Gesamtkunstwerk Bowl Part 2

I took up my drawings and wondered how I could make this bowl “come to life”, it wasn’t long before I decided, that to create this object, I needed to visit the plaster room. In order to make my bowl I would need to turn the form in plaster on the plaster lathe, and then create a two part mould from the positive.

Having turned my plaster positive I came up with a new idea, that I should keep the positive on the chuck when making my moulds so that I may use the plaster positive turning it again and again to create a series of moulds.

Sticking to the same shape I then created three moulds of exactly the same shape but from the first shape getting smaller each time. My intention was to create a series of six moulds in this way which were identical in shape but each time smaller in scale, a little like the Russian “Matryoshka” dolls.

Matryoshka dolls

Initially I wanted to create a vessel which had walls which were thinner around the rim and thicker the deeper into the pot one peered. Leaving the liquid clay at the bottom of the vessel pooled forming a perfect meniscus.



This meniscus I hoped after firing to glaze then lustre fire with a bright gold lustre, creating an effect of liquid gold being at the bottom of the bowl.



The vessel itself would have no foot ring and would lie on its side on the table, the only thing preventing it from rolling off would be the weight of the pooled clay inside. However after several attempts at this I could see that this was not working the way I had hoped. The clay was drying unevenly and cracking shattering the work. The different thicknesses of clay were working against one another causing such tension that the pieces broke when drying out.



It was at this point that I put aside this notion of different thicknesses of clay and decided that I would return once again to my previous work. I had to examine how I would take this project forward in a way that I felt was true to me and kept the values which I want, and enjoy, from my work. Finally I made the decision, as before, to the use of thread in the making of these vessels. The thread I decided to use was a satin cotton thread which is red in colour. I felt it was the correct thread for the purpose as it was of very good quality and unlike silk was of a heavier weight and therefore felt a little less delicate, and yet fine enough to serve my needs.

Anchor red 47 Satin cotton

The use of thread inside the bowl created a new feeling to the piece and I enjoyed the tension it brought. It had changed the work from being one that could have possibly been almost functional to a piece of art which was already “full”, therefore could never possess any other function.


An important part of the undertaking of this brief was that the bowl, if of high enough quality and artistic underpinning, would at the end of term form part of an exhibition at the gallery at “Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre”(

Llantarnam Grange

The potential participation of my work in this exhibition would also be subject to a one to one “Pitch” with the Creative Director of Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre, Louise Jones-Williams. Where each student had five minutes to explain in as much detail as possible, where they were coming from, what their core values are regarding this subject matter, and what the foresee as being the final outcome of the work.

“Tempus Fugit!” and it was already time for the “Pitch”, I had a few unfinished pieces to show for my hard work, but decided to go with it and show these to Louise Jones-Williams as unfinished examples of how my work was likely to be finished.

By the time I arrived at the point where I had turned the positive for the fourth time, my results had started to arrive back from the kiln from the first three moulds. It was here that I realised I had made a big mistake. By making the bowl in a two part mould I was left with a fettling line on the slip cast bowl, which had I been using earthenware slip or a stoneware slip it wouldn’t have mattered much. I was however using fine bone china slip to cast my bowls as I greatly admire the qualities of this translucent and delicate material. My first attempts were complete failures. Bone china has fantastic “Memory” and once it has been warped or squashed it remembers this impact when high fired and will resume this misshapen form. Whilst fettling these forms I must have warped at various points the clay walls and although after the first “Biscuit” firing they seemed fine, upon reaching 1280c these vessels became warped and twisted.

Not the outcome I desired for my “Perfect” bowl! I was now in a bit of a quandary, should I change the values which I placed in the designing of my bowl and use a more forgiving material, or should I go back to the drawing board and start again?

So it was at this point that I entered an “Into the fold” seminar on the Friday afternoon in the plaster room. The seminar was conducted by Zoe Preece, a ceramic artist who uses porcelain and bone china clay to slip cast from plaster moulds her artforms.


Material Presence Artist Zoe Preece (photograph by Dewi Lloyd)

For me this particular seminar couldn’t have fallen at a better time. I sat there mesmerised by Zoe’s passion in her work and realised very quickly that I needed to change how I had approached this project. Zoe states that with all her pieces the bowl shape she makes with never more than a one piece mould. This is where I had been going wrong. She also says that once she has cast the slip into the mould she then leaves this to “firm up” overnight. Something I had also been approaching badly, as I had been taking the pieces from the mould when still quite damp and therefore subjecting the clay to stresses which it wouldn’t forget once high fired.

Now I found myself with a few new issues, firstly my looming deadline, secondly the shape which I had chosen would not lend itself to be cast from a single piece mould as the contours would make the positive become locked in the mould and therefore useless. Finally the plaster I had been using was not of high enough quality, prone to inconsistencies, leaving air bubbles and not of the correct density for use with fine bone china slip.

I had however some work which had survived the “Biscuit” stage of firing. I therefore formulated a “two pronged” plan. I decided to continue with the works which I had already completed, not to high fire them but to polish them with beeswax, giving them the tactile feel which I was looking for.



Simultaneously I ordered some plaster recommended by Zoe for the use with fine clay slip, “Newcast 96” from Industrial Plaster Supplies. I had therefore decided to re-lance the project with only a couple of weeks to the deadline. Keeping in reserve the works which though not the outcomes I had intended were still of reasonable quality to submit.

to be continued…

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