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A Day In The Life… Sponge Making

A Day in the Life… Sponge Making

Rachel has many varied responsibilities at Chessell.  She might be hosting a demonstration to a team of new decorators, unloading the kiln of newly-fired pottery or making tiles and Christmas decorations for people to come in and paint.  But one of her most important jobs is making all the decorating sponges that people use to adorn and personalise their pottery.

You can’t buy these specialised sponges anywhere so Rachel has to design them from scratch and cut out all the different sponges for our four Pottery Cafés.  This can range from Christmas-themed shapes to a brand new theme we’re exploring, such as Dinosaurs.  It’s a truly unique art and we thought you might like to see what this all-important job entails.  So here is a little insight into how Rachel, our chief sponge-cutter, makes all those fantastic decorating sponges:

  1. First of all, Rachel has to decide on the shape she’s going to create.  This might be a replacement for a worn-out sponge or it could be a totally new design for a current theme like Easter or Autumn.  If it’s new, she’ll start off by researching different images for inspiration and then sketching some preliminary designs.
  2. When she’s happy with an image, she’ll draw a thick black outline round the shape so that it can be traced onto a piece of acetate film.
  3. While the ink is still fresh, Rachel lays the acetate onto a block of highly specialised, microcellular foam.  In this way, the image is neatly printed onto the foam, ready to be cut out.  Rachel hopes to print up to four images at a time, but it’s still an intricate and time-consuming process.
  4. To cut the shapes out of the foam, Rachel uses a soldering iron – which is a little like a hot Stanley knife!  She steadies her hand and carefully cuts round the shape printed onto the foam.
  5. Pressing each sponge out of the foam block, she pulls off the pieces of foam that aren’t needed by hand.
  6. Finally, she uses a large pair of sharp scissors to trim the edges to make sure they all have a nice, clean outline for perfect sponge decorating.
  7. Rachel can make 10 simple shapes in only 14 minutes which we think is pretty impressive!  Ten of the more intricate sponges though can take nearly three times as long.

So now when you select which sponge you’re going to use to decorate your mug, plate or ornament, you know exactly what’s involved in producing that tiny piece of foam!

Why not come and try out some of the lovely new Autumnal sponges we have in the studio for you?

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