Saturday, March 15, 2008

Continuing adventures in Ceramics


Two more color designs were attempted over the last few days. One of the color designs, Antiqued Sponged Paint is very effective. It is done using a soft taupe color lightly sponged over the background using a torn sea sponge. Very, very thin green is sponged very lightly over the leaves both at the top and bottom and the bird's body. Very thin red is sponged over the flowers, top and bottom and the throat of the bird. These colors are so thin that the result is a subtle, old finish. After bisque firing, the detail is scrubbed with thinned French Brown paint that is wiped away after drying, leaving color only in the detail. The other, Full Color - Light design is achieved using soft, lifelike colors. Green and yellow green on the leaves, deeper green on the bird, and neon red for the throat and flowers. It is a bit.... Hum... not exactly weak, just maybe a bit uninspiring or ordinary. All of the vases are glazed with clear, high gloss, food safe glaze.

Trying to come up with excellent designs that will fit into the variety of homes and personal taste is a bit daunting. However, have paint, will continue to try until satisfied.

A couple of days ago I sent an email to friends and family asking for their input on the colors. So far the Monochromatic Antiqued Purple, Snow White vase (with or without mother of pearl) and the Decorator Deep Tone colored vase with deep green/black background vases are the favorites. It has been fun hearing from all of them. They are very helpful, sharing what they liked or didn't like. Some even have sent ideas for the products that they would like to see. What started as a simple design before tackling the big design (6" flower pot with bunnies) has turned into a list for an entire line of hummingbird products.
It's funny how a small idea like a bud vase can grow into a large line of products.

Some of the ideas are - handles for serving pieces, kitchen cabinet door knobs and pulls; teacup or bowl; teapot; a lidded box and or jars; picture frames; light switch covers; bath accessories etc. And, of course, all of these ideas will start with sculptures made of polymer clay.


Having successfully cast a number of bud vases, we made a master mold of the bud vase mold so that we can easily make molds in the future. It's made of urethane rubber and will flex to release the molded parts.

We have been very busy in all parts of the creation of original ceramic molds, from the original sculpture, mold box, plaster casting, drying and cleaning the mold, pouring the part, cleaning and firing and finally, color and glaze finishing.

The molds are made of a special pottery plaster that needs to be smooth when poured. No matter how hard you try to get the bubbles out, the mold needs to be tapped or shaken to cause any air bubbles in the mix to rise to the top. After banging molds on the kitchen counter, making an unbelievable mess, Joe decided to build a shaker table. Using eight big bolts, sixteen big nuts and washers, four really, really big springs, an old vibrator motor and scrap lumber, he put together a shaker table. So far, he thinks it needs a bigger motor. (How very guy like.) It is helping to make smoother, bubble free casts.

If you have never made a ceramic mold, here is a Reader's Digest description.

To make a two or three part mold, the originals have to be buried in solid clay that is built up to the parting line. The hardest part of the entire thing for me is finding the parting line. It is the most frustrating part and takes the most time. Joe makes our mold boxes of wood. They are screwed together so that they can be easily taken apart and put back together easily. I clay up the baked polymer clay parts using ceramic sculpting clay, the kind used on a pottery wheel. The cracks in the wooden mold box are sealed with this same clay and the whole thing is given a spray of Original Pam.

The pottery plaster is mixed and poured into the mold, then the mold is taken to the shaker table to remove air bubbles. Then it is set aside to allow the plaster to set. This takes about an hour.

After the first part of the mold is set, the mold box is taken apart, the pottery clay is carefully removed from the polymer clay original parts that are now partly buried in the solid plaster. The parts and plaster are cleaned, and the box is put together again around the mold, corners sealed, sprayed with pam and plaster is mixed and poured again. Whew!!

The picture to the right shows three views of the vase, showing the three dimensional designs on the vase.