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Technical Tuesday: Slip Casting Saga

Updated: Apr 20, 2020

A common goal in my personal practice is finding the line that divides form and appearance. In the piece shown on the left you can see an attempt at mimicking the form of fabric through ceramics and then flooding the objects with a single color; drawing all the focus to the form. That is a discussion for another time and another post. Today is Technical Tuesday and we are here to talk techniques. This is the age old tale of Joe verses the kiln, a saga in which I have lost many battles. There's still hope for the war.

Its a delicate system when firing pieces so let's leave that to the experts. We can however, examine the process of recreating fabric. Of course the first instant may be to throw a big hunk of clay on a roller, get it nice and thin, and just crease it up a bit. There are a few problems there. It is hard to replicate the intricate, random folds and creases of your fabric. Then there is the fragility of the piece as it dries that may not allow for handling. So what can you do. Try taking an actual sheet(that you don't mind incinerating) and coating it with slip. Slip is a mixture of clay and water often found at the bottom of communal studio sinks. Mix up some slip in a container. Stretch the sheet out flat. apply slip in layers with either a brush or just go for it and pour it on. As the layers dry and build up, you can then kink and manipulate the fabric however you please. Once in the desired position allow the clay to harden. Watch it closely. The blanket may suck the moisture out faster that expected. From here follow normal firing instructions.

Bid farewell to the sheet because once it goes into the kiln its no more. Pretty quickly the sheet will burn out and you are left with an almost perfect replica. This a fairly simple process and anyone with a more gentle touch than I should have no issues. Think all the different applications that slip casting can make easier.

* Also keep that gentle touch when working with the piece post firing. As you can see I was not.

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