Making Our Ceramics

MyTinyWorld is committed to providing stable, fairly paid work for skilled local crafts people who in turn help us create our unique 100% handmade and hand painted miniature ceramics.   We carefully monitor the production to ensure centuries old traditional methods are maintained,  minimising the impact on the environment and our carbon footprint. Every time you buy one of MyTinyWorlds miniature ceramics you know you are buying into a caring, ethical, original and innovative company.

Stage One – Preparation

Lampang White Clay

Lampang White Clay

LAMPANG WHITE CLAY

This high quality white clay known as Kaolinite comes from the Lampang region of Thailand and its collection and processing provides fairly paid work to many people from the surrounding villages.This clay has a number of interesting properties, the most notable being its resistance to high levels of heat resulting in ceramic products of very high quality with fine characteristics.

CHIANG MAI WATER STORAGE

Chiang Mai Water Storage

CHIANG MAI WATER

Our production facility is based in Chiang Mai and is run by a local lady and her son and they employ other locals from the hill tribes providing well paid regular work.The Kaolinite needs to be mixed with water and it is essential that the water is totally free of debris.  The water is filtered 3 times before being stored in large containers ready for the mixing process.

KAOLINITE SLIP MIXING

Kaolinite Slip Mixing

KAOLINITE SLIP

All of our ceramic products are made using the clay casting technique.  This requires liquid clay also known as slip.To create this slip, large chunks of Kaolinite are thrown into the blue plastic mixing barrel with the filtered water.  It is critical the correct amount of water to clay mix is used and can take many years to learn the secrets of getting it just right.

KAOLINITE SLIP SOUP

Kaolinite Slip Soup

KAOLINITE SLIP SOUP

The Kaolinite and filtered water are mixed for an hour or so to get a good consistency before being transferred to their final holding tank.As with a lot of things in life, Kaolinite Slip improves with age. The longer it is left the smoother and “creamier” the slip soup gets, to the point when it is at its absolute finest and perfect to make our miniatures.Now were ready to make miniatures!

Rows of plaster casting molds

Rows of plaster casting molds

PLASTER CASTING MOLDS

Depending on how many pieces you want, the 2 part plaster molds are laid out and prepared by ensuring they are clean, dry and free from defects.It is critical the plaster mold is dry, as the success of the final casting relies heavily on this factor as the water is absorbed from the Slip causing it to solidify.



FILLING THE MOLDS

Filling the plaster molds

FILLING THE MOLDS

Small containers are filled with the prepared slip and then each of the prepared plaster molds is filled to the top and left for 30 minutes.The plaster mold begins to draw the water from the slip.  The longer this process is left, the thicker the walls of the ceramic item.  When at desired thickness excess slip is poured from the molds.

Waiting for the slip to set

Waiting for the slip to set

SLOWLY DOES IT

Once the excess slip has been removed, the molds are left for an hour, preferably in the sun to allow as much of the water to be removed from the clay casting.When the casting is ready, the mold is carefully opened. The casting should have shrunk slightly as the water was removed making it easy to remove from the mold.

Opening the mold

Opening the mold

WE SAID SLOWLY!

There are a number of factors that can lead to a poor result, as shown in the picture.  A dirty or wet mold, poor slip preparation, rushing the filling and initial cast forming stage or just impatience to look inside a mold.  It takes a lot to get one of our ceramics to this point.Our ceramics have only just begun their journey.

 

Stage Two – Processing

BREAKING THE MOLD

Half the mold is removed

BREAKING THE MOLD

Once the filled molds have sat in the sun for an hour or so they are brought in and the holding band which keeps both halves of the mold together is removed.Very carefully the mold is opened exposing the semi hard clay casting inside.They are then left for a further hour to harden more.


MOLD REMOVAL

Freshly produced ceramics

MOLD REMOVAL

The clay casting has now had a chance to breathe and harden enough to allow the careful removal from the remaining half of the mold.  Generally with done with care the loss rate is less than 0.5%At this point the colour of the clay castings is dark grey indicating the presence of too much water (around 33%)


DRYING OUT CERAMICS

Natural Drying of Ceramics

DRYING OUT

The clay castings are spread out on pieces of wood and placed on racking to dry.  Very little energy other than natures own is used in this stage.This process can take up to 2 days depending on the weather and clay castings slowly change colour from dark grey though light grey, brown and finally to an off white.Water content is now near 10%

OPERATION CLEANUP

Trimming the seams and tidying up

OPERATION CLEANUP

This Process actually take place 24 hours into the drying out process so the clay is not too hard, but also not to soft that it will cave in.A skilled worker carefully uses a knife to remove the seams at the joints and tidy up lips and handles.The piece then gets gently rubbed down to ensure they are as near perfect as we can achieve.


PRE PAINT PREPARATION

Final quality check before firing

PRE PAINT PREPARATION

The ceramics are now sent for their first firing called “bisque”.  This firing is not as hot as the final one and is designed to harden the ceramics so they can be handled.A final quality check for faults, missed waste clay or defects is carried out by a skilled worker. Once the ceramics have passed this quality check it’s passed to the painters.


PAINTING BY NUMBERS

Painting one of our plates by hand

PAINTING BY NUMBERS

Our skilled painters take many years of practice to be able to paint our ceramics with such skill, speed and accuracy.The most common pattern we paint is the cockerel motif scene.  In Far Eastern culture it is embedded in the social lore.  The image of the cockerel appears on pretty much everything and is highly revered image.


A VERY BLUE DAY

Painting our Blue vases

A VERY BLUE DAY

Just as the Cockerel is our most popular scene the colour blue is by far and above the most popular colour.Most of our patterns are in blue – Blue Spotted, Blue Leaf,  our new aqua blue range, When painting especially with the blue it looks very pale and many a beginner is seen to be looking quite panicky


GLOSS OVER IT ALL

Applying the glaze

GLOSS OVER IT ALL

Anyone who has bought any ceramics from our range of over 800 will note that apart from the high quality and beautiful detail they all have a fantastic glossy finish.This is the stage we give the ceramics the gloss by dipping them in or liquid glaze prior to firing.  The glaze not only gives the ceramics a nice finish it strengthens the structure and brings out the colour.

 

The final stage where all the hard work pays off and the end of the story for the creation of that little handmade, hand painted miniature ceramic!All the ceramics that need firing are placed on shelves separated with firebricks and once the columnsare complete, they are wheeled into the Kiln.  Depending on whether this is the bisque firing (pre glazing) or the final firing the temperature will be between 1845f and 2250f.  The glaze fuses to the ceramic during firing to form a glass-like coating.

Preparing to fire the ceramics

Preparing to fire the ceramics

Our handmade 1/12thscale ceramics range is probably the most comprehensive available to both retail and wholesale customers worldwide.  We continually strive to design and introduce new colours, designs and textures resulting in beautiful unique creations that enhance any setting they are in.  We design and supply our ceramics to many enthusiasts & Businesses worldwide which in turn provides stable and fairly paid work to our skilled workers helping maintain fragile communities in Chiang Mai.

All images and text are copyright Paul Duckett and MyTinyWorld Limited 2011.  Please do not copy the images or text without prior permission.

3 Responses to Making Our Ceramics

  1. Pingback: Making Our Dolls House Miniature Ceramics | MyTinyWorld Dolls House Miniatures

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