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  • Writer's pictureChiara

A printmaker with Clay

I decided on a two part approach to making my white porcelain dinnerware collection to begin the making-breaking-making cycle. I have some skills, but I am no way a Ceramicist. My entire Bachelor's degree was in the Print Studio with a smattering of Photography and Artist's book subjects to make up my electives. I also needed a fairly efficient method to make my dinnerware, since that was only the first and simplest step in a multi-step process. Cue slump moulding: the most print-informed ceramics method I could come up with.

Step one: protecting the originals with plastic wrap, I formed stoneware moulds on the 70s originals I had collected. Bonus: no vintage dishes were harmed in the making of these moulds, except the few I clumsily dropped!

Step 2: I cleaned up and the stoneware moulds and bisque fired them. This gave me a strong, absorbent form upon which to create my porcelain dishes and bowls.

Step 3: I used the stoneware as slump moulds to make my porcelain. The process is to roll out a flat slab of porcelain clay between two pieces of cloth, remove the cloth and drape the slab over the mould, press it in with an almost dry sponge, trim, smooth and allow to dry. When it has been fired, the porous stoneware mould absorbs moisture and so aids the drying process as well as giving form to the piece. After some frustration and a few cracked pieces I learned to slump onto the inside rather than the outside of the mould to allow for shrinkage.

Step 4: Initially I bisque fired the porcelain, glazed and then fired again, until I was introduced to the wonders of "once-firing". This allows me to glaze the dry (greenware) clay and complete all the firing in one session. Given the number of pieces I needed to make in a short space of time this was a boon.

Step 5: I have dinnerware ready to continue the Breaking and Making part of the cycle.

Step 3 was modified a little as the project went on because I found I wanted to maximise the marks of my hand on the work, particularly as I was working with small pieces where the overall form was difficult to read. I developed a sort of slump mould-pinch pot hybrid technique of pressing out the clay with my fingers in the mould rather than just using rubber and metal kidney tools. It felt a lot like making pizzas and pies from scratch, which coincidentally was a significant feature of my childhood.

Conceptual bonus: Clay shrinks as it dries and as it is fired. My stoneware moulds were dried and fired, as were my porcelain pieces. At each stage, the pieces became noticeably smaller and that combined with the materiality of the porcelain, created a type of miniature which reminds me of the distorted sense of scale I experience with memories of childhood objects.

As a print-maker in the Ceramics studio I found a method using a matrix (or two--the vintage originals to form the stoneware moulds, which then became the matrix for my porcelain) and a porcelain clay "substrate" to make multiple similar pieces each with the mark of the "artist's hand.

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