Past Work


This is my current project at Plymouth College of Art.

I'm making  the same shape and size teapot in unexpected materials such as wax, tea-leaves, plywood, chocolate, soldered lead, nails, cocktail sticks, papier-mâché, riveted copper sheet, felt, cress name it and I might try it!

By eliminating variations in shape and size I hope to focus attention on three aspects:
  •  Materials
  • Surface
  • The making process
I plan to "push the boundaries" to heighten interest in each of these aspects (at the same time as learning a lot myself). 

I've picked a teapot for this exercise as an "every-day" object.  In fact, I used the teapot below to make our morning cups of tea every day for about 5 years.  Then the spout got chipped, we bought a replacement and it started a new career as a model...
  Mould for teapot 
2nd November: Half way though making the teapot mould.

I decided to keep things simple; make a 2-part  mould and work on the basis of filling the mould with hot wax and then tipping it out to leave a skin.

Hope it works!
  Moulds for teapot
Here's the completed mould for the teapot.

Spot the errors on the lid mould behind it:

I forgot to create an opening so I could pour the wax in.  Doh!

I also forgot to create locating lugs. 

I think I can correct these shortcomings by drilling holes 
  Wax teapot
 I've made 4 wax teapots with lids.

 In one of my previous plans I had envisioned partially melted and distorted cups, saucers, teapots and so on. 

I got as far as melting quite a lot of them before deciding to change course and just focus on teapots, their material, surface and making process.
   3D CAD model of teapot
 19th November.  I've now successfully 3D scanned the original teapot and started the process of slicing up the computer model so that I can make a wooden copy.

This one will have 46 layers of 3.6-mm-thick plywood, which probably means that my planned cardboard one will have more than 100 layers!
  Papier mache teapot  20th November: Halves of my papier-mâché teapot prior to joining. 

They look a bit messy because I filled them with sand at one point to make sure they followed the shape of the mould.

I suspect that making the papier-mâché in a (damp) plaster mould slowed down the drying process a lot.  The halves weren't very robust when I trimmed them, but I want to release the mould for another experiment - using cocktail sticks to make a prickly teapot.

  papier-mâché teapot - top unfinished Papier-mâché teapot now joined, dry, tough and amazingly light - will be a huge contrast with my planned lead one!

I still need to finish this off around the top opening, and I also need to make the lid.

  Teapot made from cocktail sticks - work in progress 21st November: Work in progress on my cocktail stick teapot. 

I'm cutting the sticks in half and poking them into the clay until they hit the plaster, so the points should define the same shape of teapot as my other ones.

This one's really laborious!  I've placed about 2,000 half-cocktail sticks so far, so the whole teapot is probably going to take between 5,000 and 6,000!
  Cocktail stick teapot with resin poured 24th November:  I've now poured polyester resin into the void surrounding the cocktail sticks. 

After I'd taken the photos I added quite a few half cocktail sticks to the teapot handle. 

The resin is completely clear once it's cured.

I hope to take it out of the mould and remove/wash off the clay tomorrow. 

Hope it works out okay because I spent quite a few hours placing those cocktails sticks!

  Cocktail stick teapot - first attempt 25th November:  Love the surface but, as you can see, all has not gone well. 

Think I chose the wrong resin.  It was soft in places and bits (like the spout) fell off.  Would be repairable, but...

...getting the clay off is proving really difficult.  I had to immerse it in water and brush it - and the water is making the resin even softer.

I think I need to try and different approach!  
  Papier mache teapot
  Papier-mâché teapot now complete.  I've made the lid and added the right details to the top of the pot.
  Computer model of teapot 30th November.  It turns out that 3D scanning creates a mesh surface that's tricky to convert into a solid computer model that can be sliced up to create my planned cardboard and plywood teapots.

So for the past couple of days I've been creating a solid computer model from scratch using Rhino, pictured left.  I'm rather pleased with the end result.  

I ended up using the 3D scanned version in only a very limited way.  It gave me the overall profile to work with, and that's about it.

Creating this took a lot of time and effort but I've learned a *LOT* about Rhino in the process, so I think it's been worth it.

  Computer model of a teapot Here's another screenshot of the teapot in Rhino.  The red lines come from me creating sections  through the model to generate flat pieces that I've laid out for cutting using the laser cutter. 

There's 51 pieces altogether!

I've numbered every section and put holes in the corners so I can line everything up perfectly when I'm gluing them together.

I plan to create 4 elements with this:
  • The teapot
  • Two blocks of wood with hollows in them, each corresponding to half of the teapot.
  • Another form representing the interior of the teapot
  Laser cutting plywood teapot 8th December:  I've been laser cutting teapot sections out of 3.6mm plywood for the past two days - 40 out of 51 done so far.

I'm beginning to realise that gluing this lot together to create the items listed above needs a bit of thought:

  • The type of glue.  Maybe contact adhesive to make sure it doesn't ooze into the wrong places?
  • The process.  Maybe make the teapot interior first, then the teapot, then the 2 blocks of wood with hollows in them?  Maybe one joint at a time, so I can keep everything else in place with sticky tape?
 Gluing plywood teapot
 15th December:  I finished all the laser cutting yesterday.

Gluing together the different parts of the teapot is quite tricky, and quite laborious!

I've ended up using contact adhesive because I don't want the glue to ooze out of the intended joint and start gluing together unintended bits of the teapot.

I've decided I need to glue together the inside of the teapot (so I can extract it), then the teapot itself, and then the two halves of the outside of the teapot. 

I'm using the rest of each panel to make sure everything is glued in the right place.  So in this picture, for instance, I've glued the central piece to the slightly smaller one below it but used the ring around it - the actual teapot - to locate it accurately.

I'm keeping everything in line by threading the wooden dowels through the four corner holes.  The corner holes were circular in Rhino but they got converted to rounded squares when the design was shifted into the laser cutter program.  Doesn't matter much - the dowels are quite a good fit!

Right now, I'm also gluing things one joint at a time and I have about 150 joints to glue.  For each joint, I'm masking off bits that I don't want glue to get on, so work is proceeding slowly1

  Plywood teapot interior surface 16th December: I completed half of the inside of the plywood teapot and also half the teapot lid (not pictured). 
This photo shows what's left - the teapot and its surroundings.

  Plywood teapot interior
 This is the interior.  
  First half of plywood teapot First half completed - and the lid fits! 

I charged ahead and made another half.  Unfortunately, I forgot that I needed a mirror image of this so the 2 halves don't make a whole. 

Yes, I know, I'm stupid! 

I'll have to wait until I can get back on to the college laser cutter to make some more slices.
  Experimenting with making a teapiot from tea 22nd December.  This is an attempt at making half a teapot out of tea.

I'd saved a lot of tea bags and they'd been in the workshop for over a month, drying out.  Yesterday I noticed that the tea in some of them had clustered together and formed quite hard lumps.  It also hadn't gone mouldy.

So today, I soaked the tea bags in water, squeezed out the excess and then emptied them into a plaster mould and patted the tea to try and create a wall thickness of around 15mm - see photo.

I think I'll wait until it's semi-dry and give it another pat.

Hopefully it will shrink a bit as it dries and will lift out of the mould.  I think I might have to strengthen the handle in some way.
  Cocktail stick teapot in progress 29th December.  My second attempt at making a teapot from cocktail sticks.

This time around, I'm squishing a small amount of clay into the mould - just sufficient to hold a bunch of cocktail sticks in place.  Then I'm using a hot glue gun to bind the tops together.

I had to glue together the mould beforehand - I broke it trying to remove my first attempt at a cocktail stick teapot.
  Teapot made from cocktail sticks 31st December.  Phew - it worked this time, although it was a laborious process.

As you can see, I ended up making the spout and handle from lengths of cocktail sticks - decided it would be better if both were in the same style than trying to do a "prickly" spout and a "smooth" handle.

Quite a lot (maybe 100?) of cocktail sticks fell out when I removed the thin outer shell of clay.  I glued back ones where there were visible "bald" spots.

I have to do a second half, obviously.  I'll try gluing smaller clumps of cocktail sticks together to avoid having so many drop out.
  Cracks in tea teapot 2nd January.  My first effort at making a teapot from tea leaves started cracking up as it dried so I've abandoned it (which releases the mould for me to make the second half of my cocktail stick teapot).

I've now experimenting with modifications, using the mould I used for the first half of the cocktail stick teapot.

First experiment - mixing  tea leaves with PVA glue to make a sort of paste, which I've used to make a trial spout.  I've covered the spout part of the mould with Vaseline so it won't stick (hopefully!).
  Teapot made from cocktail sticks 17th January.  Cocktail stick teapot completed!

I stuck the 2 halves together with Araldite because I needed more time to get everything aligned.  Then I went over the joints, gluing in extra cocktail sticks where necessary.

I pared down the handle and then glued an extra layer of cocktail sticks (the un-pointy scraps from making the main body) to make it a lot neater (and more woody than gluey).

I made a plaster mould for the lid and then coated it with Vaseline and laid small lengths of sticks around it in circles, squirting hot glue onto them as I went.

I made the knob on the lid by making a cylinder of sticks around a dowel and then adding extra layers of sticks to make it roughly the right shape.  I used PVA glue for this and thought of a cunning way of holding everything in place while it cured - a Jubilee clip!
  Plywood teapot 20th January: Completed the plywood teapot, finally.

Lots of work in doing this.  There's about 40 sheets of ply and each sheet incorporates the teapot, the interior and the exterior.  And each of the 120 elements needed masking off before applying contact adhesive to make sure I didn't glue together the wrong bits.

  Plywood teapot I love the way the plywood teapot changes colour as you walk around it.  The edges of the ply have been charred black by the laser cutter - they appear blueish in this photo.
  Plywood teapot interior This is the interior of the plywood teapot.  I hadn't planned to make this originally but as I had all the pieces I thought I might as well.

As you can see, I've mounted the 2 halves either side of a sheet of perspex, and made a little stand for it.
  Felt teapot - work in progress 23rd January.  I've started making a felt teapot under the guidance of a felt-making expert, Lou Mills-Watts.

This is the spherical body of the teapot, made by covering a flexible plastic disc with felt, removing the disc and stuffing the resulting felt bag.

This photo captures me trying to shrink the sphere by a small amount so that it's the same size as my model teapot.

The colours are lovely, aren't they?
 Test for teapot made of tea
 This is test 3 for making a teapot out of tea leaves.

With test 1, I just tried pressing damp tea leaves into a plaster mould, and continuing to press the leaves as it dried.  It ended up cracking - see previous photo.

With test 2, I did the same thing but mixed the tea leaves with PVA glue to make a paste.  I also coated the plaster mould in Vaseline.  Same result - cracking.

With test 3, I repeated things but incorporated some mesh between 2 layers of it, as shown.  Although the result doesn't look great I think the main problem is that the tea/PVA paste stuck to the mould.  I need to use more Vaseline!
  Teapot made from tea - first half 25th January: This is multi-layered - Vaseline, thin layer of tea leaves, bits of plastic mesh, thicker layer of a paste made from tea leaves and PVA glue, empty and opened out tea bags, glued in place with yet more PVA glue.

It doesn't look pretty and I suspect the handle might fall apart but I've now got it drying on my office radiator.
   First test for a chocolate teapot, using the lid as a small scale trial piece.

I warmed the plaster mould I'd used to make wax teapots and melted a bar of dark chocolate (60% cocoa) in stages in the microwave.  I then poured it into the mould and swilled it around for a few minutes before tipping the excess back into the jug.

When the mould had cooled I popped it on the fridge to make sure the chocolate was solid.
  Chocolate teapot test The chocolate stuck to the mould very strongly.  In the end I put the mould in some warm water.  Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the chocolate lid broke in half when I finally got the mould open.

I think I need to oil the mould first.

The mould was very  dry beforehand and I didn't soak it in water, as you would do for a wax casting.  All the advice I'd seen said the slightest hint of water makes molten chocolate go weird.
  Vacuum forming plastic mould for chocolate teapot 28th January.  Made a couple of plastic moulds using this vacuum based tool.

I plan to use the moulds for:
  1.  Making a chocolate teapot
  2. Possibly making a jelly teapot
  3. Possibly growing seeds inside it
  First phase of teapot display I made these shelves about a week ago to display my completed teapots behind my desk at college.

 I will have to extend it by 2 or 3 more shelves to cater for teapots in the pipeline, which include ones made from:
  • Felt
  • Tea leaves
  • Chocolate
  • Jelly
  • Seeds
  • Lead
  • Nails
  • Crocheted wool
  • Riveted copper
  Plastic moulds for chocolate teapot 28th January:  Plastic moulds ready for making a chocolate teapot.
  Making a chocolate teapot 30th January:  2 layers of chocolate into each of the moulds.

I heated the chocolate in the microwave, being careful to only heat enough to melt it.
  Making a chocolate teapot The chocolate teapot halves looked stunning when they were just out of the mould - so stunning that one could have mistaken them for glazed ceramic.

However, they didn't stay stunning!  Handling them left marks and bodging up the joint between the 2 halves was messy. 

I made things worse by scraping off excess chocolate on the joints and resting the teapot on the scrapings.
  Chocolate teapot I tried to improve things by putting the teapot in the fridge and after it was cold, putting it into a bowl of water and ice while trying to polish it, first with a polythene bag filled with wet bread and then with a sponge.

I also did some more scraping of joints etc.

I've ended up deciding I quite like the dog-eared "antique" look. 

Also, it wouldn't have been practical to preserve a highly polished finish - I would have ended up putting hand prints on it when I transported it to college and allowed people to pick it up.
  Half teapot made from tea leaves Here's the current status of the teapot made from tea leaves.  It's out of the mould and looks fairly solid and I like the turquoise mould that's grown.

I've now made the other half in a similar fashion, and also made the lid.  I will need to tinker with the teapot to get the top right, and I might also need to strengthen the handle, which is cracking a little.
  Inside teapot made from tea leaves
 The inside is even more turquoise.  It's lined with recycled tissue from used tea bags. 

There's been a bit of discussion on Facebook about the turquoise mould possibly being toxic.  I think I'll spray the completed teapot with hairspray to prevent the mould becoming airborne.  It might also stop tea leaves crumbling off.
  Felt teapot  1st February:  Completed felt teapot with Yours Truly.

The photo was taken by Lou Mills-Watts, an expert felter who helped me enormously as well as welcoming me in her home and giving lots of cups of tea and snacks.   Check out her "Wool and Felt UK" Facebook page.
  Teapot made from nails 2nd February:  I've made a start on a nail teapot.

I'm using galvanised clout nails (ones with big heads) - heating them up a bit and then pressing them into a spare wax teapot so the heads are flush with the surface. I plan to fill the wax teapot with plaster, dyed red, and then steam off the wax so the nails form the surface of the teapot and stand clear of a red background.

I'm kicking around ideas for parts where the nails are too big - the handle, lid and top of the spout.

Around 10th Feb: Change of plan on the plaster:  The inside of the teapot looks so dramatic, with all the nail tips (see later photo), I've decided to fill it with clear resin so they will remain visible (when you take the lid off).
  Handle for nail teapot Here's a mock-up of how I decided to deal with the handle: 
  • Cast the handle with some extra bits on the ends in resin
  • Drill 2 rows of holes in the resin and glue in nails as shown
  • Cut out the existing wax handle
    and poke this one in
  • Seal around it with clay
  • Fill the teapot with resin so the extra bits on the end get cast into the interior of the teapot
  Lid of nail teapot Here's what I decided to do with the lid:
  •  Make a Gelflex mould of the original ceramic lid
  • Cast it in resin
  • Drill holes in it
  • Glue in cut-off-nails
  Teapot made from nails Here's the teapot with the handle fitted and the inside filled with resin.  I did this in 300-ml stages so it wouldn't get hot and melt the wax.
  Inside of teapot made with nails The resin is crystal clear and the nails inside the teapot look villainous!
  Teapot made from nails 13th February: I've been adding some cut-off nails to the spout by drilling though the wax and into the resin and gluing the nails in place.  Not sure whether they'll stay in place.

I think the rest if the spout needs to have nails added after I've removed the wax, to make sure I get the holes in the right place and avoid weakening the resin too much.
  Completed teapot made from tea Completed teapot made from tea.

 I've been trying to encourage more mould growth by packing mouldy tea bags around it.
  Steel boxs for hydraulic press mould
 I've now decided to make some teapots using the college's hydraulic press, which means that I need some really strong moulds - 6 moulds actually.  I need an outside and inside mould for each side of the teapot and an outside and inside for the lid.

The boxes in the picture are to make the outside of each side of the teapot.   I've welded them up using 5-mm-thick plate and put some reinforcing inside them.

I've also made some plaster positives of each half of the teapot.  I'll line these with 10mm of clay, hang them inside the box and then fill the box with mortar.

I plan to use this mould to make:

- A riveted "steampunk" copper teapot
- A welded/soldered lead teapot
- Another teapot made from tea. (I think the hydraulic press will enable me to compress the tea into the sort of brick material that Chinese used for storing tea many centuries ago.)
- Anything else that looks interesting!
  Mould for hyraulic press - mortar complete Here's one of the boxes with the mortar in place.
  Mould for hydraulic press - ready for epoxy lining This is going to be the next step. 

I've taken the clay off the half-teapot, I've made a new handle to replace the one that broke in the previous phase, and I've replaced the whole caboodle so that there's a 10mm gap around it.

I've measured the volume needed - 1.5 pints - and tomorrow (14th March) I'll coat the teapot in Vaseline, mix up some special epoxy resin and pour it in.
  Female epoxy mould for teapot 15th March: This is after pouring the expoxy.  I had to carve out the plaster. As you can see, some bubbles formed but I don't think it'll matter. 

I plan to flatten the top using a belt sander.
  Making the male mould for a teapot I lined the female mould with about 15mm of clay and then filled the hole in the middle with mortar, to start making the male part of the mould.

The idea is that I'll drill a couple of holes in the mortar so I can hang it in position.  Then I'll dig out the clay, line the female mould with about 5mmof wax, replace the mortar centre-piece and fill the space around it with epoxy resin.  Then I'll have to steam out the wax to get the 2 parts of the mould to separate.
  Teapots on shelves Here's what my current collection of teapots looks like.  I will probably add another shelf or two to house future ones , which include:
  •  Riveted copper
  •  Welded or soldered lead
  • Another teapot made from tea
  • A living teapot - cress or similar inside a clear plastic lining (the mould I used for the chocolate teapot)
  • Possibly a crochet teapot
  Teapot mould for hydraulic press
 23rd March.  More on the moulds for the hydraulic press: 

My first effort  at making a mortar core for the male part failed - the mortar was nearly all sand and fell apart.  I redid this yesterday using rapid-setting mortar.

That worked ok so today I removed the mortar cores, cleaned up the female part of the moulds and lined them with a few millemeters of wax, pictured.
  Teapot mould for hydraulic press Here's the mortar core suspended over the female mould that's lined with wax, almost ready for me to pour in the epoxy resin.  

Before I did that, I filled the whole handle with clay.
  Teapot mould for hydraulic press 24th March.  I steamed the wax out of the moulds to separate the male and female parts.  Then I bonded the male parts to the top plates I'd made earlier - using screws and the remains of some polyester resin I'd used on another project.

The photo shows the completed moulds  - apart from the couple of small moulds for the lid (which I'm working on).

  CAD model of teapot made fro cubes I've decided to make another teapot out of 10mm wooden cubes - almost 800 of them!

The inspiration for this comes partly from seeing something made from hundreds of rods at Munich's "Schmuck" craft fair.

The photo is a screen shot of a CAD model I've made, which comes from me using the sections from the plywood teapot to sort out where the cubes need to be positioned.  The plywood is 3.6-mm-thick so I've used every 3rd section to create this model. 
  Hydraulic press setup March 30th: This is the setup in the hydraulic press.  We welded some angle iron to the bottom mould so we clamp it in position once we'd aligned it with the top of the mould.

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