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  • Mick Haigh

About Moulding Clay





Making shapes from clay , is what makes clay so appealing ! Readily agreeing to become any form imaginable . Although getting clay to keep its shape through the fire is quite tricky . Herein lies the skill. Knowing exactly when and what clay can do , is all about its moisture content , a lot like us humans , being mostly moisture , we lose our flexibility as we loose our moisture . So it is with clay.


Plaster of paris is used as a mould to pour very wet clay, thick runny clay into . The clay slip then fills the inside surface of the mould , thus taking on its shape and appearance . Meanwhile the plaster being dry and absorbent , slowly sucks out the water from the clay slip thus making a thin skin of hardening clay all around the inside surface of the mould. Once this layer is thick enough , which depends on your personal preference , style and on the practical issues of the dry strength , the excess clay slip is poured out of the mould . Simple as it sounds , there are in fact a number of issues which make this process taxing and messy. Leaking moulds which turn my shoes into sloppy slippery swamps , or moulds which are already too wet and produce slumped deformed humorous forms are all part of the learning process.


Now if the mould is emptied successfully , the shape inside the mould can begin to case harden before the mould is opened .allowing the shape to hold itself up without support. Again with a little time and experience , mind hand fingers heart absorb the knowledge .

Now the shape must dry further in order to be the handled with a fettling tool. A what ? A fettling tool is a thin smooth steel tool used to smooth the mould line formed by where the two or more moulds meet. And to restore some detail lost in the mould process perhaps.


Moulds are either bought ready made , or once you have originated a shape , a mould can be made from it . One may also mould something which one has not originated , copy right terms and conditions may apply , the point ? Moulding can be elevated into the realm of art. Not copy. The production of identical shapes. Like print making ?


Plaster of paris also makes a very good drape mould . This is a solid block of plaster over which a thin slab of clay can be draped and trimmed off. Sponged down to take up the detail and finished off with a foot ring . All by hand . This process is well suited to the production of flat table ware , i.e. platters , plates , trays etc.


So i guess , out off all the ways to shape clay , moulding it to a predetermined shape can either be a scam or a science , an art or an awful . Lets think about why we make things , why we need them , why others need them , how long they will last , and at what cost they are produced.

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