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April 21, 2013

Following on from making Canopic Jars, I decided to make urns. As I was only close to my Grandfather who has died, I thought He would be the best person to make an urn for. I decided to make a drop out (One piece) mold in plaster, so I could make a few variations on it, using different designs and colours. I wanted a basic round shape for the urn, so I turned a form out on the plaster lathe.

plaster lathe plaster lathe

After making the form, I made a mold from it, and dried it out in the drying cabinet. Then I used semi-porcelain casting slip to make my first cast. I kept my first cast for decorating with coloured glazes later. For my next piece I mixed up some of the casting slip with coloured body stains to paint into the mold, so that when I then cast with the ordinary white casting slip, the outside would have a layer of colour on it. Its much more cost effective to colour slip this way as body stains are quite expensive.

painted mold carved writing

aeroplane urn















I used aeroplane stencils that I hand cut in paper to make a pattern, and then painted over than with a blue casting slip – so that it would have white aeroplanes on a sky blue background. Then around the rim I carved the words I wanted to use and filled them with cobalt oxide, which I then scrapped back with a metal kidney when it was dry. I really like this way of mark making as it is quite sharp and detailed.

DSC_0366 DSC_0352

I used the same technique of painting into the mold before casting on another urn, but this time using some abstract patterns I had been working on – I wanted them to be colourful and happy and so that anyone could use them as they are not person specific.



Colourful UrnsThe left urn is decorated using coloured casting slips which I mixed myself, and which were painted directly into the mold, and just has a transparent earthenware glaze applied after the bisque firing.

The right urn, was my first cast, so I bisque fired it plain, and used my own glazes to decorate it in a similar style.


DSC_0408 DSC_0409 DSC_0410 Tribute to Grandad


For my final urn, I decided to use more imagery relating to my Grandad, and my memories of him. I always remember him giving me the first chocolate from his birthday cake when I was a child, as well as him being an avid photographer. He would drive us on days out in his ford. I remember watching Tom and Jerry on TV with him as it was both our favourite cartoon.  The two hands are very important to me as when I was six, I was holding his hand as he died, at home in his armchair. I am always glad I was with him when he passed and that he wasn’t alone. I used stencils painted inside the mold to get the basic outlines of the pictures, and then hand scored and painted oxides into the detailed parts. I then used oxides and my coloured casting slips to add the other colours and details.

The shape of the urn with no bottom and a hole in the top, is so that the ashes are placed inside the vessel, and the ends plugged with raw, unfired clay, so that when it is buried somewhere, they will return to the earth, the decorated ring a sign of who was there. The more decorated urns could be tributes placed on the grave, and a simpler version could be buried.

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