Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Time for slumping?

I've been known to buy a piece of meat or seafood not for dinner, but for the styrofoam container on which it's packed. A simple trip to the grocery store can provide potters with a multitude of forms - perfect for making plaster slump molds. My studio is filled with them, in fact, I mix small batches of plaster once or twice each week, filling the latest booty from my weekly shopping excursion. The photo below shows the transition - from foam mold to plaster cast to fired ceramic dish.

There aren't too many shapes you won't find- especially in the meat/seafood department. And one single foam tray can make a variety of slump molds, depending on how much plaster you pour into it. A shallow pour of a half inch works well for plates. Pouring the plater deeper will allow you to make molds for casserole dishes, platters and more.

Here are some of the slump molds I have laying around, I keep them in racks near the slab roller, where I can quickly grab the appropriate form.

In the next photo, notice the two small square trays in the top row. I use those for soy bowls when making sushi dinnerware sets. I couldn't find any styrofoam trays small enough for the soy bowls, so I cut down a long narrow tray and spliced it back together to make the small square. The plaster cast revealed a small seam, where the two halves were joined. It's quite easy to clean the seam up with small tools, such as dental picks, X-actos (my personal favorite), files, or even small surform tools.

A recent visit to Costco, where I purchased one of their heavenly roasted chickens, set me in a new direction. The dish on which it's served reminds me of a tire tread. I've been experimenting with platters that look as if they've been run over by a tire. Since this mold is so textural, it works best with softer clay that won't tear around all the knobs.

As nerdly as it sounds, I've become somewhat of a meat tray snob. Some of the trays have a lovely texture in the bottom. I'm sure it's so the meat doesn't sit in it's own juices. Other trays are plain at the bottom. Both are shown below, in the exact same size. The textured trays provide some lovely effects on the plates that are made with them. When shopping, I'll choose something with a textured tray over a plain tray. If I decide later that I don't want the texture, it's easy to eliminate with a surform tool.

After a while, it's easy to find you've accumulated MANY plaster molds. I've started building small shelving racks for them, using pegboard for the shelves. The pegboard promotes air circulation, keeping the molds dry when they're not being used. I've found it's handy to have duplicate slump molds, so that when I'm making a dinner ware set, I don't have to wait for the clay to set up to re-use the mold. I just grab another one that's available. I've learned that a quart of water, and the appropriate plaster (2 lbs, 12 ounces) will make roughly 4 of these small molds.

The end result? Here are 3 plates that were quite successful.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

It's Spring! Time to make rattles

It's baby season again. Every few years, the cycle begins again and I get requests for wooden baby rattles.

It started when I made a rattle for a friend who had a baby, I turned a simple rattle on the lathe, and then made a small commemorative box to hold it. Over the years, the box has become more elaborate, with the baby's initials or birth date carved in it. Then someone requested a second compartment within the box, to hold the baby's first pair of shoes. It's a lovely little keepsake for a family.

So I've been in the studio, making rattles and boxes. It's somewhat repetitive, and my mind tends to drift a bit. Then something dawned on me!

In one of the earlier posts here, I showed a sample of a REAL blue glaze I've been developing. Here's a picture of it again. (Scroll down a few posts and you can read more about this glaze, it's based on a recipe in the book- Mastering Cone 6 Glazes, by John Hesselberth and Ron Roy.

Since the box that I make to hold these rattles is a simple "pencil" box with a sliding lid, it dawned on me that it might be nice to add tile to the sliding lid. Or even made the entire lid out of one large, flat tile. The tiles I make are very flat, and I've learned how to make them quite thin without warping while in the kiln.

So now it's back to the drawing board for me. I'd like to try and develop a pink version of this glaze. Any suggestions?

Friday, May 04, 2007

2007 Las Vegas Celebrate Diversity Art Show entries

Thought I would post a few pictures of a couple of pieces I entered into a local art show.