Alison Thyra Grubb artist image.jpeg

hello! I'm Alison

I make iridescent ceramic jewellery and homewares in my studio in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. 

I use a combination of hand making techniques and digital technology to make my ceramics.

 

I 3D print the models for my pieces and then make plaster moulds of them for slip casting, so I end up with an almost exact replica of the 3D print in clay.

 

The layered textures that are built up during the 3D printing process can be beautiful machine-made patterns so I try to emphasise these by only sanding smooth certain surfaces.

 

I finish and refine each cast by hand, and the wonderful nature of making by hand is that no piece will be exactly alike.

 

I glaze my pieces with iridescent, metallic lustre glazes which have beautiful colour changing qualities and each glaze is often totally unique.

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how its made

I always begin with lots of quick drawings and go through many variations of an idea before deciding on a final design. 

 

Then I make a digital drawing of my design on my computer, I'll also make a paper model of my design at this stage to get an idea of its scale.

 

I convert the digital drawing into a type of file that can be 3D printed. The 3D printer makes prints a 3D replica of my drawing in a material called PLA.

 

The printer builds up an image gradually and this process causes lines to appear on the object. At times I retain this texture created on some surfaces but for most of my prints I sand it so I have smooth sides and sharp edges.  

digital ceramics

I then make a plaster mould, using the 3D print as my master model, the 3D print is removed from the plaster leaving a negative space inside in the shape of my design. 

 

Using a process called slip casting I pour liquid clay, called slip, into the plaster mould. The dry plaster absorbs the water in the slip causing the clay to harden and after a certain amount of time the slip is poured out leaving an exact replica in clay of the original 3D print. 

After letting it dry until it's leather hard (dry enough to keep its own shape but not so dry its too fragile) I finish the cast by fettling. With a tool I clean away the excess clay that has accumulated at the seams of the mould and make the cast smooth and neatly finished. 

The cast is then ready for the first (bisque) kiln firing.

iridescent glazes

Before glazing I sand my casts to smooth and polish the surfaces and get rid of any imperfections. 

I use a range of glazes to achieve the iridescent finishes in my work. I use in-glaze lustres, commercial lustres, metallic glazes and bought brush on glazes. 

I specialised in in-glaze lustres during my degree at Gray's School of Art. These glazes use metal oxides and are twice glaze fired. First in an electric kiln and second in a gas kiln where they are reduction fired, a process where the oxygen is removed from the kiln creating a chemical reaction in the glaze which creates the metallic, iridescent finish. This process can be unpredictable and the results can be different each time, making each piece unique. 

I also like to use a clear glaze over a stained clay or underglaze then I paint commercial lustre (bought from most pottery suppliers), like mother of pearl, over the glaze to achieve an iridescent finish.