Hexagonal mould troubles

I have just about had enough of the plaster room, after making my hexagon mound three times, I was hoping it would be third time lucky: I would successfully take the epoxy resin backed Perspex fronted hexagon out of the second part of my two piece plaster mould.

imageBut this did not happen. It just wouldn’t release, I used compressed air gun, water, I’d even spread a thin layer of engine oil onto the piece prior to moulding. Had it been earlier on I the year, I would have tried casting this complex shape using a different material.. But I have made an executive decision to put this aside and concentrate on making tile with the mounds I already have. I justified it with the fact that I would have to learn to use a new material such as silicon or using a CNC machine; and at the moment my knowledge lies with plaster. Time is of the essence and at this point of the year I need to go with what I know.

IMG_6022On a positive note, if I hadn’t designed this shape, I wouldn’t have had my 3 separate rhombuses as a result of being the shapes pushed out of hexagon during laser cutting. Also, I am very happy with how the tiles I have are looking, so I don’t feel I need another shape in the composition anyway.


Why I picked certain colours for my tile collection

I wanted to create rich colours which all had blue in them as it is a shade I have always favoured to work with. These include pink, green; plus various shades of blue to compliment each other, when it came to making along with Ivory white tiles in between.
I took time to choose the colours because of the significant history behind how they were discovered. The process of making them involved using high fire stains: cobalt blue, crimson red, black and yellow.


I did some experimentation before, mixing different percentages of blue with the other colours, evidenced in my glaze book. I may use the combinations at a later date, but for the degree show, I wanted these particular 4 colours…

Prussian Blue, the colour of blueprints and an antidote to heavy metal poisoning; was appreciated by artists for its prominent colouration, whereas most blues have a green hue to them.It was also used for the Prussian army’s uniform in the 19th century: a colour of power.


Puce was a pink signifying indulgence: one of the last dresses Marie Antionette owned was Puce. Interestingly, it translates to meaning the colour of fleas: when Antionette’s husband, King Louis, saw the dress he remarked that it was of a flea colour “coleur de puce”.

Ultramarine, originally derived from Lapiz Lazuli, was adored by many Renaissance artists for its deep blue pigmentation, at the time it was so valuable (used to depict the robes of Virgin Mary) the blue stain itself was locked away from the artists whilst they were completing the task of a commission painting.

And lastly Celadon, renowned in Ceramic history, a green glaze used to decorate pottery in China, it became very fashionable and spread to other parts of Asia and then Europe. Interestingly, the original celadon wares weren’t even seen until a few decades ago, after archeologists found them hidden away in underneath old Chinese temples.



Beauty lies in the detail


The devil is in the detail! Pictured above is one of my perspex rhombuses I was preparing to cast. Using clay to stick it to the board and to fill in the minute space underneath ensured that the mould would be as clean and neat as possible. I also used a spirit level to check for straightness. 

So I had a bit of a melt down last week, my moulds for my tiles didn’t work, due to the Perspex pieces I had casted not being completely clean; I did not think that the plaster would pick up the detail, but it did. Also with my bigger hexagonal mould, I only used soft soap as a release agent rather than another material which was appropriate to resin board; this meant the shape being casted would not release, and I actually had to smash the mould to get it out! This put me back with making and meant that I didn’t have the tiles I originally wanted finished. However frustrating this was, I don’t see any hiccup as a failure, just a learning curve! So I cracked on with making a new set of moulds. After having a tutorial with Gemma-one of the Ceramics Technicians- I ended the week being confident in my abilities and having a load of casting tips. It is all in the detail when creating my tiles and if it wasn’t for me mucking up the first batch of moulds, I wouldn’t have learnt new finishing skills and tips from Gemma. Because they are so simple, people will zoom in on any impurities, so they simply must be perfect. By being very precarious from the beginning of the making process it will make things a lot easier when it comes to the firing part, and it means I don’t have to spend as much time neatening them up after a bisque, as the moulds are super pristine in the first place.



If I wanted something flat, the key was to use flat tools. If I wanted a straight edge, I used straight edged tools etc. Gemma pointed this out to me and al though this seems obvious but sometimes, it just takes someone to tell you for you to realise! To make sure that the hexagon didn’t get stuck the the plaster, I sanded any bumps and applied a couple of coats of beeswax to the resin board.


My three rhombus moulds, all clean-cut, pristine and in use! 


For the actual composition of my tile collection, I am inspired by fractals. I want to use the space I am using to it’s full capacity and I have a height of at least 10 ft to work with. The only way is up!

Fractals are basic fundamentals of nature. Starting off with a single stem each stem had two branches growing from it so fractasl look something like this

imageDescribed as a geometrical figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole. Their structure can be seen in snowflakes: Similar patterns repeat themselves at progressively smaller scales. This natural geometric  phenomena is observed in crystal growth and galaxy formation.

Interestingly, fractals are actually apparent in Jackson Pollock’s work. The geometry of Pollock dropping paint onto canvas can be measured and that if one looks at a painting of his-in incredible detail- there are regularities(In 2002,A machine called the Pollockiser was created and used to replicate his paintings, the end result is pretty uncanny).

I liken this to my tiles. There are three basic shapes which are repeated, and unfold to produce a beautiful manifestation much like vines going up a wall.


Projections for Production

From my experience of working with coloured slips, with ratios of stain and specialising with earthenware bodies I have come to the realisation that making and cost projections are quite fundamental really in the production and sustainability of my work.
It’s essential I plan an estimate of how many tiles I will make, and how many errors there will be. I aim to make 300 tiles. I don’t need 300 tiles for my wall, but I need to physically make that many as for every 10 I make 2 go wrong, so that’s 36 out of 180 I can’t use, leaving me with only 144 tiles. There is also the risk of breakage of the good tiles from accidental damage through the loading of a kiln or the actual firing itself. So let’s for arguments sake round it up to every 10 I make 3 could be useless. This means to make 180 I technically need to make according to my mathematics 306.
The table shows the costs of materials; this is so I have an idea of how much things will roughly be post graduation; taking into consideration that the supplies at uni are a lot cheaper of course. Factors such as these are vital in costing and determining if any materials and production methods need to be evaluated. To maintain and monitor my making, I devised weekly action plans in my diary to ensure good time management with an emphasis on a looming degree show.
imageBudgeting and planning ahead is definitely a skill I have developed to term. With our final deadline looming, the only way one can ensure their work is done is to plan every day.

Jackson Pollock

World renowned artist Jackson Pollock is the painter most well associated with the abstract expressionist movement. He adopted a unique technique of painting, detaching line from, colour and reaching new possibilities in the art world. Starting off with putting the canvas on the floor, Pollock often used household paint, dipping a large push into the paint pot, and drizzling the paint onto the canvas, in a seemingly random way, usually whilst intoxicated. The motion was much like a swinging pendulum.

I have been inspired by his approach to painting, and the ambiguities of the process. I feel like the way in which I make my marbleised tiles is similar; as I am working vertically on to a flat surface; mixing two three of four colours together, without measuring them. It is very intuitive, and I go by how it feels. Something which contrasts with my carefully construed design of diamond and rhombus tiles; and the patient process of making accurate, neat slipping casting moulds


To start with I was quite set on the possibility of using Pantones colour of the year “Greenery” for a main colour on my tiles… However, it is very bright, and for me a bit too bright! It isn’t really part of my “go-to” colour palette. After all this is work I am creating for my degree show, I want to use colours I am fond of… Although it’s for other people to come and see our talent (including buyers and people from industry), it’s our opportunity to show off an accumulation of what we have learnt throughout our ceramics degree.

I have started to research colours for my tile collection. Colour, to me is just as important as the design itself. I am constantly observing my surroundings, and seeing which colours work well together or maybe clash, and how they affect people’s moods.

I have come across the fabulous book “The Secret Lives of Colour” by Kassia St Clair. In this book she writes about the histories of 75 shades, dyes and hues. Each story is unique and compelling, making me question every interesting colour I come across…

Ever since I have begun involved with Ceramics, cobalt blue is a colour I have always worked with, I am always magnetised to it. So it made sense to start with this colour to create other ones. I began by mixing cobalt blue with red to produce stunning shades of purple and pink; these were the only stains I had. So I invested in black and yellow. With these base colours, my options are limitless! I chose stains over oxides, as I wanted the colour to retain even at high temperatures, as I was firing to 1220 degrees. I just wanted trustworthy colours; with oxides there is always a risk that they will burn out.


Stacked up cubes

The cubes pictures above are test pieces I created to see how the blues and pinks would work together. I also created a few using a marbleised effect, to contrast with the pristine lines: which would be a similar pairing if this effect were to be used on my tiles. Whilst the diamonds and rhombuses I have made echo the repetition of shapes and tessellation apparent in nature, the marbleisation symbolizes the more unusual side of the organic. This could be an extra petal on a flower, for example, or the ever-changing weather. Even with a forecast, which predicts transformations in the atmosphere based on pattern, there is always an anomaly.