In tribute to the subways of the early days DRIP’IN has created a ceramic train, featuring the wall tiles used in all the metros of the world.
Ceramics: thousands of years of use and still discoveries….
Some might think that with such an ancestral mastery of ceramics, today’s man has unravelled all the mysteries of this art. However, it is more complicated than that.
It took us almost 2 years to develop this object. We wanted to reduce its base to a thin edge for a light and aesthetic rendering.
However, making a horizontal piece of clay stand on a central strip of a few centimeters is a technical challenge that we finally took up… with the help of the elders we asked for and without whom we would probably not have been able to succeed.
Indeed, to carry out the delicate manufacturing operations of this piece requires a know-how, a mastery and an expertise of at least 25 years.
This is the first step, based on the 3D and 2D drawings worked by Philippe, our chief designer.
This sculpture, entirely handmade in a block of raw clay, requires 10 days of work to cut, refine, polish and detail each cm of clay.
The shrinkage rate of our fresh clay is approximately 13%, which must be added to the initial dimensions of the sculpture for a final result that conforms to the desired dimensions.
The making of the mould
Once the sculpture is finished, it is moulded in a porous plaster formwork. The plaster interacts with the sculpture, which dries out during the process of setting the mould, causing the sculpture to lose its shape through deformation and cracking.
When the mould is ready, it can receive 25 to 30 pours of about 40 litres of clay each. This operation is done by hand and requires particular skill, as the pouring speed and flow rate are essential for an even distribution in the mould, without bubbles.
The clay mixture is also meticulously prepared to be completely homogenous, like a smooth and fluid pastry cream. This is the secret of ceramics, and the reason for this classification as an art. In fact, the pottery does not suffer any defect, no bubbles, no inclusions, no variations in viscosity. Any defect in the mixture irremediably leads to breakage during successive firings.
Then begins the slow drying process, a natural process whose duration is governed by the thickness of earth necessary to hold the object on itself: in this case, our train remains in the mould for 2 weeks for a final thickness of earth of 12 to 13 mm minimum. During this time, the mould must be filled regularly to maintain the maximum natural pressure of the clay inside.
When the piece is ready to be removed from the mould, the remaining liquid clay must first be poured into the heart of the piece by turning the mould over. This delicate operation is carried out by hand, and requires 2 to 3 people to handle the mould and its contents of almost 100 kilos.
Once the clay has been evacuated, the walls of the mould are gently opened to release the piece. It is hard on the outside, but the inside is cool and humid. It is therefore necessary to dry it in the open air for another 7 to 10 days, depending on the climatic conditions.
The first firing
Called the biscuit, this is the moment of truth: 12 hours of a gradual rise in temperature up to approx. 750 degrees C to remove all the water from the clay.
This is the binary operation par excellence: any error in mixing, dryness or thickness is punished here by an immediate bursting of the piece. Only the good parts hold, but they must still be checked one by one to ensure that they have not suffered any deformations, sagging, protrusions, faults, impacts, etc…
THE SECOND FIRING
If at this stage you think you have finished with the most critical risks, well no! It is without counting on the second, definitive firing, which hardens the piece and makes the terracotta, inert, capable of lasting for millennia, as we find it today in archaeological excavations.
This firing is carried out at more than 1200 degrees for long hours. Here again, it is not uncommon that the few pieces with intrinsic defects do not resist these very high temperatures. They also crack.
To make the terracotta glossy, it is necessary to apply a covering: enamel or lacquer, matt or glossy as desired.
DRIP’IN has chosen a brilliant white finish which is achieved by dipping the train into a glaze bath, an operation requiring a precise turn of the hand and carried out in a quick process, and which often results from decades of experience to cover each and every roughness of the piece with a unique and constant thickness, without dripping or fogging and with no excess thickness.
The glaze is fired at more than 1200 degrees so that the silica crystals melt and ensure complete cohesion between them, making this touch and whiteness so unique and typical of ceramics.
Edition means reproduction. Reproduction is the replica by imitation of an original creation as a whole, and this is exactly what DRIP’IN does.
Initially, DRIP’IN provides artists with a white piece of its iconic wagon, so that they can appropriate it and decorate it with their art. This is how the artist’s original work is born, which DRIP’IN then takes care of reproducing.
Different techniques and means are used to guarantee the colours, the brightness, the rendering and the texture of the original works.
The first step consists of photographing the original in all its faces, all its shapes and roughness. This crucial step is entrusted to Tibo, an experienced automotive photographer.
Well-versed in curves, light leaks and lines, he is able to perfectly reproduce the original colorimetry while ensuring the absence of reflections that could mask details specific to the original.
The second step consists in assembling all these shots in order to reconstruct, like a puzzle, a 2D, i.e. flat, assembly of the original.
In order to do this, it is essential to master the software, because the latter, through the contribution of complex calculations, helps to secure the assemblages and the restitution of colours. It is the winning combination of man and machine that allows us to obtain optimal results and to assemble each part of the puzzle without visible connections.
THE TRANSFER FILM
Once the original artwork has been computer flattened, the transfer film is produced, a film a few tens of microns thick, prepared on a paper support.
This film is produced colour after colour according to a specific chronology, after the application of a first layer of glue intended for subsequent application to the object.
The last pass is a layer of protective varnish to protect the fragile film.
The transfer film is immersed in a 60 degrees C. water bath to activate the adhesive applied in the first layer. The softening of the glue will lift the film from its support and facilitate the transfer to the ceramic piece by sliding from the paper to the object.
The film must then be positioned precisely on the object so that every detail is placed edge to edge, as on the original.
This operation is done by hand and requires skill and finesse. On the one hand, it is necessary to remove all folds, air bubbles and excess water drops without tearing it and on the other hand to ensure an excellent bond to the surface.
When the film is plated, glued and smoothed, the object is baked at a temperature of over 70 degrees C. for about 50 minutes to remove any watery residue and ensure complete bonding of the decoration.
As you can see, the film is very thin and fragile, so it is necessary to apply a varnish to protect it.
We use special varnishes which are baked at 75 degrees C. for 1 hour.
To obtain an optimum level of gloss and durability, DRIP’IN applies 2 coats of varnish on its trains.