Life cycle of a piece: Sugar Skull Madonna (Part One)

Curious about the process of making ceramics? Here’s part one of a multi-part series on how I make a particular piece; my Sugar Skull Madonnas.

Mold; pre-pouring

Step one is to clean off the mold, gently scraping off slip that ran between the two mold pieces last time I poured it and making sure there’s no dust inside the mold. After that I close it up and wrap a large orange rubber band around it to hold it together while pouring it.

More after the cut!

During pouring

Here’s a shot of the orange rubber band holding it together while the slip is inside. At this point I have filled it up once and then topped it off as the slip begins to set inside — the level will go down, and you need to keep it up in the pour-hole above the level of the actual piece so that you get a uniform thickness as it sets.

Draining the mold

After the piece has set to the desired thickness, the excess slip needs to be drained off. You can pour it back into a bucket and use it again, so I flip it over and let it sit for about 15 minutes, making sure most everything is drained out. After that I set it tilted upside-down on a rack and let it continue to dry for a number of hours (the number of hours can depend on the mold, the temperature in the room, and the current humidity level) until it is dry enough to open.

Damp greenware in the mold

This is just after opening. You can see it’s a two-part mold, which means her arms need to be attached to her body. In addition, the excess greenware (slip, after it has begun to dry) needs to be cut off. It can also be reclaimed, and I have a bucket with water added into which I toss all these little bits. Every few weeks I mix the bucket up, breaking up any pieces, and remix it in with my current bucket of slip.

Arms attached

Here, you can see that I’ve attached her arms with a few drops of still-liquid slip. As long as both pieces being attached are still damp, slip works well as a glue — but not if either or both of the pieces are dry. Now begins the process of waiting a few days for her to dry completely, so that I can clean off the mold’s seam lines, and fire her to bisque.


  1. Pingback: Wild Iris Books Life cycle of a piece: Sugar Skull Madonna (part two) | Wild Iris Books

  2. Pingback: Wild Iris Books Life cycle of a piece: Sugar Skull Madonna (part three) | Wild Iris Books

  3. Pingback: Wild Iris Books Life cycle of a piece: Sugar Skull Madonna (part four) | Wild Iris Books

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