Welcome to our inaugural Thu-torial. Every Thursday we will be posting a new tutorial.  You will see things like starting a fairy garden, planting succulents, painting, sculpting, photography, heck maybe even cooking! This is a space for us to geek out and share some of our many passions with you! This week:

How to make your own Press Molds

I have hesitated to make press molds for years now.  I had an attachment to sculpting every single tiny thing we did individually.  While this was nice for a while it is not practical to running a business.  We have to keep up with product demands but I don’t want to transition to slip casting.  I like that each piece is handmade.  This is very important to me as an artist and I think it translates in my work.  You can see each one is a little different and it gives them all a special personality.

I also did not want to completely get rid of our small items.  Our customers really like our small miniature pieces and are always asking for new designs and functionality.  However, you don’t want to charge a lot of money for a small piece.  So we had to find a way to create them efficiently so we could keep the price affordable to stop making them.

Press molds ended up being the perfect mix between the two worlds.  I can make a consistent shape out of the press mold and then I can refine it by hand. This is especially great for our small pieces like the lady bugs and magnets because it allows us to keep offering small pieces at a low price point and the hand finishing gives each one something special.

Another great thing about press molds is they are easy to make and you can make a press mold for just about anything.  Enough of my jibber jabber, onto the tutorial!

Step 1: Sculpt!

Sculpt the items you want to mold. Here are some deconstructed gnome beards and hats that we are going to mold to make magnets! We use White Earthenware as our clay of choice.  The items you sculpt need to dry until they are bone dry before proceeding.

Tip: You can mold items that are not sculpted or made of clay just coat them in corn starch so they will release from the wet clay.

Step 2: Baby Slab

Pinch off a piece of clay and flatten it out so it is larger all the way around than the item you are going to mold. You want this to be a small slab that is roughly the same geometric shape as the item you are molding.

Step 3: Face Down

Place the item you are molding face down on the small slab of wet clay.

Tip: Use a smooth wooden board so the wet clay doesn’t stick.

Step 4: Walls

Start to pinch the excess clay up around the sides of the item.

Step 5: Bottom

Flip the entire mold over and press firmly down onto your board. This will flatten out the bottom of the walls of the mold and make it easier to get a clean press when you use it. At this time press around the details of the item now covered in clay to make sure it has been pressed into all the details.

Tip: Be careful not to press too hard that you break the clay item you are molding.  The crack will where it breaks will end up in the mold. Bone dry clay is fragile so you want to press firmly enough to mold the details and get a flat bottom but no so hard to break the piece.

Step 6: Top

Use a metal rib or other flat object to press into the top of the mold to flatten it off.  This step is not necessary but makes the molds easier to use and store. It will also make the following release step easier if it has a flat side to rest on.

Step 7: Release

Using a blade tool grab the edge of the molded item and gently pull out of the mold.  It can’t be wiggled around or it will distort the mold.  Also, be careful with the blade tool because if it slips you could gouge the mold.

Step 8: Clean

Let your new mold dry until it is leather hard. At this time while there is still some moisture in the clay, look for any areas that stick out that might make it hard to remove something from the mold.  The most common is that the clay will press around the side and under the piece slightly.  This needs to be carved back off with a blade tool to make side that go straight and even all the way down.

Tip: Use a small soft brush and some water to smooth down the inside of the mold and make sure there are no small cracks in the clay from drying.

Step 9: Test

Finish drying your molds and test them out! Just be sure to press the clay into them gently while they are in their bone dry form.  Use a blade tool to carve down any other necessary areas until you get a clean mold from pressing clay into it,  The clay should go in and out easily without getting caught on anything.  Once you are happy bisque fire the molds and you are finished!


Next Thursday we will have a tutorial on using your new Press Molds.

Hope you enjoyed.

Until next Thursday ….

Thu-torial: Making Your Own Press Molds
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