Slip Casting and Mold Making

The Essential Guide to Mold Making & Slip Casting by Andrew Martin

The Essential Guide to Mold Making & Slip Casting by Andrew Martin

Want to know something I’ve realized about myself?  I enjoy the design process more than the production of pottery.  It’s one of the reasons that I’ve decided to return to graduate school to finish a degree in landscape architecture that I dropped out of when my daughter was younger.  I enjoy doing the research, design charrettes, and then creating proto-types but not necessarily  producing 100+ of said item.  But, my mind might be able to be wrap itself around molds.

That might sound sacrilegious to those of you (myself included) who sometimes enjoy working with wet clay more than the finishing aspect.  I borrowed The Essential Guide to Mold Making & Slip Casting by Andrew Martin from the library and I’m truly impressed by its potential and all of the super delicious photographs of slip casted work that are included in the book.

It doesn’t hurt that I have a huge 50 lb. bag of pottery plaster sitting in my garagio right now – not to mention the minus 30 day deadline looming for the CPG show and sale.  Tempting…

Meanwhile, today I had lunch with David Sprunt (a former classmate of mine  from the graduate school of landscape architecture at University of Colorado at Denver) and met briefly with one of the faculty members.  After visiting the school and seeing some current student’s work, I am really excited about returning to school this fall.  In some ways August  feels miles away, yet I also feel a sense of urgency to read for recreation and make some art before school begins again.




  • The whole mold-making and slip-casting area is a part of ceramics that I haven’t even allowed myself to consider… yet! The world of clay is so vast, isn’t it?! It’s hard to focus on any one aspect when there are so many delicious and exciting things to try!… Your graduate studies in landscape architecture sound exciting. Am happy for you!

    • There are a gazillion things you can do with clay, aren’t there? I think that’s why I haven’t run out of ideas for my kid’s clay classes yet. :)

  • The idea of molds really hits home with me; I agree with your thoughts wholeheartedly. I love drawing designs and making the pieces in clay, but once the piece is complete I prefer to be on to the next design and piece. For some time now, since I took the Sandra Black workshop last year, I’ve been thinking of making molds, so I can concentrate on making new pieces. This summer I plan to focus on learning the mold making process. I don’t think it is a cop out – the design is original, the mold is original and the pieces are – like other forms art – original but perhaps numbered editions. In order to compete in a world of mass production, sometimes this type of creativity is necessary for the artistic process to survive. Unfortunately some of my pieces cannot be made in a mold, but if some could, I’ve reasoned it would free up my time to make pieces which couldn’t be made in a mold and also allow me to concentrate on the glazing and decorating of the ceramic pieces as they are made. I’ve also been reading about several artists who have started using molds of their original designs. Thanks for the book recommendation. How exciting for you and your new career direction.

    • Try to borrow this book, Linda – the photographs are amazing – and what’s really inspiring is seeing how a simple mold of say, just a tumbler, can be played with infinitesimally through additions, glazes and other finishes. You could still get many one offs based on just finishing a piece. The author also provides really easy to understand mold making instructions – there are some pretty complicated forms that are produced with molds – don’t think anything is too off the wall.

      I’m going to start with a simple open pour mold before trying something more complicated. I have made hump molds in the past, but not pour molds. But, now, I will also have to test some casting slip recipes or buy pre-made slip before making. Can’t use the abundance of scrap that I have at my finger tips.

  • Cynthia,
    I’m not the least surprised you’ve realized this facet of your personality. I think I’ve known it for a long time. I rather admire, in one way, people who can make a career of doing mostly the same thing thousand of times over. I have trouble making two earrings alike. And symmetry is just boring out of my mind. But it is always process that I like best, and once I reach a level of what is acceptable in my mind, I’m sort of done. Yikes!

    • I’m glad you knew that about me! Why didn’t you clue me in?? :) All kidding aside, I thought that I could and when I do see the work of people who produce prolific amounts of pottery, I get inspired but not for long enough to make it viable for me. I want to make what I want to make when I want to make it – yet not when others want me to do so. Weird.

  • Hi Cynthia, I’ll see if I can get the book at a used book store; have you checked out Jeff Martin’s blog – a few weeks back he had some great information on his process of mold making.

  • Good for you! I backed into clay 10 years ago when pursuing a different degree. I have a childhood friend (since age 2) who finished her Landscape Architecture degree a year ago at age 52, and another friend who went back at age 40, after serving in the OSS in WW2, to get his in L.A. and was named a Fellow and is still considered one of the top in the field. I learned from him it’s never to late to learn and pursue dreams. And maybe you’ll find yourself making pottery to slip among those plants.

    • Thanks for the words of encouragement! I wonder if I’m sort of crazy for going back at 43, but when I had lunch with David yesterday he relayed a story his sister told him when he went back. “In 3 years time, you’ll either be doing the same old thing, or you could be doing something new and potentially more fulfilling.” That really resonates with me and makes the whole age thing irrelevant. Don’t know why I put that kind of pressure on myself??

  • I can understand you so well! I love the beginning of things. Finishing them and making them perfect becomes agony when it has been going on too long.

  • For me the satisfaction comes in the actual hands on artmaking but after that initial inspiration spark, my brain HAS to participate in a cerebral process that includes problem solving first.

    I remember reading about a wonderful and professional mold maker that potter Whitney Smith uses Making the mold January 8. This production efficient idea had my business minded brain in overdrive!

    • I’m going to try to make my own molds, Cindy – but I did start researching mold makers on the net yesterday, just in case. I’ll have to pay Whitney a visit and search her archives for the info… I too love the making, but less so the finishing, but I’m trying to balance that out. Finishing shouldn’t be an afterthought for me. :)

  • Oooh, exciting. Could be a great way to keep up your ceramic practice, while you’re extending yourself at school.

  • Hi Cynthia, I didn’t study full time until my two kids were in secondry school and then I began my degree in Design/ Ceramics,at 39 and I felt very old amongst the others straight out of school, But I found that I was very committed at that age and received excellent grades. I began painting in oils at 58 and at 60 changed tack and began to seriously sculpt, all because I enrolled in a class doing Bronze casting, so good luckwith your studies and its great to always have a bag of plaster around to do simple forms to slip cast. I have also done 2 classes with Sandre Black and also with an English slipcaster, Sasha Wardell who wrote a beautiful book “Porcelain and Bone China”.Judy

    • That makes me feel better, Jurol! I also finished my BFA in mid 30′s and was almost old enough to be some of my peers mother – (or babysitter at the very least.) :)

      Oooh – I’ll research the names you mentioned – always on the look out for inspiration.

  • I can definitely see where you are coming from on the love of design – and you are good at it – I got out the small tray I got from you at the last sale the other day and I just love it.

    We should have a chat soon about the art trade we talked about. The house is done (ish – a few punch list items left – I’m hoping they deliver the fridge to you this weekend while I’m out of town).

    Also would love to chat about landscape architecture – now that the house is done it’s time to think about my garden.

  • I understand what you mean about mould making sounding sacrilegious, but I’m like you too – I love making something new, but once it’s done, it’s done. I can’t see me making the same thing twice. I just love the challenge of each new thing.

    I have thought a lot about mould making recently too. I’d love to tell people that each piece is a hand made original, but like I said, I can’t see me making the same thing twice. Also, I’d love to make some huge sculptures that maybe wouldn’t fit in a kiln, so I thought cement in a mould might be a good idea! The only problem then will be trying to move the thing because of the weight! I don’t know enough about mould making yet though – especially large ones strong enough to hold cement! I’m just playing with ideas really.

    • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with molds, especially if it’s my original design. Playing with ideas is good too – that’s my favorite part of the process!