Casting the Negative



How can I make a vessel using the clay bed? This was the question I asked myself when realising that using local clay was an important factor in my work on contemporary culture in the UK. Having found a site I now needed to find a method to make objects.

Taking common garden tools to the site I began to dig a range of small voids in which plaster could be poured and left to set. The plaster void could then be manipulated in the studio.

Some voids were too shallow, the clay bed being solid and difficult to dig. All were so full of undercuts that casting  would be impossible. To erode the undercuts in the casting process would polish out any sense of the site and the moment of making; so how can I make voids with a genuine site experience?

Previously I had removed undercuts by repeatedly forcing a plaster model into clay before casting again. This process gives the model movement and life. However it happened after the original casting and away from the site. To use this process at the site would speak much more of the terrain quality as well as making objects that can be casted. Now, how to create the voids? Using objects from the site appears the most coherent response to this. Objects from the site, speak for the site and of the site.

Advertisements

Ceramics for a Local Culture

I try to buy my food as local as I can. This local movement has been present for several years now and it makes sense. The carbon footprint is reduced, heritage breeds of animals become viable once again (think pigs and cows) and local businesses thrive.

With this notion I started to consider where the clay I use comes from…is it local, is it even British even? Ceramic makers like Issac Button would dig and process their own clay. Clive Bowen is an English maker and still processes his own clay as demonstrated in this video.

In a way of commenting on the local movement I think it is only right to start using my local area to make work. So what was the most simplest way of making a vessel? Clay comes from the ground and when removed or dug out a hole is created, a very simple vessel. I recently cast some holes with plaster in my garden in an attempt to discover how these forms appeared as positives.

 

My well dug soil meant that the positives were littered with undercuts, making casting an impossibility, though their forms were attractive.

The hunt begins to find a suitable, local location.

Seeking Decadence

As part of a project for the Holburne Museum Bath, I am collaborating with fellow Bath Spa MA Ceramicists to create an event highlighting the increase in ‘ready to go’ packaging and a decrease in ceramic tableware. We have each chosen a ‘ready to go’ food product and are creating ceramic works to display this specific food.

For my work I have chosen jelly. Jelly was a very decadent food, served only to the rich and always set in exciting moulds. These moulds were originally ceramic products before cheaper metal moulds came along.

Initially I had been taking disposable packaging commonly associated with off the shelf eating and using vacuum forming to create new moulds. This process responds to how the original moulds were made.

However, I then went to The Georgian Museum, Bristol and found some very decadent (albeit copper) jelly moulds. These moulds reminded me that jelly was about showing off, impressing your guests; so I had to start thinking about how I could make my ceramic piece much more decadent.

It seems from the mould forms above that jelly moulds commonly have a tiers/layers of adorned columns or crenelations like crowns/castles. So I needed to achieve a certain about of tiering in my work.

I therefore started with the basic forms of preexisting disposable packaging and started to stack them in a range of compositions.

Making individual slip cast versions of these forms enabled me to stack and reconfigure the forms so that they were never repeated; a one off being more decadent that a mass produced object perhaps. The results so far, are documented in the following image.

originalphoto-492963755.301433

I begin also to squish and crush some of the parts to acknowledge the disposable nature of the original packaging. Some compositions are more successful than others; all of them appearing slightly futuristic. What is pleasing about these pieces is that they can be stacked on top of each other, permitting a range of different compositions.

However, I felt like this method was slightly too simple and a bit obvious. I started to explore about how else I can make moulds with the limited resources I have over the summer. Without being able to mould plastic my only other option was to form my mould directly from plaster.

I used a hammer and chisel and cut away parts of surplus plaster moulds, leaving raw exposed areas. Once slip cast these chiselled parts came to look like rock.

That reminded me immediately of stone carved architecture and particularly pillars – the ultimate plinth. The first four images were taken in Gerona and document how decadent pillars were made. The second four are images of pillars found on the Holburne Museum building. Generally a very decorative capital (the top part) a semi decorative plinth (the lower part) and always a fairly simple middle part. This process of making pillars has inspired me to create my ceramic jelly plinth in a similar style, with a semi plain middle and decadent plinth and capital.

As with pillars the middle sections were commonly made from a series of stones carved to appear as one, so too will my piece. It seems much more simpler to now ignore the vast range of disposable food packaging and stick with the plastic tub that holds the ‘ready to go’ jelly. From this simple form I can create height by stacking and decadence through vacuumed formed plastic and chiseling at plaster.

LINDA BROTHWELL – The Missing

An exhibition at the Holburne Museum in where figures were removed from their marble plinths. Shots of decadent candelabra’s from the Holburne collection.

(S)Platters

During a trip to the TATE Britain this weekend over the course of some refreshment a jug of milk was spilled (shown above). This spill reminded me of some of the dishes (food and ceramic) on the menu of The Man Behind the Curtain.

Realising that I could use casting slip, I set about creating some organic spills on plaster bats. When leather hard, these spills could be manipulated into different shapes. Manipulated in a specific way, these spills could act as platters for the ready to go jelly plinths being produced for the Holburne Museum. Draped over preexisting molds, these (s)platters would comment on the past and present of food display.

This eventually lead me to develop another alternative method of creating plinths. By composing a range of plaster forms – cast from preexisting packaging – I could drop thin slabs of porcelain onto these compositions and create an organic, freestanding plinth (having removed the plaster packaging models when leather hard). This was inspired by the process of Luke Shalan.

For some of these forms I cut out circular bat like slabs, replicating signs found when making plates. The slab is then obstructed by the plaster packaging models, combining ready to go eating and entertainment dining.

Update 24 May 2016

Reflection on action:

during firing the individual (s)platters were placed on top/overlapping each other. This composition was extremely pleasing. It not only enhances the organic qualities of the spills (something I found very difficult to replicate)  alongside a curatorial element that makes the pieces feel more resolved.

The quantities of 0%, 5% and 10% black copper oxide resemble organic stones or pebbles, which further remind me of the stoneware plates and bowls of high-end restaurants NOMA and Casa Mia.

So, how to develop this approach? It was suggested that I look at the slip trailing work of Clive Bowen and his son Dylan Bowen. I was familiar with the work of Bowen senior, who’s making approach though gestural at times is fairly controlled; further outlined in this video.

The slip trailing of Dylan Bowen (found here) resembles some of the vigorous splatter marks found in the food served in The Man Behind the Curtain. This approach to making (s)platters would unite the conceptual ideas as well as having links in traditional ceramic making. The overlapping/combined colour effect above could be achieved by layering different coloured slips.

In an attempt to combine the (s)platter with the slip cast plinth forms I had already created I started to use varied plaster forms on which to pour the slip.

During my first attempt I poured the slip onto plaster bats used for plate making. I wanted to capture the spill in 3D. I suspected that the slip would shrink over this form, preventing it from releasing easily. My suspicions were  true and despite capturing some great spills, the slip refused to release from the plaster bats. I then returned to using flat bats and even a bowl form which enabled me to shape the spill into a curved vessel. This process is worth exploring further.

Slip Casting – Experiential Research

After attending the recent slip casting workshop I wanted to begin understanding the process of producing a mold first hand. My aim: to create a three piece plaster mold of a popular and well-known ceramic mug.

Prior knowledge of this technique, though limited, provided a rough foundation on which to build a stronger understanding. I relied heavily on the technician for step by step instructions yet observations provided a ‘direct visual experience’ (Grey, C. and Malins, J. 2004) and modeled good practice. Elements of the process were explicit – clear instruction and process to the making. However, mixing the plaster and understanding when the plaster was ready to pour was initially a tacit experience; having to feel the changes in temperature and consistency.

Many mistakes occurred on this first mold making journey, but I have gained a thorough understanding how to prepare the model for casting, how to measure and mix plaster,  as well as enabling each mold piece to fit and release easily when required.

Slip casting allows the maker (provided there are enough mold pieces) to recreate any shape/form. And I feel on the edge of a huge range of possibility ahead of me.

Slip Casting Workshop

(Bridgewater, E. 2009)

This afternoon’s introduction into slip casting has got me pretty fired up. I’ve used the method before to produce a range of cups and saucers, but as I’m discovering the breadth of its uses is vast. With a visit to the Stoke potteries in a few weeks, this clip from the Emma Bridgewater factory, perfectly captures the slip casting potential.