I took part in my first ‘open house’ workshop today where I learnt how to use the hot melt vinyl compound Vinamold/Gelflex to make flexible moulds. Much cheaper than silicone, it can be used to cast all sorts, from plaster to wax, resins and ceramic material.However it does have some drawbacks, namely that it shrinks over time and when used with plaster or wood they have to be soaked first in water.
The Vinamold is first cut into sugar-cube sized chunks which is a bit of a challenge but is easiest done with a stanley knife and scissors. The texture is similar to that of tough meat. Next it’s heated in the microwave to around 150C which took around 6 minutes for a full Pyrex measuring jug, a little longer for larger quantities. It’s best to check the consistency every 3 minutes or so in case it begins to burn. The objects we wanted to make moulds of were placed onto sheets of clay with a cottle to give a gap of about two fingers width in between. When the compound was of a runny, soupy consistency it was poured into the moulds and left to set for about an hour. It was easy to release the objects from inside and every tiny detail is captured. The process is so much quicker than making a plaster mould.
I was fortunate enough to watch Walter Keeler (the legend himself!) give a masterclass today as part of the Made by Hand craft event at Cardiff city hall. Although familiar with his pots for years, I’d never properly appreciated how innovative his work has been. Combining different techniques including extruding, throwing, slab building, press moulding and lathe turning he explores the full potential of clay’s qualities.
He demonstrated how he makes two kinds of jugs, the first from an extruded pipe with extruded handles echoing the twisting branches of trees; the second using more traditional techniques – thrown sections with a pulled handle. We watched as he transformed a stiff jug with what he called ‘a personality disorder’ into his distinctive ‘articulated’ jug design by simply replacing the thrown sections together at a jauntier angle. This new jug, he said, was one you knew you’d have a fun conversation with.
Interestingly many of the different sections are joined together with slip but no scoring. This often leads to a much neater joint and the parts still stay together! Maybe I should be less painstaking when joining next time and trust in the clay more.
I like Keeler’s sense of humour in how he plays with our relationships to his objects. He makes mugs that are intimate and homely, alongside thorn encrusted dishes which we almost feel afraid to approach. What he makes is both traditional and contemporary, organic and geometric. He wants his work to be used not only appreciated for its aesthetics.