We are interested in the intersections between technology and craft, and aesthetics and functionality. To express these traits in this project we focused on 3D printing and hand finishing 3 vessels, each expressing a slightly different texture. While we used clay 3D printer, most of these steps do not require one, so keep in mind the finishes can still be achieved by throwing on a wheel, using various tools to add the texture, and finishing with glaze and gold luster.
For this tutorial, you will need a clay form, your choice of glaze or gold, and a kiln. Safety equipment is always required when working with hazardous materials, so be aware of what you choose to work with and how to protect yourself!
Step 1: Design the Form
When working with a vertically oriented clay 3D printer, it is important to remember that, like most 3D printed objects, it will tend to collapse if you push it beyond a 45 degree overhang. We modeled our form in Rhino and modified as needed between each print to compensate for clay collapsing. This comes with some experimentation but for the most part anything 45-90 degrees prints, and the closer to vertical the safer the object. Shown here, printing test forms is a good way to see if the print will fail before printing the whole piece and using a bunch of clay.
Step 2: Adding the Texture
In order to generate texture we use a software called g.code gen created by Autodesk. Texture could be added by hand post print, or with tools if hand throwing the object. Something to remember the software can only be opened through google chrome, but it is a useful tool and can be used with several different 3D printers.
Step 3: Printing, Firing, Glazing
Printing a new form can be tough, but to help we have a hair dry on hand to keep the clay from collapsing as it starts to print. With the chosen forms successfully printed we sent them to the kiln to be fired! For this particular print we use cone 10 B-mix clay with grog. They were bisque fired to cone 04 and glaze fired to cone 6. The glaze we used is called Northern Lights, which we chose because of the depth it creates in the color between the light and dark. After the first firing the pieces were dunked in the glaze to be fully covered inside and out, which helps prevent future cracks through the glaze. If you've never worked with glaze, it is basically liquid clay that when fired fuses to the clay underneath and becomes one object. Glazes can be food safe, and require a second firing after the piece is initially fired, in this case to cone 04.
Step 4: Gold Luster
It is important to work in a well ventilated space when using gold luster. It is recommended to wear gloves and mask to protect yourself. For the gold luster we use Duncan OG805 Premium liquid bright Gold 2 Gr. 11%. With a small brush, apply the gold onto the glaze surface and let it dry before loading in the kiln. We fired it to cone 019 (1261 Fahrenheit). Of course this step is only necessary if you chose to add gold luster, which requires a third and final firing.
Step 5: Adding the Base
Adding a wooden base elevated the forms, making it a more cohesive piece between the three. We went to a local hardwood craftsman in our neighborhood to purchase this piece. Alternatively, you could make a ceramic platter for it. The wood came rough sawn and covered in dirt, a real diamond in the rough. After air blasting both sides it was put through a time saver to flatten out both sides and expose the burl wood underneath. After sanding, the grain really started to show, and to make it really shine we added a coat of Good Stuff wood finish, which seals the wood and shows the grain even more.
Step 6: Three Become One
With the forms printed, fired, glazed and lustered the last step is to photograph the finished model. This can be done with a simple backdrop, two lights, and a steady hand. At this stage all the objects including the base can be safely handled and will only require light dusting to keep their shine. Good luck with your piece and have fun testing out different glazes!