Our First Modular Mold System
In 2016 I developed my first modular mold system. I’d embraced mold making and slipcasting as my primary making process, because I was able to effectively work with porcelain - an inherently troublesome material to work with when throwing or handbuilding. I was able to have more control of my materials by mixing them from scratch and constantly refining them to be stronger, more durable, pigmented, compatible with certain glazes, and so on.
I could explore design by focusing on specific forms and elements that looked tasteful, balanced, and proportionate. I created tools with purpose that worked well. I found efficiency in making so I could see a lot of variety in one idea. Mold systems allow other to participate, because the designs were complete and translatable - this allowed us to hang out and work together. To collaborate.
Using mold systems satisfied my itch for design and allowed me to make multiples of design decisions that I’d settled on or loved.
Plaster Molds and Slipcasting
Plaster is the material we use to make working mold parts for porcelain production. When you add water to gypsum (calcium sulphate dihydrate) and mix them together it undergoes a chemical transformation and can be poured over other objects to create a negative shell stamp when it hardens. If it is poured on glass it is as smooth as glass. Think of it like a fossil… or what archaeologists use to capture footprints.
The plaster we use for molds is mixed to a certain porosity that draws water out of clay to make the clay rigid and catalyze the drying process. Liquid slip is poured and compressed against the porous plaster. It assumes the negative form of the plaster. Conversely, the plaster absorbs water from the outside in, therefore the longer the liquid clay is in the plaster mold, the thicker the walls of the clay get. The plaster will continue to suck moisture out of the slip until there's nothing left.
This process is known as slipcasting. As the moisture from the liquid slip is sucked into the plaster it starts as a film, then a skin, then a shell until the shell is significantly thick and gets hard without the presence of water. The liquid slip is poured and spends a timed period within the plaster mold allowing this shell to form around the edge. Then the remaining wet slip is poured back out, leaving a hollow vessel in the mold. Once this shell has a little more time to dry, it can be neatly removed from the plaster mold without sticking.
Plaster also has a life cycle of how many times it can cycle from wet to dry. The porous channels begin to expand and the plaster breaks down - deteriorates. It can however be recycled by being heated to high temperatures and will become a dry powder that can once again again be mixed with water and turned back to a mold part.
We want to flow through ideas - not start and stop. We want to create a dynamic process dynamic that you can tear down and build back up again:
- Look, listen, think, live
- 3d print
- Scale proportional model accounting for shrinkage
- CNC mill model parts
- Cast more molds
- Learn how to use new tools
- Respond to feedback
What is Clay?
And then there is clay - our specialty. In my opinion, the most fickle and demanding craft material to work with. Yet, also the most malleable, sensitive, forgiving and responsive. Clay is a blend of materials that is full of potential and opportunity until it is fired and transformed into a hard glassy material like stone. When clay is fired it goes under a chemical change from a plastic material to a vitreous glass and becomes ceramic.
Fired ceramic is durable, but it can’t be belted back down to a workable state. It will be many years before it will succumb to the forces of time, erosion, pression and heat until it is broken down to tiny particles to start blending back in with other particles to form clay again: Earth. Ceramic becomes a mark of time. When clay is formed and fired into ceramic, it serves as a marker of the minds and hands of the time and place where it was originally fired. Clay can be all the colors of the rainbow. It can be blended to serve many purposes for each specific making process. The possibilities . . .
Translucent porcelain is special. It is white, refined, and pure. It contains minimal impurities such as iron and titanium that reduce its strength and translucency. Wars have been fought over porcelain. Porcelain clay is white gold - the most valuable of all clays. And we have made it central to Our Mission.