As the weather gets warmer, Ceramics Studio staff prepares the silt bed for a pour of silt-cast bells.
The silt comes from the Agua Fria river-bed and is pre-moistened and then sifted into a concrete trough.
[from left] Ceramics manager Ed Werman sifts the silt through a screen while staff Joelle McTigue shovels the very fine silt onto the screen.
Ed uses a master made of plaster, that is shaped exactly like the bell to be produced. This plaster master is carefully plunged into the silt, forming a conical cavity in that silt. When the master is removed it leaves behind a mold in the silt, shaped exactly like the master.
Raw clay is mixed with water until the clay dissolves and forms a thick milk-shake-like consistency known as slip.
This slip is poured into the silt molds and then allowed to set.
Silt acts like a sponge drawing out the water molecules from the slip. The clay molecules are too large to pass into the silt, so they get deposited along the inside walls of the silt molds. [Joelle and Rebecca pour slip into the silt molds].
As this process continues a clay shell begins to form inside the mold which increases over time. When the ceramicist decides that the thickness of the shell is correct for that particular style, a suction device is used to extract the remaining liquid slip from the center of the mold leaving the shell behind. This shell is the bell in its early stage of production.
[Ceramics staff Joelle, Rebecca, Colleen and Ed from the roof of the Ceramics Apse].
This report continues on 5/7/08.