Thursday, September 6, 2012


In the Cert IV class at CIT Ceramics Studio which focuses on investigating and experimenting, we've zipped through a really busy program of skill sets this term.  We've done handmade teapots, boxes and now we are pushing on with the subject of wall art.  Last week we had a short slide show via my iPad and the digital projector (so easy) to illustrate the diverse possibilities, looking at artists in working clay and other media.  Then we got started on our designs and clay models.  The purpose of this wall art project is to teach the students how to make a simple model from which to make a one piece plaster drop mould and then go on to make multiple copies to arrange as wall art.
Mel is working on a cluster form
At first I thought the students weren't keen on the idea of wall art and all the processes involved, but that gave way quickly to some enthusiastic sketching and planning.

 Zach was the first to get his model ready and out into the plaster area to form the mould.  Here you can see he's built up cottle walls with bits of MDF and recycled clay to hold the retaining walls in place.  He was at home with mixing plaster having used it previously in a sculpture unit and had worked in the trade at some point.  His clay model was not very big and the walls were firm enough to resist the pressure of  the plaster as we poured it in.  We were in and out of the outdoor plaster area in ten minutes while the sculpture class slathered plaster onto their self portraits behind us.  Then the rest of our class noted what Zach had done and followed suite with little direction from me.
One great thing was that the students were passing on the still soft clay with plaster in it for shoring up their subsequent moulds and the MDF walls were leftovers from the workshop area so the wastage was very low.  Meanwhile back in the classroom the students were working away on their models ...

Tanh, who has the concentration and determination of an athlete and works rapidly, was finessing her two cylinder model with a cool faceted surface texture, we may have to address some fine undercuts near the base though. 
Actually here is a little image transfer tip we used in class.  Rowan, below, had drawn his character in his visual diary and needed to translate it into clay.  We went over his drawing with a pen we'd tested to ensure the ink was water soluble.  We tried a couple of pens out to find the right one.  NB Must buy more!  
First we rolled two slabs of clay and placed them on top of each other, with no slip or water between them, the lower slab is about twice as thick as the top one.  When he pressed the image face down onto the top surface of the 'just rolled' slab of clay, the image transferred easily, a mirror image of the original  We'd also tested this simple transfer technique out with a printed 'inkjet' image earlier in the class to good effect.  For a curved surface such as a cylinder you'd just trim the paper to fit the curve.  

We used the print as a guide for cutting around it through the top layer of clay with a sharp knife and a with bevelled edge all round.  Some of the background layer will be kept as a foundation for the 2D image to enhance the sense of dimensionality.  The bevelled edge is to ensure we have no undercuts for when we make the mould.  Next week Rowan will be softening the edges of his clay character with his fingertips and brushing a small wet paintbrush into the cut edges to meld the two layers.  

Of course the ink lines that were transferred will disappear in the firing as the ink has no material content to withstand such temperatures but this transfer system works as a guide for carving, sgraffito or for painting on oxide or under glaze decoration.  I learnt most of these methods from Trudy Golley, Head of Ceramics at Red Deer College in Alberta, Canada while I was at ANU.   No photographic models were needed for this blog posting, I just happen to have a very good looking class.  

You may have learnt something new here or been enthused to try something out as a result of reading my blog, if so I would LOVE to get some comments from you.  Want more?  Pop on over to the Mud Colony Blog, we link our blogs up to Mud Colony between every Thursday and Sunday night - and there may be heaps more clay stuff there for you to enjoy.  


  1. Great to see the process = thanks for all the detail. I love the way the students transferred the images. Don't you learn a lot by teaching - that's why I love it, and still continue to have students after a lifetime of teaching...

    1. i love that moment when you see them thinking 'That makes so much sense, i'll use that' and you know whatever you just taught them will follow them into their clay career. Teaching is very, very satisfying.

    2. What a terrific class. You reminded me of yet another way to transfer images...thanks!

      BTW, I found you via Mud Colony......doing it's job!

    3. Brilliant, Mud colony rocks!