Wednesday, January 28, 2004

(you got to) move on up

At work, last week, I began learning how to slipcast, with Mercury as a teacher. It really isn't a big deal, just pouring vast amounts of slip (the consistency and color of pancake batter, only not as tasty fried, I'm sure) into molds. You get very messy though, stuff splatters all over you, all over shoes and jeans and everything (as opposed to the more controlled mess of glazing, I suppose). I wish I could post pictures on here to show all of you what work looks like, the slipcasting area full of round white plaster molds, stacked in all corners and in shelves, the blunger full of clay with its hose stuck in a bucket, the wide chipboard trays with freshly made latte beakers and bowls on them, edges rough, not yet trimmed.

Continuing up my learning scale, today I began trimming, which is the next step after slipcasting, after the piece has been taken out of the mold. In this stage the pieces are not the ideal thickness and the edges are rough; you take a metal rib and a knife and go to work, trimming, thinning. Then the piece is sponged down using water with a bit of vinegar in it; this I've been doing for ages.

After this stage the smoothed pieces are loaded into a kiln and fired, this is bisque. Unloaded the next day, underglazed (with a color) and then glazed on top with a clear white, then fired again, this time with little three-pronged kiln sitters on their bottoms, so the glaze there doesn't adhere to the kiln shelf. At this stage things get complicated because different colors (the darker ones and the red) have to go in special parts of the kiln (the top and back, it's hotter there).

We also do porcelain versions of the line, these are only glazed on the inside with a clear white (because the coloring agent is added with the liquid slip, way back before they're even poured) and then fired for two days instead of just one.

All this combined with the facts that we only have 4 kilns and need double that to meet the demand, means timing is a very important part of the job.

I like working for Mud, everyone banters and laughs and jokes around, and every day I learn something new, or work more efficiently. I definitely couldn't have planned this trip better if I'd tried.

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