage of Triennale paraphernalia.  

Was there a national and international buzz about the event?

Excitement built gradually over the preceding year with many people supporting us with early-bird registrations. Social media helped to spread the word and, with a 4-year gap since the last event, people were very keen to come along. Hobart also held a wonderful appeal, especially for those who had not previously visited the state.

I know it was a sell-out, but how many people attended and where were they from?

The event attendance was close to 700 – around 100 presenters and demonstrators, 60 volunteers and over 540 delegates (mostly full, 4-day attendance, but also including 1, 2 and 3-day attendance).

Attendance numbers:

International: 6% (45 people) from 14 different countries: 19 from New Zealand; 26 from Argentina, Canada, China, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Great Britain, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Poland, United Arab Emirates and the USA.

Australia:

ACT 3% (24), NSW 20% (204), NT 2% (12), QLD 12% (81), SA 4% (30), TAS 18% (125), VIC 20% (141), WA 5% (32)

What do you think the average working potter got from attending the Triennale?

Connection with the broad ceramics community, stimulating exhibitions, rich and engaging discourse, a broad range of demonstrations from amazing international, national and local makers. We also ensured delegates had opportunities to sell their work through The Pot Shop and the Makers Fair.

We provided spaces for people to relax and gather in the lounge areas (complete with a local barista), the bar and around the forecourt food trucks. There was something for everyone!

What were the standouts for you?

I loved the location – Princes Wharf 1. To be on the harbour with the huge Aurora Australis sitting at the wharf, casting its bright orange reflection into the space and the shimmering water constantly changing, I found that a special treat.

We set-out to welcome all, to be as inclusive as possible, to bring together the newbies with the experienced. Within our means, I think we did well.

Potters love to get together. They love to see what’s happening in our world, to catch up with friends and those they know through social media, to meet those they admire. They love to talk, watch others making, be challenged with new ideas, and generally be part of the tribe.

Our pop-up igloo, ‘Ask the Doctor’, where you could consult an expert with a ceramic dilemma, was really cute too.

Pot Luck dinner was a huge success, with the local migrant Resource Centre cooking delicious soup for 600 people. Bowls were swapped (behind the scenes) from one potter to another, and people gathered around the forecourt fires enjoying their steaming hot soup, listening to great local music and enjoying the Hobart welcome. The fire sculpture brought to 1300ºC in the petal kiln over 50 hours was a fantastic spectacle, drawing in the local Hobart community as well as delegates.

The opening of the kiln to reveal the red-hot sculpture was just incredible – a challenging, inspiring and magical project!

You had an impressive team of people helping – how did the back-office manage to achieve so much?

Despite starting with a substantial group of interested Tasmanians in the initial planning stages (2 years out), the Tasmanian committee slowly reduced to a core group of 3 amazing people with me joining as Chair in October 2018.

We enjoyed the support of approximately. 60 volunteers in the month leading up to the event, bump-in day, the 4 event days and the bump-out day. Such events would not be possible without this volunteer effort. TACTT was well-funded by national, state and local government which gave a significant boost to the creative program, allowing artists, authors, arts administrators and curators to be paid for their skills and expertise.

The Triennale is a major undertaking – would you consider making it a more frequent gathering?

Personally no, but it’s not up to me.

Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

Every one of these 15 events has been unique, tapping into the local environment and community. In 2022, it’s Alice Springs’ turn … can’t wait to see those big starry skies and getting to meet the local indigenous communities. I hear they’re excited!

The Triennale is Australia’s landmark national ceramics conference, bringing artists, educators, theorists and collectors from around the country, and the world, together to interrogate the field of contemporary ceramic practice.

Ceramics Arts Queensland spoke with one of the driving forces behind The Australian Ceramics Triennale, Vicki Grima.

Vicki is also the Editor of The Journal of Australian Ceramics, the Executive Officer of The Australian Ceramics Association, and on 11 June 2018, Vicki Grima was Awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).

Why is an event of this importance held every 3 years?

Despite being called a Triennale, it will be a 4-year gap this time for the 15th Australian Ceramics Triennale. Finding a team prepared to take on such an important event for the ceramics community is a real challenge.

Due to state and regional events occurring at various intervals, a triennial event has worked well for this national event, the first one being held in 1978.

Triennale From top to bottom:Triennale Director, Vicki Grima, Somchai Charoen and Sergei Isupov’s Petal Kiln
Triennale From top to bottom:Triennale Director, Vicki Grima, Somchai Charoen and Sergei Isupov’s Petal Kiln

How would you describe the event to someone who knows nothing about it yet but would come if they did?

This event is for those with a fascination for ceramics – the material, the processes and the current state of play. It is a meeting place for our ceramics community, a place to be amongst fellow clay-lovers, your tribe, and to be immersed in every aspect.

We bring together artists, educators, theorists and collectors from around the country, and the world, together to interrogate the field of contemporary ceramic practice.

How are the bookings going?

The bookings have built steadily over the last year or so, and we’re thrilled with the response. We have even mentioned a maximum cut-off point, so that’s an amazing place to be!

Is there a lot of overseas interest in the event?

We have around 15 guests joining us from overseas, along with delegates from the US, Asia, New Zealand and Europe.

Which events have been the most heavily booked so far?

Sergei Isupov’s 7-day workshop (pre-conference) was quickly booked out and now has a long waiting list. Isupov’s work is largely autobiographical, his daily life inspiring the porcelain figurative forms he makes. His work brings together the ceramic medium, with graphic surfaces, and elements of painting. Somchai Charoen, master mould-maker has also been a big drawcard, with many interested in his one-day demonstration on complex mould-making at UTas (also pre-conference).

What is the hidden gem within the event or the presenters?

We’re yet to know, so come along to find out! I’m looking forward to some of the smaller gathering spaces with the massive PW1 venue – the Ask the Dr tent, the Philosophy Cafe and the ‘Don’t Think Just Make’ activity. The fire sculpture in the forecourt also promises to be a spectacle not to miss ... a huge ceramic work built by local Hobart potters will be fired over 3 days lead by Estonian master kiln builder, Andres Allik. The kiln will be built in the lead-up to the Triennale and once top temp is reached (around 1300ºC) the petals of the kiln will fold open to reveal the red-hot sculpture.

What are you most excited about?

In a big country like Australia, to bring the community together on this small island off the bottom of Australia is a pretty mean feat! This coming together of the ceramics tribe to converse, laugh, exchange opinions, learn from one another, and share experiences will be worth the wait!

Sunday, 10 March 2019 10:26

The Redcliffe Pottery Group

To promote the art of pottery to the community through affordable, friendly and supportive means with the attitude that: Those that clay together, stay together.

During the year The Redcliffe Pottery Group is involved in:

  • Workshops and field trips
  • Participating at various shows and markets
  • August : “What’s Cooking in the Gardens” an annual event celebrating Wattle Day
  • November/December: Our Annual Exhibition

Opening Hours: Wednesday/Thursday/Saturday from 10am to 3pm Tuesday/Thursday from 6pm to 9pm.

The only pottery club on the Peninsula

Monday, 04 March 2019 15:49

Murwillumbah Potters

Murwillumbah Potters is located at the old Fernvale School on Fernvale Road out from Murwillumbah, NSW Off Tweed Valley Way. It's a great place to work!

Monday, 18 February 2019 14:48

Yvonne Bouwman

Yvonne Bouwman works in her studio workshop in Pullenvale, Queensland.

She has a certificate in Studio Ceramics and Ceramic Sculpture from the Brisbane Technical College.

She is represented on the Crafts Australia Artists and Images website and the database of the Queensland Potters Association.  Her work has been purchased by the Queensland Government for overseas gifts.

 

WORK EXPERIENCE

Yvonne has tutored at workshops throughout Queensland for Binna Burra Creative Arts, Queensland Potters Association, Flying Arts Incorporated, Queensland Arts Council and Access Arts (a non-profit Community Arts organization for people with disabilities).

She was Artist-in-Residence for the Rockhampton Potters Group in 1988 and at Cunnamulla State School in 1992.

Japanese Cultural Exchange.

Working in a Japanese Potters Workshop and exhibiting in the Fukuoka Museum in 2002.

           

 

Thursday, 12 July 2018 18:56

Lisa Catherine Ehrich

I find working in clay is a wonderful way of balancing my other life in academia.  I am fascinated by faces and most of my work consists of pots, bowls, and other small vessels with all sorts of different faces.

I became interested in ceramics through my sister, Kris-Ann Ehrich, who is an established and experienced sculptor in Brisbane. 

A visit to her home about four years ago found me playing in clay. The experience was not only cathartic but also relaxing and I have been playing in clay ever since.

Even though I have created hundreds of hand-built pieces, I’m always excited to see my work after it’s been transformed by glaze firing.  

At the moment I am trying to develop my skills by creating faces of old men and women.  Although it’s a challenge, my aim is to sculpt faces that are both expressive and emotive. 

Mother daughter team Charlie and Mieke Proost - De Deyne developed a successful pottery business that sells pottery, coffee and pottery classes. It took a while but the business is flying now. Here they share their thoughts about creating a business from the craft and art they both love.

Tell us a little about your business?

Mas & Miek Ceramic House is a large, light warehouse space overflowing with greenery. In the space we have a gallery space selling our ceramics, a cafe, mezzanine area overlooking the space and - most importantly - a large, fully equipped ceramic studio.

We have 10 wheels, two large working tables, two kilns, a clay bar, kneading table, slab roller, pug mill for recycling clay and much more. What we love about the space is that it is for everyone. Anyone is welcome to sign up to our studio sessions, and learn the soul craft of ceramics. We have sessions catering for different levels, from beginner to expert potters, and our open flexible timetable enables students to book in whenever they choose. No set curriculum or regulated weekly classes, that’s not our thing.

If getting muddy isn’t your thing, you are still welcome to come enjoy our space. The cafe is open to all, and we also have paint a pot facilities where you can purchase a piece of ceramics, and paint the afternoon away sipping coffee and enjoying the studio’s atmosphere.

How did you get started?

Both of us have studied and practiced art for a number of years. Charlie obtained her Bachelor of Fine Art at QCA and Mieke completed her Masters in Fine Art in Ceramics at ANU, Canberra. We always enjoyed exchanging creative ideas and have been making ceramics together under the collaborative name Mas & Miek for 5 years. We built up a following selling at creative markets. We always received a lot of interest from family and friends, asking to come see our studio and see how we create work together. A lot of people asked for tutelage in learning how to use the pottery wheel or hand build in clay.

So we realized there was definitely a desire for it. People were craving to get their hands into mud. When someone offered us a space, a seed was sown.

Students at the wheels in the Mas & Miek pottery studio
Students at the wheels in the Mas & Miek pottery studio

What were the main challenges?

The main challenge was to find the right venue; open, well ventilated and light with an outdoor area and all requirements for a ceramic practice.

We then had to find the right formula to create ‘the machine’ that is a ceramic studio. It takes an enormous amount of organisational skill to operate a studio and still maintain creativity

How and when did you settle on the right format?

Through trial and error. We had to find a suitable time table first and foremost.

Guided training in pottery technique at Mas & Miek
Guided training in pottery technique at Mas & Miek

Our timetable is broken into:

  • Unguided Studio Sessions; Monday - Thursday mornings. Students can come in and work at their leisure. There is no tutor on during these times and students are welcome to stay for as long as they wish.
  • Guided Studio Session Time; Monday - Thursday afternoons and nights and Saturdays. During these sessions we will have a tutor on to guide you and help develop your skills on the pottery wheel or hand building
  • Advanced Throwing; Friday morning and afternoon. For more advanced throwers that wish to make more complicated vessels on the pottery wheel such as lidded vessels, spouts, handles, etc.
  • Sunday Workshops. - We love these. An all day workshop on a Sunday includes all materials, clay, coffee and tea and a delicious lunch. Sunday workshops are either divided between ‘Learn to Throw - Intensive Workshops’ for beginners or ‘Masterclasses’ for all levels, where we welcome a visiting artist to demonstrate and teach a unique technique in their practice.

What is your formula for success?

I think our success stems from our love for the medium combined with some business experience. You can not be blind to the bottom line but you can not be governed by it. You have to create a value product.

I hope that our passion is contagious and nourishing the need in some people to find a creative outlet. We love the term ‘soul craft’ in describing ceramics as it’s a very meditative and relaxing pastime. The process of clay forces you to slow down, take it step by step and unwind. In a fast paced environment like the city, I think a lot of people find sanctuary in coming into the studio.

How important is your location?

We are located on the fringe of a very dense trendy area and are in a small pocket of industrial buildings. I believe the location is important but we are a destination business, we do not rely on passing trade. What kind of people do you attract?

I must say we have met the most fantastic people through this venture, many of them we now consider as dear friends. They come from all walks of life and share the need for creativity.

Exterior of the Mas & Miek pottery studio
Exterior of the Mas & Miek pottery studio

How do you cope with the conflicting demands of your own artistic expression and business interests?

Mas & Miek Ceramics consists mostly of utilitarian ware; so bowls, mugs, plates, vases. We want the every day objects you use in your home to be unique, handmade and thought through. That takes concentration and quiet contemplation and that is at times in short supply.

Pottery and ceramic pieces are also for sale
Pottery and ceramic pieces are also for sale at the studio

Ceramics is an unpredictable craft, and we love that. Especially when developing your own glazes, unpredictable reactions between chemicals can make the most amazing effects.

We continuously chase the fleeting moments of elemental chance; the slight change in temperature or atmosphere in the kiln that splashes unexpected effects across a glaze.

How important is publicity?

Our main publicity has been through social media and that has been our main focus. Word of mouth is still the best publicity and social media is a double edged sword that way. Word can spread positively or not. In our case, it has been very positive.

What’s the most valuable advice you have received?

It has to be fun! It’s a moment which happens every day - from when we make things to when students come to pick up their glazed work! Seeing the excitement and how chuffed people are about their precious creations is the best part of our day. We’re so happy we get to share our passion for ceramics with them.

Is administration a hassle?

I have hardly met anyone who loves administration but as long as you stay on top of it, it is easy. It is just part and parcel of running the machine.

What are three pieces of advice you would give about starting a creative business?

Love it, live it and it has to be fun.

 

Visit Mas & Mieke’s website at: http://masandmiek.com

Ceramic Arts Queensland members have been following the progress of Su Brown and Wallace Rockhole Pottery for a number of years now. We marvel at Su's input at Wallace Rockhole, and indeed all over and everywhere she spreads her wonderful love of people and pottery.

Enjoy the latest news from Su Brown.

"Hello friends,

The Wallace Rockhole Pottery west of Alice Springs that you have supported or shown interest in is now in its eighth year of operation.

My original plan was for my involvement to be three years; way back in 2011, I had no idea that eight years later I would still be involved with this venture.

An email from Ken Porter has just arrived, which said that they have sold another $1000 worth of pots to Yulara Resorts at Uluru. And that more of Angela Abbotts work has gone into Yubu Napa in Alice Springs.

The pottery is still ticking over, the makers and decorators are not overly active. Such a shame as the studio is fantastic, a beautiful, well equipped and quiet place to retreat to be creative.

Last year in June, Colin and Jan Usher came out to Wallace Rockhole to film my involvement with the pottery, the potters, the community and have an interview with Ken Porter, this footage created a new short film, “Su Brown and the Wallace Rockhole Pottery”, which is now on public release on YouTube. The new film has been featured in Film Festivals throughout the world and has won awards and been highly commended, fitting commendations for Colin’s attention to detail and quality.

Sadly some of the potters chose not to be part of the filming therefore their work is not included in this new film even though they are still part of the potteries ongoing story. But so many others are part of this story too and very proud of their input."

You can view this video by Colin Usher, "Su Brown and the Wallace Rockhole Pottery" on YouTube by clicking on the image below.

Wallace Rockhole Pottery

"Also I am very, very thankful to you all who have contributed financially or given positive comments, or visited the pottery at Wallace Rockhole, all of you, who not only have had my back but also have been beside me on this journey, you are salt of the earth, and I sincerely thank you.

In October I flew to Darwin to run pottery workshops at Warruwi School on South Goulburn Island and Shepherdson College, Galiwinku on Elcho Island, both in very remote areas of the Northern Territory. Very interesting, full on, but, full of great kids, people and activities and both had very successful outcomes.

One highlight for me was being mobbed at Darwin Airport by of a group of young girls returning to Galiwinku who spotted me with squeals of “Su, Su, Maya Su” hugs and kisses, crowd stopping gorgeous and amazing (I guess both my son, Maya who had taught at the school, and my pottery lessons had a positive effect on the children).

I am part of the caring team for Kathi, my twin sister, who is in the last stage of Ovarian Cancer. My out back adventures are on hold. With grace and dignity my dear offsider is getting ready to travel on her last adventure, our journeys will part and when that happens I will once again head on a journey out west.

Until then, watch this short film clip, be inspired, be creative and know that what you do, however small, really does make a difference, just one small shy smile or exuberant hug will light up many many dark places.

Thank you again to you all for being part of the Wallace Rockhole Pottery story.

Fond regards

Su Brown"

To see more of Su Brown's work you can visit The Gold Coast Potters Association here.

Monday, 30 November -0001 10:00

Mould Making with Somchai Charoen

Somchai Charoen is a Thai born ceramic artist based in Sydney who has exhibited both nationally and internationally. Trained in industrial ceramic design, he was a former lecture at Silpakorn University, Thailand. Since migrating to Australia in 2001, he has worked commercially as a mould and model maker as well as establishing his ceramic homewares label Eat Clay

Somchai has been working with many artists, designers and ceramics companies including Ben Quilty, Hany Armanious, Rod Bamford, Trent Jansen  Mud Australia and Bison Australia. He is a co-founder of Belmore ITCH, a residency for non-ceramic artist to explore and interpret the medium.

 

“What I teach today hopefully will be useful,” Somchai said in his opening remarks.

“Sometimes making a mould can be fraught with unexpected consequences”, he said. “When bad things happen, like a mould sticks or plaster runs out all over the floor, I go away and have a coffee or tea and come back later!” He hoped that there would be no calamities during the day but assured us that if there were we would learn from them.

Somchai took us through his tools-of-trade and their various uses. Most of his tools he has had for over ten years and many are ‘found objects’ given a new life, like the metal handles of buckets and similar sprung metal rods that he uses as clamps.

Somchai's collection of essential tools for plaster mould making
Somchai's collection of essential tools for plaster mould making

 

Off-cuts of wooden boards, very strong, are useful for improvised cottle boards to construct the reservoirs to contain the plaster, held together with the wire clamps, pegs, or string. Instead of buying expensive “Soft Soap”, which you use straight as it comes, he uses Sunlight laundry soap, grated into warm water and frothed. This is the medium to prevent plaster sticking to plaster, and helps to resist the bonding of plaster to other absorbent materials, like wood. Additives to this mix might be food colouring (to show where the soap has been brushed), and cooking oil to help brushing fluidity, in the ratio of 1 cup to 2 L of soapy water.

The mixture should be the consistency of pouring cream and 3 coats are applied to the master and other surfaces. Somchai mixes a large quantity and stores it indefinitely, adding more water or oil as needed.

The preparation and pouring of the plaster
The preparation and pouring of the plaster

The plaster Somchai uses is “Potters Plaster” from CSR, and an American plaster from Barnes Products - http://www.barnes.com.au/ which is white and fine but expensive.

This product is similar to Dental plaster and he buys it “only when on sale!” Plaster has a use-by date of around six months. Somchai advised to “keep an opened bag in a plastic bag and store off the floor”. Plaster absorbs water from the atmosphere and can “go off” over time, meaning it won’t set when you add it to water.

He advised the necessity of keeping plaster separate from the potting area of our studios, as plaster pieces mixed in clay will cause inevitable damage after a work is fired. The plaster chip expands after absorbing moisture and pops a piece of clay from the surface. He uses two wheels, one for clay and one for plaster.

Taking Care is Vital

“Safety”, Somchai stressed, “is very important.”

He mixes up to 5 tons of plaster a year and has an annual lung check. “Don’t use cheap masks”, Somchai added, and “wear rubber gloves because if you are mixing plaster all day your hands get dry and it saves having to wash all the time.”

Plaster Preparation:

Somchai lined a clean, damp bucket with a bin liner (which saves having to clean the bucket). He calculated exactly how much plaster was needed from the dimensions of the set-up. “If you are making a one piece mould, you can add the plaster to the estimated volume of water until you see a large “island” of plaster sitting above the water.

But for two piece moulds, you have to be more exacting in your measurements of the raw materials, because you want the porosity/hardness of the plaster to be the same for all pieces of the mould”.

Somchai’s first task was to make a rectangular ‘master’ measuring 10x10x25cm. A 2-piece mould would be made from this. “It is advisable”, he said, “to allow a plaster master to dry completely before moulding from it, as bubbles may occur. However it is not possible to do that today.”

When making moulds for slip casting he uses the ratio of 1 litre of water to 1.3kg of plaster, making 1.5 litres of mixture. It was agreed that all the plaster mixed this day would follow this recipe, whether it was for a master, a one, or a 2 piece mould.

“So for the ‘master’ we are making today measuring 10 x 10 x 25=2500=2.5 litres, we need 2 litres of water and 2.6kg of plaster”. From past experience he allows a little more which “is better than not enough!” He recommended using kitchen scales with a flat surface that weigh up to ten kilos.

The water was measured and added to the bucket. The plaster weighed and added handful by handful to the water. To mix the plaster, Somchai placed his hand flat on the bottom of the bucket and slowly agitated to allow the bubbles to come to the surface.

He then scooped the bubbles from the surface into a waste container and continued slowly stirring. Depending on the setting rate of the plaster there may be a lot of stirring or waiting required.

“The plaster is ready when it is creamy. A way to test this is to run your fingers across the surface and if the mark stays it is ready to pour. If you want to delay the setting time, perhaps because you have a large mould, you can add 3% vinegar. This gives you more time to play”, he said.

Vinegar adds strength. Also adding 5-10% quick-set cement makes stronger plaster. (The plaster from Barnes is a strong plaster.) Conversely, if you want plaster to set faster, add 3% salt, or Ammonium hydroxide.

Pouring

Before pouring the plaster Somchai ensured that the set-up was as leak proof as possible by filling any cracks with coils of clay. The advantage of waiting until the plaster is almost set before pouring minimises the quantity of spread if the walls break or open up.

“If this happens”, he says, “and it’s sure to at some time, leave the spill to set, and have a cuppa. It’s easier to clean up set plaster than the runny version!”

Making a cylinder mould
Making a cylinder mould

If you are a bit short on the quantity, you can spray the plaster already poured with water, keeping it saturated, while making up the remaining plaster, and the two lots will join and set the same size.

While the rectangular master set Somchai prepared to make a mould from a ‘found object’ – a tube of cardboard. The ends were neatly sealed with fine white clay and the cardboard coated with Vaseline.

He sat the tube on end and using a pair of dividers marked the tube with intersecting arcs to establish the centre-line of the tube, and drew a line along opposite sides of the tube. In setting the tube horizontally he said, “Make sure your table is level; if necessary use a spirit level”.

Somchai placed ruler-wide strips of foam board, (easy to cut and has a very smooth surface) along the side lines on the tube, supported by lumps of clay, (red strips in diagram). The surrounding reservoir was made of wooden boards clamped together with springy wire (bucket handles) and positioned to seal the cylinder and side strips such that the first pour of plaster covered the top half of the cylinder only.

Just before the plaster pour Somchai positioned 4 plastic “keys” on the outer edge of the foam board strips to create recesses in the mould. Continuing this 2-piece mould later Somchai turned the cast over, removed the clay props and the foam board and keys, and repositioned it in the wooden boards held tightly around the plaster sides with clamps.

The surfaces to receive plaster were coated with 3 coats of soap mix, and allowed to dry. An optional variation was to move one end of the box away from the end of the cylinder by the width of the ruler strips, thus making a void for the plaster to fill. This became the base, attached to the second half of the mould.

A very important tip was to pierce the setting plaster approximately midway with a fine skewer until it hit the master. If the mould proved difficult to separate a blast of air from a compressor through this hole would pop the pieces apart.

In much the same way as the cylindrical mould, the first half of the rectangular mould was completed. The master was surrounded by the cottle boards leaving a ruler-wide gap along one side. The height to which the plaster needed to be poured was marked on the inside.

All plaster and wood surfaces were coated with soap, the volume of plaster calculated, cracks sealed, and plaster poured. When set and removed from the reservoir Somchai scooped out 2 semi-spherical hollows in the mould’s long edges. These would become the locking devices for the 2 piece mould.

To make the second half of the rectangular mould the first piece with master was positioned in the reservoir, leaving a ruler-width gap down the long side AND a ruler width gap at one end.

Soap on all surfaces, gaps plugged, and plaster poured. Again, inserting a thin skewer through the setting plaster to the master, as insurance against the mould not readily falling apart when set.

Somchai alerted us to the fact that some plaster pieces can warp when they dry. So once separated and the master removed, reconnect the pieces and hold together with bands until dry. If separated pieces do warp then soaking in water and clamping together is a solution.

Taking apart a multi-piece mould
Taking apart a multi-piece mould

Another version of making a master was demonstrated on the wheel. In a staged process Somchai cast a “blank” in plaster on a batt attached to the wheel-head. When set but still damp he used a long handled turning tool to carve a profile in this plaster blank.

Plaster is a soft material and even when dry can be sawn and drilled easily to make or alter moulds or plaster blanks.

An interesting example of this creativity and spontaneity was demonstrated when Somchai stacked a series of sawn and split sections of plaster to create an ad hoc cast of seeming great complexity.

The stack required no banding prior to pouring the slip as the slip linked all the pieces together on the inside, and gravity kept the pieces in place. (Larger structures may need support, he advised.)

Casting

The moulds need to be completely dry before use. This may take a week or more of air-drying, but assisted drying is possible at low temperatures around 50C.

“Before casting wipe the mould with a damp sponge. This removes dust and any remnant soap or clay, and breaks the dry surface tension, enabling a quick uptake of water from the slip.”

Casting a basin mould from a plastic original
Casting a basin mould from a plastic original

Somchai advised that factory-made casting slip can sometimes be too thick and sometimes too thin. “Adding water to thick slip is easy, but it’s difficult to remove water because the clay is held in suspension. Casting with thin slip can be problematic as it takes longer to build up the wall thickness, saturates the moulds faster, shrinks more, and is more brittle.”

Most multi-piece moulds need tying together. One of the cheapest options is to slice up old tyre tubes. These can be over-stretched (or not) to achieve the required elasticity before using, and cut thick or thin. They can be doubled up for extra tightness, or add a spacer between the band and the mould to take up slack. “It’s wise to overdo the bands as leaking slip is no fun”, cautioned Somchai. “Remember that there is quite some pressure on a mould filled with slip.”

Somchai advised to over estimate the volume of slip required to fill the mould, as it needed to be poured in one steady action. Stopping mid-pour leaves a line in the cast. (But could be used for decorative purposes!)

“Fill the mould to the brim. Many moulds have a “waste rim”, a margin at the top that is not part of the piece. As the mould absorbs water the level of slip will drop and more slip needs to be added at intervals until the required thickness is visable. This can be anywhere from a minute to half an hour!

“The length of time the slip stays in the mould depends upon a few things. How thick you want the piece, the dryness of the mould, and the wetness of the slip.”

When ready the mould was upturned over the bucket to empty the remaining fluid slip, and set to drain at an angle upside down. The angle allows the slip to flow to the exit rather than drooping and setting as a blob on the surface. The mould can remain this way for a few hours until ready for release.

For the final exercise of the day Somchai set up a simple one-piece master (a plastic bowl) to demonstrate the application of paper plaster. Mixing coarse paper pulp (damp) into the plaster/water mixture reduces the weight per volume of the plaster cast, but does not hinder the plaster’s setting capabilities. 1L water 1kg plaster and 300g of paper pulp. Similarly almost any organic material can be used instead of paper, such as straw, mulch, sawdust, etc. Cheap toilet paper (added dry) is also a source of paper and readily available.

Having set up the master with its surrounding reservoir Somchai applied a skim coat of normal plaster mix to capture the surface detail of the bowl.

When set he added the paper plaster mix in the form of a thick slurry, patting it on to cover the skim coat, to a thickness of a few centimetres.

Paper plaster adheres firmly to the other plaster surface and is a useful repair mixture if moulds are chipped or broken.

Lastly he poured a small ‘foot’ and ensured that this was horizontal so that when the mould was used the rim would also be horizontal and contain the slip.

Somchai generously imparted a wealth of essential information, and entertained us with the ups and downs of the casting process. It seems that Murphy’s Law applies here just as much (if not more so) as in all our other clay pursuits.

Page 1 of 3