Making moulds with Plaster

Making moulds for ceramic work is easy and affordable. To make bowls you can either spray the bowls with a release agent, such as silicone or cover the bowl with a clay layer. This means you can etch or alter the shape to suit before pouring in plaster.

To make my heart mould I formed a solid heart shape and pressed it firmly to the base of a plastic container. After pouring the plaster I jiggle the container to release any bubbles.

Once set, the plaster mould can be easily removed and used. When creating wall hangings it’s important to consider how the piece will be hung. I attach clay using a vinegar and water mix to help with the blending of the clay. Using a small 2cm long piece of straw I cut a hole, so the wire can be used for hanging the ornament when finished.

After about a week of drying, weather dependant, the pieces can be put into the kiln for a bisque firing up to 1040oC. Then once the glaze has been applied, the pieces will receive a second firing, up to 1200oC. Complete.

Potential investment of pottery supplies

Finding a good art supplier takes a lot of research. Prices can look quite reasonable online but once you’ve spent a good hour or so navigating a website, creating a cart of potential purchases, the freight charges can change the investment from a creative hobby to a financial risk pretty fast.

It felt like Christmas the day my first order of clay and glazes arrived from Decopots. A momentous day.

I had decided on 20 bags of clay. 10 wood brown stoneware and 10 cream stoneware. Both great for sculptural and wheel work. If you commit to 20 bags the price is reduced. I topped up the pallet with a couple of glazes and a brush, making the most of the freight charges.

Now that we have relocated to Whanganui, I am only an hour away from Palmerston North, the home of Decopots. While my mother (also a potter) was visiting, we thought it would be fun to have a little shop.

What I didn’t realise was that they aren’t open to the public, however they kindly showed us around their factory. This was such a treat. A behind the scenes experience.

We watched as clay was pressed through a rather large industrial pugmill.

We watched as ceramic blanks were reproduced in moulds and set to dry on shelves before heading to the kiln for firing.

Although we left empty handed, we would soon be putting our orders in.

Throwing a Clay Bowl

I am inspired by creative people. I love finding one of these gems. The best ones go about their day, working their completely unrelated job, itching to get home so that they can dabble. If you are a creative person, you will know, it’s just so important to find time to unleash this need. Whether it makes you money, or costs you money, it’s benefits are rewarding.

My mother, Julia, is one of those gems.

She has recently reignited her passion for the wheel.

These creative tendencies are often very private and quiet, almost meditative for the artist. However, with their cover blown, they are often very animated and expressive when sharing their passion with a fellow dabbler of art. These people are often extremely humble and modest, and are wonderful people to know and to be around.

My mother shared with me her talent. Making a bowl on a potters wheel from clay.

Throwing a clay bowl
The clay is placed in the centre of the bat
Throwing a clay bowl
The wheel spins slowly while she gets the clay into position, and creates a cone like shape. She presses down in the centre with her thumbs to form a well.
Throwing a clay bowl
She slowly brings the clay out and up to form desired bowl size and thickness
Throwing a clay bowl
Water is keep nearby to keep her hands and the bowl damp.

oct1 047

oct1 048

Throwing a clay bowl
Using a wire she trims and evens the edge of the bowl, which is removed.

Throwing a clay bowl

Throwing a clay bowl
She gently pinched the bowls edge to form a tidy rounded lip

Throwing a clay bowl

oct1 059

Throwing a clay bowl
She runs a damp sponge along the inside and the outside of the spinning bowl to get a smooth finish
Throwing a clay bowl
With the wheel stopped, she runs a wire underneath the bowl to remove it from the bat

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She leaves the bowl over night to dry a little.

Then she places it upside down on the wheel to trim the and shape the outside of the  bowl and its base.

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The clay is put into a kiln twice. It is first biscuit fired at 800 C, then a glaze is applied and it is baked again, at over 1000 C.

Julia is a member of the local pottery club where she has access to a kiln, glazing and most importantly, other amazing creative potters!

She works from her studio in Whangapoua. Her bowls can be found at Luke’s Kitchen in Kuaotunu, on the Coromandel Pennisula and via her website juliapots. 

 

 

Need a little support

Years ago when I cast handmade moulds with concrete, I formed my first ‘couple’. I managed to reproduce 10 of these before the delicate mould was retired. Now, I find creating with clay and firing each original piece is much more satisfying. Each piece is completely different, some even take on a direction of their own. I enjoy this process and am always excited to see the end result, when they emerge from their final firing.

On my first attempt of my couple in clay I put a vinyl cone support under the man, thinking that the woman could be built around him, but as I created, she started to slump.

Instead of scrapping the work, I went with the clay and love the result.

You could view the piece as a man supporting a weak or sick woman, or of a woman buckling underneath the pressure of holding up and supporting the man.

With the second piece, I built a support using cut down containers held together with duct tape. I covered the containers with a bread bag for easy removal. This ensured the couple kept their form. The support pieces were removed on day 2.

Being an egg donor, I am sensitive to the struggle some couples go through to be blessed with a child. I created a baby to fit in the couples arm, making the piece complete. While the piece was drying my three-year old daughter kept putting the baby back into the couples arms, when I would have it sitting next to the piece. I loved that she always wanted the baby with its parents, and not on its own on the shelf.

The piece turned out to be an interactive one. It’s surprising how the physical act of putting the baby in its place makes you feel good.

I sponged a black slip onto both pieces.

Unfortunately the glossy glaze did not give me the desired look. Perhaps they will find a home with someone. Thankfully art appeals to an array of people. I would have preferred a matt finish and will be purchasing my own glazes for future use, and applying a thicker slip.

Live and learn.

Retro Kickwheel Revamp

Super happy with my find at the Raglan Resource Recovery Centre today! I couldn’t believe my luck. I had just popped up to the rubbish dump to drop off some old pallets and a sack of recyclables and saw this beauty. To any other person it just looked like a hunk of rusty metal, but to me a dream come true! It was coming home with me!

I gave it a brush down with a wire brush and applied Rust Converter to stop the rust and protect it from further damage as it forms a primer.

The next step was to give it a spray with an enamel paint. It looks amazing! I cant wait to attempt my first bowl! I may even produce a mug for my husband, who has been very patient while I get all my sculptures out of my system.

I’m gonna be all about texture. Nature inspired texture.

I’ve seen a couple of Instagram posts of bark pottery using sodium silicate.

I think that’s next on Lulu’s Lists.

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Cute little gifts

I will definitely be making more of these little guys. I made them for personal Christmas gifts but had a few requests for some! A cool scale roller and hand cut fish shapes. I leaned them up on a cardboard tube cut in half to give the fish a slight curve. I experimented with what ever shades of blue the Clay Shed had. Simple and sweet.

Glazed and out of the kiln

The dreaded school holidays arrived, and to keep me sane I made sure that I had a sack of clay at my ready. I had a few ideas of what I wanted to try; some mermaids, fish and this awesome shark I’d seen online, as an award for design. I attempted my first dolphin, of which I hope to create more of, promoting an awareness of the endangered maui dolphin, which occasionally frequents the waters of New Zealand’s West Coast. These pieces would allow me to explore with some colour in the form of slips.

 

I also had some more meaningful pieces I want to get out; the first being a figure of a woman represented as a bowling pin. A woman who is continuously, repetitively knocked down, and yet gets back up again, all to be knocked down again. Symbolising abuse.

The second brings awareness to breast cancer. A beautiful curvaceous woman, proud of her battle wound, having had a breast removed.

Fighters. Survivors.

 

Well after messing up my first two pieces, getting carried away with slips and glazes I had a bit of slip fun with the mermaids and fish, and got a wee bit arty with my ladies.

 

 

I love the red stripes, making the bowling pin imagery more obvious.

I’m not fond of glossy glazes so left my survivor lady without a glaze. A double firing of white slip.

The results…

 

Unfortunately the bowling pin lady must have touched something black while in the kiln, which has left a smudge on her back. The breast cancer survivor had a fleck of black glaze on her boob, which I could easily sand off with my rotary tool. I’m yet to seal her, as she has no glaze to protect her.

 

What do you think?

My next two ladies

Continuing on with my motherly theme I created these two ladies, my pregnant woman having a moment with her bump and the blessed mother with her child.

 

This time to make sure they didn’t slump I used vinyl, taped into a cone, covered in a bread bag as a support. After the first day a drying I could remove the cone and pull free the plastic bag. If more shaping was needed, it could be done then, before the piece gets too dry. The following day I used a cut metal knitting needle to reach the end of the hollow cavity to ensure there is a gap in the clay, about the neck, creating an escape for trapped air during firing, prevent the ladies heads from blowing up, potentially taking out nearby pieces from other artists.

 

I had fun with the colouring of these pieces, blending brown to green on one piece and using a selection of blues on my watery woman. Unfortunately I was told about englobes, and coated the pieces in Kakapo Green and Peacock Blue. I thought this would give the girls some amazing texture and contrast. The watery lady looked ok, perhaps a bit too busy and the green lady kinda just went a solid bright green. Not really the earthy toned lady I had envisioned.

 

Oh well, I am told that this is what pottery is about. Experimenting. Especially when you have a group kiln, and you are not in control of the firing temperatures. I think I need to do some googling research of glazes, slips and englobes and perhaps invest in some products to my tastes, hopes and dreams.

I have not been deterred.

Throwing a Clay Bowl

I am inspired by creative people. I love finding one of these gems. The best ones go about their day, working their completely unrelated job, itching to get home so that they can dabble. If you are a creative person, you will know, it’s just so important to find time to unleash this need. Whether it makes you money, or costs you money, it’s benefits are rewarding.

My mother is one of those gems. She has recently reignited her passion for the wheel.

These creative tendencies are often very private and quiet, almost meditative for the artist. However, with their cover blown, they are often very animated and expressive when sharing their passion with a fellow dabbler of art. These people are often extremely humble and modest, and are wonderful people to know and to be around.

My mother shared with me her talent. Making a bowl on a potters wheel from clay.

Throwing a clay bowl
The clay is placed in the centre of the bat
Throwing a clay bowl
The wheel spins slowly while she gets the clay into position, and creates a cone like shape. She presses down in the centre with her thumbs to form a well.
Throwing a clay bowl
She slowly brings the clay out and up to form desired bowl size and thickness
Throwing a clay bowl
Water is keep nearby to keep her hands and the bowl damp.

oct1 047

oct1 048

Throwing a clay bowl
Using a wire she trims and evens the edge of the bowl, which is removed.

Throwing a clay bowl

Throwing a clay bowl
She gently pinched the bowls edge to form a tidy rounded lip

Throwing a clay bowl

oct1 059

Throwing a clay bowl
She runs a damp sponge along the inside and the outside of the spinning bowl to get a smooth finish
Throwing a clay bowl
With the wheel stopped, she runs a wire underneath the bowl to remove it from the bat

Throwing a clay bowl oct1 063

She leaves the bowl over night to dry a little.

Then she places it upside down on the wheel to trim the and shape the outside of the  bowl and its base.

oct1 080 oct1 081 oct1 082 oct1 083 oct1 084

The clay is put into a kiln twice. It is first biscuit fired at 800 C, then a glaze is applied and it is baked again, at over 1000 C.

My mum is a member of the local pottery club where she has access to a kiln, glazing and most importantly, other amazing creative potters!

http://www.ceramics.co.nz/