West Melbourne’s unique slip casting ceramics studio
While most people would be familiar with the process of wheel throwing ceramics, Isabelle Moustra from Too Friendly ceramics uses the intricate technique of slip casting to create functional homewares out of her space at River Studios in West Melbourne.
Graduating from an industrial design degree at RMIT in 2019, Isabelle “went straight into ceramics”, adopting the slip casting process in her work after studying the technique at university in a three-month intensive course.
“I really sucked at every other physical prototype technique, but I picked up slip casting really easily,” she said.
It was the first time I’ve ever touched clay other than when you’re a kid, and it was just my thing – I knew that I wanted to do this either as a hobby or a business, and it’s just rapidly grown from there.
Too Friendly ceramics was established in 2020 by Isabelle and another graduate of her course, before the pair split ways in mid-2022.
Since running Too Friendly on her own, Isabelle now focuses on “heavily designed and accessible” pieces, while also creating “cute and fun” products such as her signature wavy-form mugs.
“I’m also coming out with a cup next year which is formed to the hand for left and right-handed people living with accessibility barriers like arthritis – it’s a mix between art and design,” she told North West City News.
The process of slip casting itself is a “niche craft”. It involves creating layers of plaster moulds before a liquid clay called slip is then poured into the mould, creating the hollow form for the object to be glazed and fired.
Isabelle’s process also involves digital modelling and 3D-printing of the moulds, which she says can range anywhere between one- and four-part moulds in her work, while other artists create up to 250-part moulds for one piece.
Although slip casting is “not really accessible in terms of the material and the knowledge to do it”, Isabelle has introduced her own workshops which she runs out of Handmaker’s Factory in West Footscray, for people to “learn the three-month process in a day”.
“The process is very therapeutic to me,” she said.
“There is a lot of stress that comes with the ceramics process, but being able to master such a complicated technique is something that I want to keep building on.”
When searching for studios to base her business out of, Isabelle found the perfect space to dive into her “messy” practice at River Studios.
“It’s been so peaceful to work here because I’ve got my own enclosed space, and it separates work from home for me as well,” she said.
“I also have a community of creatives where I can go out into the communal space and talk about the different projects we’re all working on.”
“A lot of the community has been in the industry way longer than I have, and to be able to have conversations where I share my perspective and hear their perspectives is really interesting and beneficial for both parties.”
Following the Christmas season chaos, Isabelle is looking forward to introducing some new projects to customers in 2024. •
Caption: Isabelle working in her space at River Studios. Credit – Isabelle Moustra.