November 04, 2016

Mitchell Spain Flasks: Exclusively Designed For PGC

If you're not a ceramics person, the complexity of creating a functional threaded top may be lost on you, but as Mitchell explains below in an excerpt from his interview in Ceramics Technical, his flasks are quite an innovation and we're honored to have exclusivity on the three designs you see on our site: Esso, Sinclair and Gulf inspired porcelain flasks.

Mitchell Spain Ceramic Gulf, Flit and Esso Flasks 

Few phrases generate as much ingenuity and drive as "it cannot be done".  I heard those four words repeatedly while trying to make my first ceramic flasks, as a young art student.

Being relatively new to the medium, I envisioned my flask with a ceramic screw top and accompanying cap, but was told that such a thing could not be accomplished due to the nature of clay: shrinkage, warping and so forth.

Although I had little experience with the material, like most beginning ceramists, I was already quite knowledgeable in the 'nature' of clay, having lost many pieces to the aforementioned traits of this elasticized earth. I quickly accepted this idea of impossibility and moved on to the solution most commonly used by most ceramists: the cork.

For the next several years I accepted this buoyant brown material as the superior stopper for all my ceramic bottles and flasks. 

The idea of a ceramic screw top continued to elude me for some time and it wasn't until graduate school that I set out to rid my pieces of those predictable corks.

A key concept of my work is material, using the trompe l'oeil technique to create ceramic objects that appear to be anything but. For this reason, it did not seem honest to the work to simply stick a cork in the top.

I started to research what others had done for bottles and flasks. What I found was a lot of the same, corks and glued-on attachments of threaded necks of a different material, typically metal.

I must admit it crossed my mind, as it would be so easy to glue on a threaded stem, but how could I allow myself to use another material when I had just recently surrendered myself to the clay gods? It indeed felt sinful to even ponder the use of a foreign material; I knew I could not submit to that option until all others had been explored.

 

It was then that I remembered my initial idea, a threading mechanism for the top, entirely made of clay and eventually elected to pursue the challenge.

There were a few things I decided early on in the process, the first being the technique used. It would have to be slipcast, a method that would help reduce warping and shrinkage would not be an issue if using the same slip for each the male and female part. I knew the most difficult component would certainly be the internal threads of the cap.

I sat down and sketched, thought and sketched some more: my brain sorting through numerous considerations and possibilities until it hit me. It was so simple.

Once I had the design in front of me I wondered how it was so difficult to actualize. I began working on prototypes that same day using an ordinary nut and bolt that were big enough to fit my flasks.

-Mitchell Spain, excerpt from his interview in Ceramics Technical


Mitchell adds silicone to the lid, making these porcelain trompe l'loeil beauties totally functional for sipping your favorite libations on the go!

Check them out now along with Mitchell's Growlers.

Learn more about Mitchell in our previous post.