Understanding Slip Casting and Ceramic Decals
In the world of ceramic growlers, you’ll find a lot of different processes and methods in use. One of the most interesting is slip casting (also spelled slipcasting). This is a unique process that is ideal for creating vessels not well suited for full creation on the potter’s wheel and it’s in use in a very wide range of industries, from the world of craft beer to manufacturing toilet basins.
How Does It Work?
Slip casting is actually relatively simple, at least in concept. Liquid clay (clay mixed with water) is called slip. The “casting” part of the name comes from the use of molds. In a very simplified explanation, first a custom mold is created. Then, liquid slip is poured into the mold and allowed to set. Once set, any excess water is poured off, and the cast object is removed.
Here’s where things can change. In many instances, the cast object is trimmed down and then fired. However, while this might work fine for many mass-produced items, it doesn’t give the highest quality results. Instead of a basic trimming and then further drying and finally kilning, the object should be hand finished on a potter’s wheel (while creating the object directly on the wheel isn’t possible, hand finishing on the wheel offers better results).
Finally, the finished object will be fired in a kiln, but only after glazing and any decorations are added.
Adding visual elements and aesthetics to ceramic objects can be done in many ways. Patterns can be cut into the damp clay before drying, for instance. Pieces of clay can be shaped and then “welded” to the final object before firing, as well. Different glazes and colors can also be added.
Another option is to use ceramic decals. These are a bit different from the decals you might be familiar with. Essentially, a ceramic decal is a mixture of powered, ground glass and metallic oxide pigments and salts, mixed with some type of liquid. This mixture is “printed” onto a piece of backing paper specially designed for use with ceramics, and then covered by a thin, temporary layer of plastic.
When the backing paper is wetted, it releases so that the decal can be applied to the ceramic object. Once the decal is mounted, the object is fired. The plastic covering and backing burn away in the heat of the kiln. The powdered glass melts and fuses with the oxides and salts, creating a vibrant image that will not wear out, fade or discolor. The decal will essentially last forever, a permanent part of the ceramic object.
Both slip casting and ceramic decals are used in creating high quality growlers that deliver stunning good looks and customization options. At Goose Creek Growlers, we take pride in creating some of the most unique stoneware growlers on the market, from our Peacemaker to the Jolly Roger. We also offer custom branding for breweries, brewpubs and other clients.
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