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2022 - The Year of Mold Making and Finally Slip Casting

Opal and Drops of Honey Collection mugs with handles as the focus
Molds have been a long time coming here at Apricity Ceramics. And that means getting over my fear of mold making. 
For as long as I've been doing ceramics, I've had a very hard time figuring out how to make a mold, let alone how to make a professional looking mold. It just never clicked in my brain. Honestly, I just kept having plaster disasters, and that made me want to give up before I even really got started. But, after many behind-the-scenes trials and tribulations, I'm very happy to say I have figured it out!
There's some great free information out here on the internet, and I would like to add my process as a resource to those also trying to figure out mold making.
So buckle up because I’m going to tell y’all all about my experience making master molds, mother molds, and production molds.
I’ll try to be as detailed as possible, but if you have any questions or if any section is confusing, please feel free to let me know!
For the purposes of these blog posts, I’ll be telling you about the creation of the handle mold. It’s the most nuanced thing I made, and I believe the most personal thing I make, so I spent the most time on this item. But this blog’s not philosophical (yet) so let’s move on to the grit of it.



handle carved from foam and a polymer clay thats about to be carved into a handle 

Over the summer, I carved this handle out of foam and thought it looked and felt perfect. However, I got busy before I could figure out how to coat all the tiny air pockets to make one smooth object that would deflect plaster well. So, I sat on the handle and waited. 2022 then entered the chat and I committed myself to figuring this out.


I decided to carve my master handle out of polymer clay. It’s an attractive material because it doesn’t shrink, can easily be carved and sanded, won’t stick to some of the materials I’d be working with later, and it’s difficult to break.


Now polymer clays do not behave like my ceramic clays, so I decided to form the polymer into the general shape of my handle and then carve my way to the form. I used a couple of different rasps to help me carve into the polymer, and then used sandpaper to smooth it out. Pictured below are some vintage ones my stepfather gave me to use, but linked above are some new versions that work great too. 



Carving the polymer handle with tools


This process was time consuming, especially because I’m a perfectionist. For reference it took me 2 full days to get the handle just right. But I’m really happy with the result and I feel it was totally worth it.


I would also say, if I had not already made over 1000 handles out of clay, I would have found this more difficult for sure. I relied heavily on my muscle memory, so I knew exactly how I wanted the handle to feel in my hands and how my thumb should feel resting of the top.

I also used the foam handle I had carved earlier as a sort of guide to help me out.



Pro Tip--If you’re doing this at your studio, make sure to make the original item with your clays shrinkage rate in mind! Your original item will always be larger than your future slipcast item.


 Carved handle being held


Okay, she looks great!


Now it’s time to make a mold. But not just any mold-- next blog post Ill be talking about the MASTER MOLD.

Stay tuned!

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