Ceramic trains

In tribute to the subways of the early days DRIP’IN has created a ceramic train collection painted bry street artists from all over the world.

Some might think that with such an ancestral mastery of ceramics, today’s man has unrevelled all the mysteries of this art. However, it is more complicated than that.

It took us almost 2 years to develop this ceramic train. 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.

The sculpture
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 making of the mould
Once the sculpture is finished, it is moulded in a porous plaster formwork.
When the mould is ready, it can receive the 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.

Moulding & Demoulding
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 before to be removed.
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 two firing
The first firing called the “biscuit” is the moment of truth: 12 hours of a gradual rise in temperature up to approx. 750 degrees C to remove entirely 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.
The second firing hardens the piece and makes the terracotta inert, capable of lasting for millennia, as we find it today in archaeological excavations.

This key step is carried out at more than 1200 degrees C 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.

The glazing
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 C so that the silica crystals melt and ensure complete cohesion between them, making this touch and whiteness so unique and typical of ceramics.

[From left to right] Simplified view of a plan of the original train model, 3D side view of the model before carving – credit: Philippe Arnaud – PAD Design Agency

The decoration
Edition means reproduction. Reproduction is the replica by imitation of an original creation as a whole, and this is exactly what DRIP’IN does.
Different techniques and means are used to guarantee the colours, the brightness, the rendering and the texture of the original works.

The photography
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.

The assembly
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 3D artwork. Vectors, calculation, a big work is done here by our engineers.

The transfer film, its application and protection
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 and is immersed in a 60 degrees C. water bath to  slide it from the paper to the ceramic and must then be positioned precisely on the object so that every detail is placed edge to edge, as on the original.

[De gauche à droite] Reconstitution du modèle de train original, vue éclatée du film 2D du modèle, extrait du dossier d’application identique au modèle original – crédit: Philippe Arnaud – Agence PAD Design

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.

To ensure a proper protection of the film, we use special varnishes which are baked at 75 degrees C. for 1 hour, and, to obtain an optimum level of gloss and durability, DRIP’IN applies 2 coats of varnish on its trains.

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