How are handmade ceramics made? Part three: mould making

images by Joshua Morris of Hayden Youlley

Part 3: Mould Making

Mould making is a common practice in studio pottery in Australia. Moulds allow ceramicists to create multiples of the same object, create specific parts of objects or to use as an alteration tool. The most common moulds used to hand make are made from plaster and used for slab building or slip-casting.

Often we are asked whether using moulds is classifies as truly ‘handmade’ – as they are used in mass production – and we believe that mould making sits well within the handmade. Our ranges of slip-cast ceramics are made using moulds that are designed, made and used by our makers.

When ceramics are mass produced, often the design of a piece is created by a designer who then sends the prototypes, sketches or 3D models to a ceramicist or a factory to fabricate the design. Our slip-cast pieces are designed and fabricated all in one place, by one person. This gives each piece a quality and uniqueness that is often lost in mass production.

Flop moulds

Flop moulds are usually one-piece moulds onto which a slab of clay is laid. A slab is a thin piece of clay, rolled out using a rolling pin, hands or a slab roller. This part of the process is similar to a large piece of dough ready for cookies to be cut out of it.

A maker will drape a slab over a mould, trim excess clay as desired and then leave the clay to stiffen over a period of time. The amount of time is dependant on the temperature, humidity and level of breeze. As the clay dries, it becomes stiffer until it is able to be lifted easily from the mould and flipped over for decoration and finishing touches.

Flop moulds can be very intricate or simple and can be made or bought. Generally, studio potters will make their own or use bought moulds to create pieces which are then altered. These types of moulds are usually used to create serving platters, bowls and decorative pieces.

 

     

images by Joshua Morris of Hayden Youlley

 Slip casting

Our most popular range of slip cast ceramics are designed and made by Hayden Youlley Design in Marrickville in Sydney. Hayden designs, makes and even customises a range of bowls, plates, cups, jugs and vases in his iconic ‘paper’ finish. 

In our recent feature on Hayden, he describes the slip-casting process:

Slip-casting is used for the accurate reproduction of ceramic work, and especially for shapes not easily made on a pottery wheel. It works by pouring liquid clay into a plaster mould, and the plaster then absorbs the liquid leaving a hardened clay shell around the interior of the mould. The shell is then left overnight, and removed from the mould. To make my pieces, I then trim, clean, hand-polish and burnish the piece, and stamp it with my logo. The piece is left to dry and then fired in the kiln, hand-painted with glaze, and fired for a second time in the kiln.

Hayden makes it sounds easy but some of these moulds are very large (and therefore very heavy!). They also ‘expire’ after a certain number of casts at which time they need to be remade with the density of the plaster just right so the water can be removed and the clay stuck to the mould.

 

Read more of Hayden’s interview here.