Slipcasting is used for the mass production of pottery and ceramics, and it works best when employed to create complex-shaped objects not suited to throwing on a wheel or by hand.
A liquid clay slurry is usually poured into plaster molds to form a layer on the inside cavity of the mold. In a solid cast molding technique, objects like handles and platters are surrounded by plaster on all sides with a reservoir for the slip, and are removed when the piece within solidifies.
The technique can also be used for small-scale production runs or to produce limited editions of objects.
“I see ceramics as a very traditional, old fashioned practice that needs to be modernized,” Crompton says. “During my undergraduate degree (work), I used the 3D modeling software SolidWorks to design functional vessels based on natural formations found in ice, lava and rock. I then used laser cut Perspex layers to build up my designs into models ready for mold making.”
According to Crompton, she uses traditional plaster mold making techniques prototyped via digital model making to make the molds for her slip casting pieces.
She now uses a material called Parian semi porcelain slip. While standard semi-porcelain slip can take up to 45 minutes to set, Parian takes just 7-10 minutes.
The green-ware pieces are then fired at 1240 degrees F and require just one high-temperature pass, and she says the slip is “self-glazing” using that material and process. “The finish is perfect for my aesthetic,” Crompton says. “The finish is more matte than shiny, it shows more detail than glazing a piece as it would add an extra coating causing a dulling of my geometric forms.”
She adds that using this material does impose some design considerations. Whereas semi-porcelain normally shrinks some 10-12%, the Parian slip shrinks nearly 16%, and that requires her to design pieces and molds larger for casting. Ceramics techniques date back more than 20,000 years, but the artist’s new approach uses 3D printing to produce finely detailed and complex designs.
Crompton says the original idea of how she should go about getting her work produced came as a result of a search for companies who could print in plaster. But when she found that it would cost too much to print each piece, and that ceramic printing wouldn’t allow the level of detail she required, she began to investigate how the process could work for her.
Since the molds for slipcasting require a degree of absorbency, she decided to create basic 3D printed molds to provide the accuracy and speed she needed. The prices for her pieces range from £45 (around $68) for an insulated coffee mug to £215 (around $325) for her Perspex Bubble Light.
Artists are using 3D printing for everything from mold making to prototyping to creating finished pieces. Do you know of any artists who use 3D printing and scanning to create their work? Let us know about them in the 3D Printed Slipcast Pieces forum thread on 3DPB.com.