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Heading into Unit 2 I wanted to learn new processes and start to explore how the introduction of new materials would effect my practice. A conversation with Sara Byers about the idea of comfort zones in making made me realise how I feel comfortable in low tech processes, and often avoid more traditional making processes that have their own rigid set of rules. In developing a new material, it was important for me to create my own rules and boundaries in order to formalise the material, so I thought it would be interesting to see how this emphasis on the hand-made would still apply to other making.

press mould 

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stoneware press mould with transparent gloss glaze

In Unit 1 I learnt how to weld, and felt empowered by this. Next I wanted to learn how to make a press mould, and I wanted to branch out and think about, not only fabric as a material in itself, but as a material that can be depicted. Choosing an old sock that had been thrown away by my partner due to how it had been irreparably worn down, I used the facilities in the ceramic studio to make a plaster press mould. Firstly stuffing the sock slightly to create more of an imprint in the clay and then rolling it into the clay form.

Then I cut around the imprint leaving an inch around the edge, and created thick walls around the outside to then pour the plaster in. This gave a positive impression of the sock, and I then built another wall around this to pour plaster onto the other side, to give the opposite impression. I used watered down slip as a releasing agent, and once the plaster had hardened I rinsed the slip under running water and the two halves came apart easily, with the edges smoothed using the planer/shaver.

 I decided to try two different techniques, rolling out clay and pressing it into the mould in the traditional manner, and I also tried slip. Pressing the clay ultimately ended up being the most successful, since I could make it thicker, but I had to work harder to pick up the detail of the sock’s knit. The slip was successful in picking up the detail but I felt it was ultimately too fine and the first split in the kiln.

I played with some of the glazes in the kiln, but I really liked the clear glaze on the stoneware because I felt like it wasn’t shying away from the raw material, and the clear glaze gave the old sock an unusually polished surface that felt like it juxtaposed the object itself; I felt something something new was gained, whilst ultimately the detail of the knitted material stayed true to form.


terracotta press mould with transparent gloss glaze

slip casting

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In the crits at the end of Unit 1 I displayed rigid lengths of the fabric pulp arranged in the project space and held together using metal key-lock clamps. I was interested in how the metal and clothing interacted; the use of the industrious clamps highlighted how the structure of the lengths were suggestive of construction and scaffolding, the material properties of the heavy, shiny, smooth metal and the rough, warm, detailed surface of the fabric pulp, and the fact that the fabric is an irregular consistency – different materials shrink to different percentages and it can be hard predict – and the resulting awkwardness that this mis-fit creates.


In a tutorial with Matt he suggested that instead of using off-the-shelf components that I think about creating my own and how that would change the dynamic of the two materials coming together, and the craftsmanship involved in that process. Using clothing as the primary material in my work, a material that is mass-produced and repurposed, it was interesting to consider how using these equally cheap, mass-manufactured objects add to the work or in fact doesn’t make sense in the context of the materials and structure.


Having learnt how to make a press mould, I next wanted to learn how to make a two-part mould, and I thought it would be interesting to slip cast the metal clamps. Studying the clamps they had clear lines indicating how they themselves were manufactured and put together, and I used these lines as the basis to figure out how to create the two-part mould.


I've enjoyed having conversations about the clamps with various technicians. In the ceramics studio we discussed the possibility of making the threaded bolts and how that could work in practical terms. As they are, they're slightly defunct in that it's the threaded bolt that attached the clamp to the material but in order to do this you have to use force; something metal can withstand but clamp would break under this kind of pressure. I'm having to think about the clamps as more than a practical item (or not a practical item at all) and what this could add to the work. 


I chose a selection of other clamps that I thought would be useful in constructing various fabric pulp lengths to create shapes, always referencing temporary structures and objects that have a relationship to the body in some way.


For the clamps that had a flat surface that could be attached to a wall or floor, I tried to make a two-part mould but because the flat surfaces were too fragile to be pulled out of the mould, I had to make a three-part mould so that the bases could be released first. For some the two-part moulds I used acetate to create the walls of the moulds when pouring the plaster, having found it easier when making the three-part moulds. However, it was a mistake as I then have to rely on the moulds balancing on the table top. 


I also came across a problem with my glaze where it was getting too thick on the edges that dripped (because I was dipping them into the glaze) and so cracking off after it’s been fired. I combated this by using a sponge and lightly wiping any parts of the glaze that looked too thick.


On the three-part mould for the wall clamp, I couldn’t find an appropriate pour hole, due to the need for the mould to open along the edge of the clamp. I chose to put the pour hole on the curved edge, this leaving a hole that I had to fill in. I did this my cutting out a small circle from the pour spout I had cut off, and then using a little bit of slip and a sponge to create a seamless finish. This seemed an adequate solution.


Another issue I encountered was some of the pour holes being too small to begin with, meaning slip would sometimes get stuck and wouldn’t pour out of the mould easily, leaving too much excess slip inside and this would result in the cast being too thick and distorting once released due to too much moisture still in the object. I fixed this problem by making the holes bigger, using a knife to carve away the plaster.


I also found that if I forgot to set a timber and left the slip inside for too long, it also made it harder to release the slip as it got too thick and wouldn’t all come out, so it became vital that I set an alarm and pour the slip after no more than 45 minutes (to suit the size of the object).


I was surprised by how satisfying I found this process, and how much I enjoyed the thorough and particular steps of making the moulds. I took on a particularly industrious approach to producing multiple slip cast objects. As I build up a collection of five moulds, I often found myself in a one-person production line, working my way through each mould and each stage, repeating the process again and again. It reminded me of what I enjoy about making art. Performing tasks with my hands, and repeating these until I had a collection of constituent parts that I could re-imagine in different forms and arrangements.


The process of cutting up the fabric, and re-forming it by meticulously measuring and combining a set recipe I had created myself combines these almost robotic, systematic actions, and I found the creative thinking comes in the form of imagining the objects in a space. This feels true to sculpture in a way that doesn’t exist in other mediums, and the physicality of producing, combined with the physicality of structures in space is what excites me about sculpture as an artform. Industrious making seems to be the thread that exists within my practice, as I branch out into more new areas and working with new materials.

slab building

Whilst enjoying the uniformity and replication involved in slip casting, I wanted to try hand-building elements out of clay to see how these contrast. I made a collection of the floor clamps that I had been casting, knowing they would be irregular and chunkier. Using stoneware, I decided to keep the clay exposed (using just a clear glaze), thinking further about this idea of staying true to a material, and deciding what to 'keep' and 'take-away'. I liked the contrast of the formal, practical object in this loose, style, and as a collection these characteristics become more obvious. 


Thinking about other over-looked components involved in constructing and bringing things together, and I had been using some brackets on the wall to support the lengths of fabric whilst they dried, and they had been sat empty on the wall, as a pair, for some time. 

What I found interesting about the slab building is the irregularity in the objects, despite their initial recognisable appearance, and I was reminded of the workshop with Florian Roithmayr.

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lost wax casting

Whilst enjoying the uniformity and replication involved in slip casting, I wanted to try hand-building elements out of clay to see how these contrast. I made a collection of the floor clamps that I had been casting, knowing they would be irregular and chunkier. Using stoneware, I decided to keep the clay exposed (using just a clear glaze), thinking further about this idea of staying true to a material, and deciding what to 'keep' and 'take-away'. I liked the contrast of the formal, practical object in this loose, style, and as a collection these characteristics become more obvious. 


I was really impressed by the detail that was picked up by the lost wax casting process, and at first glance the item does look like sock. One thing I was really taken by is the weight of the item, weighing at 3.5kg. Holding the object had a real physical impact and juxtaposed the light-weight throw-away association with the sock, and I wanted to do something that somehow showed this weight - perhaps by incorporating other clothes into the display.  


In my tutorial with Matt he said that he understood the need to have a relationship between the bronze sock and the item of clothing, but he said that the trousers felt too industrial and the sock had the appearance of being too large, emphasised by the narrow plinth. He also said he didn't think the formal plinth enhanced the work, and suggested that I look at ways that clothing could be used to build some kind of platform to display the work. I tried folding and piling white items of clothing so that it was reminiscent of a plinth, and the weight of the sock was apparent as it sank into the fabric. For this to be successful I would need to think to think more about how I could increase the plinth/pile of clothes to be taller and more stable, but the wobbly feel really adds to the precarious nature to my practice. 

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