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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Pouring molds!!


Happy Easter everyone! What an absolutley georgeous weekend we are having! With the weather being so nice, I decided to do a little pouring yesterday afternoon. This is the one aspect of dollmaking that I continue to have problems with. Most people don't realize that humidity in the air and the temperature affects the way pouring goes. When it is really dry, molds set up a lot faster...but when it is really damp, molds set up a lot slower. It has been good a dry the past weeks or so here so I thought my pouring would go nice and smooth. Unfortunately, it was too dry so not only did my molds set up very quickly...they set up too quickly which caused the casing to crack while still in the molds. After I realized the molds were to dry, I began spritzing them with distilled water to allow them to set up a little more slowly so I could get some good casings. The process of pouring the molds begins with the slip. You need to prepare the slip for pouring. I use Ultra Chic Porcelain Slip. When I receive a new gallon, I have to stir it up really good and add a little water to it until it is the right consistency. Once I get it thin enough, I then strain the slip to get all the air bubbles out and to strain out any chunks of slip that did not stir up well. There are many different Porcelain Slips in the Market, but I prefer the Ultra Chic. It pours beautifully and is very easy to clean in the sfgw stage.

Once you have your slip all prepared, it is time to pour! I normally will allow the slip to sit for a few hours before I start pouring. This is the time I use to get set up. Here is a picture of my table all set up. Some of the supplies I will be using can be seen. I have my slip and molds, mold dusting brush, fettling knife, small paint brush, distilled water, strainer, measuring cup that I use only for pouring (once I use any of my old kitchen utensils to pour with, I never ever use them for food again!). I also have a old wood spoon, extra mold bands, a bowl of clean water, small straws to help blow out molds, and lots of paper towels!

I always start with the head molds. Since I paint my dolls eyes, I lightly wet the eye area with some distilled water and then paint in the eye with white slip. Once the eye is painted in white slip, I band the molds and then pour the head in flesh colored slip. Here is a picture of a head mold that is ready to pour out. I check the thickness of my casing using my fettling knife. Once the casing is about a 1/4" thick, I will pour out all the extra slip back into my slip container.

And here is a picture of the leg mold poured. I just finished pouring this mold and took the picture and you can already start to see the little divets in the tops. Right after I put the camera back down, I had to top off the molds again with more slip.

Once the molds have been poured out and allowed to sit for a while, I will use my fettling knife to clean off the spares. This is the pour hole are of the molds. I reconstitute these spares. This is a process of filling a empty slip jug about 3/4 of the way full of all these pieces and then adding distilled water (just enough to cover the spares) and mixing it really good to make usable slip. Since I mainly make dolls as a hobby, this is acceptable. However, for dolls that I am going to sell or for Antique dolls, this is not recommended. There is a slight difference in quality when some reconstitued slips are used. I have not seen any difference with the Ultra Chic but would rather not take the chance.

I now have 3 complete dolls ready to work on. The next step in the process is to either brush clean the greenware, or soft fire the ware and clean it that way. With these smaller dolls and the Ultra Chic, I prefer to soft fire the ware then clean.

For a warning for anyone who wants to try making dolls: Porcelain Greenware Dust is very harmful to your health if you breath it in because it is made of up of tiny glass particles. Soft firing the ware before you wet clean it eliminates the dust. While in the liquid state, slip is not harmful at all..but when allowed to dry, care must to taken to avoid breathing in the dust at all costs. I wear gloves and a mask whenever I handle dry greenware or any dried up porcelain. I always clean my work surfaces down very good with clean water and paper towels and I never ever re-use anything I use for pouring to cook with. Warning labels are on all brands of slip and care must be given to follow the important health precautions. I even go a step further by re-cleaning all my surfaces with a small bit of bleach water to make sure I get is all cleaned up. Since I normally pour in my home, I don't want to take any chances with my or my family's health.

I hope you all are enjoying my blog. Please ask any questions you may have and I will try my very best to answer them. Dollmaking can be a very fun and rewarding craft and I just want to share with you all the process of making them. Again I hope you are all having a wonderful Easter!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Another "New" Technique I want to try

APRIL 1, 2010

Good Morning all my dollmaking friends! The Daffodils are blooming here in Wheeling WV, along with those pesky Dandelions, which marks the arrival of Spring! Easter Dresses hang on racks at all the local department stores, while candy isles fill with Easter supplies. The local weather for this weekend is calling for highs in the 80's with lots of sunshine! What a great way to start April! Another good way to start a new month, is discovering a new Technique for making porcelain dolls! Last month I attended a webinar about Spanish Oils. I had never heard of them before so I thought is was just a different kind of china paint..boy was I wrong. Spanish Oils is actually more like a stain you use on greenware. The greenware absorbs the color and stains the porcelain when you bisque fire. It reminds me of how you would paint a earthenware greenware ceramic. Years ago, this was what I used to paint all the time. I would go to my local ceramic shop, buy a piece of greenware, paint 2 to 3 coats of "colored clay" on the piece and then have the ceramic shop bisque fire the piece. Once it was bisque fired, I would then glaze it and return it for another firing which would cause the piece to become glossy. What makes the Spanish Oils different is that it is not a surface paint but a stain. The greenware absorbs the stain which actually changes the colors of the slip. There is also the detail colors which are surface colors that you apply after you apply the stains. Once you have your piece painted, you then bisque fire the piece...and if you want, you can then glaze the piece and have a glossy porcelain figure. This is the method they used to make Lladro figures years ago. After attending the webinar, I knew I just had to try this technique to make some figures. Here is a picture of Bernadette. I have ordered this mold with a starter kit of the oils from and hope to receive it soon so that I can try these amazing oils!

These Webinars are a great way to learn about all sorts of ceramics. So far I have taken 3 of them and have learned so much about porcelain. Here is a link to some information about the webinars for anyone that is interested.
I will try to post pictures and keep you all posted once I receive my supplies and being trying this technique. Have a great weekend my friends!
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