Slip Cast Vessels
My slip cast vessels, while derived from molds, actually represent hours of tedious hand work. Individual elements are cast separately, altered and joined with slip. They must be joined at the same relative moisture content. The individual pieces must be held in place until the slip has dried sufficiently to support their weight. Often, many coats of slip must be built up to achieve both a solid bond and enough material to act structurally. This can be a messy process as slip drips and runs beyond the seam. After all the slip has dried, imperfections are then sanded to create a smooth surface prior to the initial bisque firing.
Truth be told, these vessels, some of the simplest in terms of line that I make, are also, by far, the most difficult to construct. Throughout the process are numerous occasions for failure. It may take multiple attempts to find the right angle to cut an element in order for it to line up right with its counterpart. Once found, the line can be replicated with templates, but the attachment process can create complications in finding novel ways to support elements while the joining slip dries. Slip is thixotropic and additional coats of slip can cause prior coats to reliquify if not built up slowly. Cracks can form both during the drying and the firing process. The work is very fragile, particularly during the green stage and the finish sanding work presents many game ending opportunities to accidentally knock off an appendage. Slip is thin, and warping or deflection of various elements is always possible during the glaze firing which takes place at very high temperatures.
Glazing is also a challenge with many of these pieces. An even application of glaze can be critical to the finished results which rely on a clean glaze job to accentuate the clean lines of the forms. The traditional ‘dunk’ technique doesn’t work with most of these pieces. The exterior of many of these pieces are sprayed, while the interiors are all glazed by pouring liquid glaze into the vessel.
In many ways this body of work stands in stark contrast to the sculptures and highly decorative wheel-thrown vessels found in the rest of my portfolio. It satisfies the woodworker side of me that is drawn to Shaker and Scandinavian design, to crisp lines and precise functionality. Most of all, the greatest personal gratification is derived from the contrast between the overall outward simplicity of the finished work and the complexity of its construction technique. Though mold-cast, there is considerable hand work. It looks easy but really is very hard.