Posted on

Spring into Mold-Making with Tom Spleth!

Tom Spleth


Tom Spleth has been called “the grandfather of American studio slipcasting,” for adapting a common industrial process into a useful and expressive technique for individual artists. He is a studio ceramicist and painter and has taught at Alfred University, Penland, Haystack, Anderson Ranch, and at the Heart of Los Angeles Foundation. Tom has exhibited at the Asheville Museum, the Cameron Museum, the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution, and he was the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Gregg Museum of Art and Design in 2007. His work can be found in the collections of the Cameron Museum, Kohler, the RISD museum, the University of Illinois, and John and Robyn Horn.

His unique, physical, personal process for creating forms with plaster as it dries and then refining and casting plaster molds from them to produce vitrified porcelain objects is as conceptually rich and visually compelling as its end products.


Tom Spleth


Click here to watch a video of Tom in action!

“When I started working this way, no one else was doing it. I had to figure it out for myself. I think the benefit to students of learning my process, even if they don’t end up using it in their own work, will be to help them clarify their own processes. The physicality of it doesn’t allow for a lot of hesitation or reference to drawings, so I will work with students to help them express their pre-planning verbally, by writing and talking their ideas out before they begin so they have the plan right there in their mind when they work and don’t have to look away or try to match a drawing (I’ve found that can sometimes take the life right out of a form). I’m really looking forward to it.” – Tom Spleth


Tom Spleth work
Tom Spleth is known for his sculptural ceramic forms, abstracted from the human figure…


Tom Spleth work
…and the gestural paintings with which he decorates them


Molds for Slipcasting, Press Molding, or Handbuilding

April 7 – 20, 2013, in the clay studio:

This class will be focused on making plaster molds for slip casting. The molds may also be used for press molding or hand-building. The initial demonstrations will cover basic ideas about the process. From there, each student will be encouraged to use this information to make work that is personal and particular. Once the initial demos are complete, most of our energy will be devoted to individual instruction.

Ongoing critiques will allow everyone to learn from all the activity going on in the studio. By the end of two weeks, students will have a clear grasp of the process and how to use it to realize ideas in ceramics. The mold-making process is a craft unto itself and demands full attention, particularly in the brief time we have together. Therefore we will not plan to fire but we will discuss the relationship between molds and clay and the technical considerations once the mold is complete and you return to the world of clay. Students of all levels are welcome.


Tom Spleth work
He is also known for his “message cups,” which are rumored to reveal profound hidden wisdom.**


You can click here to visit Tom’s website, where you see more of his work.


As an added bonus…

Tom Spleth says, “My studio assistants for this workshop, Rachel Garceau and Ian Henderson, both recent Penland core fellowship students, are worth the price of admission themselves. Either could teach a terrific workshop on their own.”


Tom's studio assistants
Rachel Garceau (pouring the bucket) and Ian Henderson.
Tom Spleth's studio assistants
Recent work: Rachel’s ceramic and steel umbrella and Ian’s ceramic fermentation crock.


Interested? Click here for more information and registration for this and Penland’s other spring concentration workshops.


(**Disclaimer: These are not real Spleth artworks. Cup forms by Tom Spleth, text and photo-manipulation by Wes Stitt. You should still take this workshop, though.)


Spring into knowledge, spring into skill, spring into craft!