In order to experiment with a range of materials I needed to create a mould and to do so I first needed to create my form from wood. I created some wooden models based of the form of the ceramic funnels using a lathe, this is a very quick method that allows you a great deal of freedom and controle so my forms where relatively accurate in shape and size.
Making a mould.
Here is a link to a video that demonstrates how I got the plaster to form a hollow version
I decided I would need to experiment with different textures of plaster to see if I could improve the strength of the form or create areas for light to escape by adding clear components such as wax discs or glass beads. Below are the images of the several models with various textures and effects using the same method of rotating the plaster I used in the video above, but with added elements to the plaster.
I made a new wax bead model that was made stronger by adding another layer of plaster later on, I also created models using fibre glass fibres to strengthen and glass beads. Here are the images of the models when placed in front of a light.
Fibre glass strands
This was my favourite of all the experiments with the plaster because the beads brought the form of the lamp to life, the piercings of light gave the whole model a more organic feel and the beads spread very evenly throughout the plaster because they where small and light.
The plaster gave a warm, orange light and it let a great deal through because it was thin. The light that escapes the bottom is a more concentrated light that falls in a small pool directly below. I wanted to conduct this experiment to see how a ceramic like material would work with the light source I’d eventually use but unfortunately because the electric components come from the USA they havent arrived in time for me to make an informed decision. Using a simple eco lamp I could get a good idea of how a ceramic could look alone and with a variety of added textures so I’m happy with the experiment as a whole.
The visual appeal of the lamps is equally as important as their usability in this brief and so I have to consider if ceramics would be the best option for both. The finish and slight glow of the ceramic used to create the funnels is what first made me want to conduct these experiments but now I’ve seen how thin the ceramic would need to be to achieve the right amount of glow I don’t think it’s realistically the right material for the lamps I’ve designed. If I were to create them through a slip casting process shown in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7IXhgQdRkc the walls would be a minimum of 5mm thick making them stronger to move around but very little light if any would come through. I also would need to consider how the electronics might be hidden and supported discreetly , a charge must be carried across from the large lamp to the two smaller ones and ceramic slip casting doesn’t allow for detailed additions such as indentations or holes.
After much model making in plaster I decided I’d like to use the mould one further time to make a model from resin. Resin is a clear, viscous liquid that can appear almost glass like in some occasions. I used the resin to create a model of my form but also to create a small disk base to see what my form would look like if light escaped evenly from underneath.
Using the same mould (but cleaned thoroughly) I poured in the resin and rotated the mould at regularly over the course of an hour.
Because the mould had already been used to many times with the plaster models, the inside had become very uneven. When modelling with resin its important that the mould is almost perfect as its unforgiving translucency and ability to get into every nook makes any tiny imperfection visible.
The mould that was entirely resin was very effective in distributing light as you would expect but it was very flexible and easily manipulated even when set. It wouldn’t be suitable for the production of my lamps for this reason but also because it doesn’t have the clean finish needed to flatter the light like a glass would.
Placing the resin underneath showed me a new possibility. The lip around the edge of the lamp could be altered by adding small 5mm lifting points at three corners, this would allow light to disperse creating a hovering effect. This would co-inside with my inspiration of escapism and add another element to the simple form of the lamps. I will investigate how lifting at three points on the lip of the lamp could work instead of adding a full disk of another material as I feel this over complicates and takes away the simplicity of the form I want to create.
Incase you’d like to see more, here is a short video that shows a similar mould making process to the one I used above.
These experiments have proved to be the most valuable so far as they have given me the opportunity to combine various areas of questioning and gain strong answers to move forward. Through the process of creating all these models I have explored from, surface, usability, light quality ,strength and manufacture. I have gained knowledge of ceramics and resin through researching in preparation and carrying out the mould making and casting processes. By pushing myself to consider the behaviour of the form and how it works in a variety of materials I now feel I can safely say that the lamps will look and feel best with a smooth cast surface the even glow, which unfortunately cannot be created with my basic ceramic knowledge and non specific workshop. If the project had been spread over the space of a year , I could have made external contacts and experimented further with a variety of slip casting techniques to see if the wall thickness could be made both thinner and stronger. I could also have then experimented with adding pattern and indentations to the slip when wet so that light could perforate, and copper could be embedded into the form to carry a charge.
Benefits of a ceramics / mould process
1. A hands on approach I enjoy.
2. A craftsmanship quality to the finished object
3. Individuality. Not many lamps are created in this way in today’s market.
4. The soft and smooth surface that felt nice in the users palm, that also could spread light evenly if thin enough.
5. Familiar material to the user. Making it more accessible.It would translate to them that it was ok to handle but with care.
1. The mould used here was too soft, a plaster mould would have been better as it would not have sunk in and altered the shape of the form but vina mould was used for this because it’s quick to make.
2. Too thick or to thin- more experimentation with slip could solve this but it would take a great deal of time.
3. Inaccuracy. This is numerous as with any hand crafted object the process and materials never behave the same way twice.
4. Costly- The margin for error could mean large amounts of wasted material and time.
5. Embedding other materials – I need to incorporate an added material that conducts electrical charge, slip cast ceramics may allow for this but it would be very difficult and inaccurate.
6. A time would inevitably come for change in some aspect of the lamps, be it colour, form, components or scale. The manufacture of the moulds used above took the best part of a day to create. Changing a mould unless done in a mass manufacturing context would take a long time and would not be viable unless it was for continued use.
I’ve come to realise that 3D printing is more likely to be the better option for manufacturing my designs. As mentioned in a pervious post the benefits sit alongside the disadvantages of ceramics and make it seem like the clear answer. I don’t doubt that there will be some problems with this process also but it’s benefits greatly appeal to me. Attempting to 3D print will require some experimenting also and so my next move will be to finalize all of the added components and measurements needed before starting to 3D model a drawing to print.