Craft & Design
Ceramic Techniques: 3D Printed Prototypes and Lithophanes

Porcelain casts from 3D-printed prototypes
In honor of Ceramics Month here on Craft, I reached out to my friend Fonda Yoshimoto, an artist who enjoys working with clay. Here she talks about two different ways of creating ceramic art: one modern — 3D modeling and printing a prototype in order to make a mold; and one old — etching very thin porcelain to take advantage of the translucency once fired.

Exploring Technology, Finding Tradition

By Fonda Yoshimoto
I took a class called “Digital and Clay” when I was going to school at the Rhode Island School of Design. In the class we used 3D modeling software (Maya) and 3D printing to create prototypes. We then used our prototypes to create molds to cast in porcelain.

Plastic 3D-printed prototypes

I was fascinated by the process, and even more excited about the translucency of the porcelain material when back-lit. It was through this exploration that I came to discover the lithophane, a 19th century art form. I started making tiles out of porcelain slip with a simple, direct technique: pour slip onto a plaster slab, let it set (plaster absorbs moisture), carve/press/scratch the image, and use a stencil to cut it to size.
“Touch, Scratch, Bind” is a translucent porcelain shack. This piece is inspired by the preciousness and fragility of the porcelain tiles. The viewer approaches the dwelling, a motion sensor triggers the light within, revealing the touches/scratches on the back of the translucent porcelain tiles, revealing detailed prints and pores.

“Touch, Scratch, Bind,” with lithophane tiles

"To oppose something is to maintain it." –Ursula Le Guin

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