Design and Production: cast wood grain

So here is the third casting after I forgot to take a picture of it and I cut it apart for test tiles (and so I could see the layers on the inside, to see if there was any hidden pockets of air. Which there wasn’t) the print of the wood came out really nicely, but you can see the big air bubble in the lower right quadrant.






Here are some close-ups of the wood grain print.

I’m pretty happy with how the grain came out. I used a stiff wire brush to rough up the surface of the wood so that the varying textures would show through more. The wood itself is pretty soft which helped with bringing out the grain.


Design and Production: mold making

For Design + Production, I have narrowed down my project to an appetizer plate that I will be slip casting, using Andrew Martin’s cone 10 porcelain slip cast recipe. We just had a follow up meeting with the folks at a tavola, a restaurant on Main street in New Paltz, and I have tweaked my design slightly and have thus, landed on my final prototype.

Here are some of the molds I made for the plate:


This is the mold of the first foot I built. I wanted the look of hammered brass (which are on the short sides) because of the light fixtures above the bar. I’ve kept it on the third variation, but made it less noticeable. I’ve also changed the shape of the foot, making it round and the sides are much rounder too, not quite so square.

This is the first mold I made.  I am using a wood block to create the shape of the inside of the plate and to create surface decoration, as the grain of the wood will transfer to the surface of the clay. Here all of the sides of the wood block are square, I have since rounded them out to prevent the corners of the tray from getting chipped.


These are the first two castings (white) and my very first prototype (pink). I used the usual slip casting method with the first casting, but had to pour it in layers, which ended up not working and looking strange and the wood didn’t touch sections of slip and I had to add more to the mold. Once I pulled the wood out,  I pressed burlap fabric into the surface because a lot of the top layer of slip had pulled up where there were air bubbles. It looked kind of weird so I decided not to do it again.

The second casting went better, I poured in all of the slip at once, using enough to push the slip up the edges of the mold with the (weighted) wood block, hence, casting the plate solid. That seemed to work better, but I still got air bubbles and the print of the wood just wasn’t clear enough.

So for the third casting, I poured all the slip I needed for a solid casting into the mold, and I painted the slip onto the surface of the wood and rocked the block from one end to the other. And it worked! There was one residual air bubble, but the grain came out quite clear.

I would have added a photograph of that casting, but I forgot to take a picture of it before I cut it apart for test tiles…


This is after I adjusted the shape of the wood. The edges are rounded and I beveled the underside which will change the inside shape of the plate.

Throughout the process, I have adjusted my technique several times with different parts of the plate. For example, casting slip is kind of a tricky substance and requires some finagling in order for it to work semi-problem free. I had to try three different ways of putting the slip and the wood into the plaster mold, before it would leave a good imprint of the wood grain on the slip and without leaving separation lines or air bubbles. In the end, I managed to make a pretty damn good casting of it because of the suggestion from my professor to paint the slip onto the grain of the wood before pressing it into the slip inside the mold.

There is a lot of trial and error with this production process, and I enjoy working this way for the problem-solving aspect, although I have been finding it difficult to settle on an idea. It seems like there is always something that could be changed.

Design and Production: glaze testing!!!


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For these a tavola appetizer plates, the customer wants earthy tones, dark reds, browns, etc. so I thought I could color the casting slip with mason stains to get a orange/brown hue that would accent the color of the glaze and make the client happy. I tried two brown mason stains in different amounts to see what might look best. They looked sorta purple while green and bisqued and I was hoping the magic of ceramics would turn them brown in reduction, unfortunately, neither came out brown or orange, but a weird greeny-grey. I’ll have to go back to the drawing board and do more testing. I also want to experiment using underglazes and stains to see if I can get a good result from that instead.