The audio file for this article was produced by the Ceramic Arts Network staff and not read by the author.


1 Equisetaceae, to 9¾ in. (25 cm) in height, porcelain, glaze. Photo: Gwangjuyo Residence, South Korea.


Sculptor Joris Link is pushing the boundaries of slip-cast ceramics. Creating evocative and compelling forms that challenge what we’ve come to expect from more traditional or industrial methods, he is an innovator in the field of mold making. Utilizing repetition, Link constructs his forms from serial, modular, plaster-mold components that he combines in a multitude of ways to create works that have ranged in size from two inches up to nine feet. 

Link first became interested in creating sculptural forms as a young boy, when his mother, a kindergarten teacher, taught him how to make shapes out of folded paper. He then turned to instructional books on origami, the Japanese art of paper folding. Link says he enjoyed creating shapes and that the various folds of paper felt like a puzzle to solve. His interest in art continued throughout his school years in his hometown of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, aka Den Bosch, in the south of the Netherlands. Link also enjoyed math and science, and excelled at those subjects too. When the time came to pursue higher education, he applied to both architecture school and art school. He chose to study at the Academy for Art and Design, Hertogenbosch, where he majored in sculpture and completed his degree in 2001.

2 Hex, 9¾ in. (25 cm) in height, porcelain. Photo: Ben Nienhuis. 3 Untitled, 7 in. (18 cm) in height, porcelain.

Discovering a Passion for Clay

As a first-year student, Link was introduced to ceramics with an assignment to make a three-dimensional form out of clay. But the material didn’t speak to him at first. “I didn’t really understand the medium yet,” he reflects. In his third year, he happened to be in the ceramics department and answered the phone when a call came in from the European Ceramic Work Center (EKWC), a well-known residency facility in Oisterwijk, the Netherlands. They were looking for someone to assist a visiting artist, and Link said he would do it. That decision opened the door to a more serious exploration of ceramics. While at EKWC, he learned how to mix clay and operate the extruder, though he says what impacted him the most was watching other artists from various backgrounds and countries work alongside each other. Link still sometimes works at the EKWC, advising and helping resident artists.

4 Diamond, 9¾ in. (25 cm) in height, porcelain, glaze, magnets. Photo: Ben Nienhuis. 5 Diamond (alternate view). Photo: Ben Nienhuis.

Being affiliated with the EKWC marked a turning point in Link’s sculptural work, which, up until then, had primarily utilized found objects. He wanted to adopt clay as his new medium, so he focused on ceramics in his third and fourth years at the Academy for Art and Design, deciding to add another year to his studies so he could continue his explorations with clay. He remained a sculpture major, but worked closely with the university’s ceramics instructors. “I was trying to gain as much experience as possible,” he says. It was at this time that Link learned how to make molds. “I liked how I could reproduce the same form over and over, combining the parts in different ways,” he says, remarking how this related to his interest in mathematics. His first molds were press molds, in which he pressed a slab or pieces of clay into the mold shape. He started slip casting whenever he wanted to create smaller pieces, finding that method more precise.

A few months before he was to graduate, a fire broke out at his school’s ceramics studio when one of the kilns malfunctioned. Link lost most of his work, but managed to salvage some molds, which he brought with him to a nearby ceramics factory, Cor Unum, where he was permitted to work. The factory collaborated directly with Dutch designers to produce high-end, functional, slip-cast objects using molds. Link spent days just watching the mold maker, and began to understand what would and wouldn’t work in creating his own molds.

6 Installation of various pieces, varying sizes, porcelain. 7 Equisetaceae, 6 in. (15 cm) in height, porcelain, glaze, plaster mold. Photo: Gwangjuyo Residence, South Korea.

Utilizing Design Technology

The first 3D printers were just becoming available when Link graduated in 2001, though they were expensive and rare. In 2010, Link began a residency at EKWC, whose facility had just acquired a 3D printer. This gave him a chance to develop his own ideas and explore this new technology, which would become pivotal in the evolution of his work.

Link designs his mold components in the software program Rhino, which gives him a sense of how various parts can fit together to create a finished piece. He then uses a 3D printer to generate the shape for the mold part. The next step is creating a silicone mold from the plastic model. The silicone molds are made from a two-part compound that is poured over the plastic model. Link then makes plaster molds using the silicone molds. Lastly, he stacks the plaster molds together to create a larger mold system. The process is a laborious one, though Link enjoys the technical challenges. He saves all his silicone molds so he can reproduce the plaster molds should one break or become damaged. The simplest molds Link has made are four to five parts, and the most complex involves over 1000 pieces. He has created more than 50 different models using 3D software that allows him to mix and match parts in a variety of ways to create new shapes.

8 Bulan, 17¾ in. (45 cm) in height, stoneware, sinter engobe. 9 Untitled, to 15¾ in. (40 cm) in height, porcelain.

Molecules and mathematical forms have always inspired his work, with pyramid shapes being the first forms he explored. When combined, the modular pieces would form a polyhedron. Link used to make each individual piece of a sculpture in a separate mold, then combined and fastened the fired pieces together with either rope or another found material. He then started implementing magnets attached to the back side of the fired pieces as a way to connect them. Over time, Link tired of using the magnets and found a new way to connect the parts. Rather than continuing to cast individual pieces that he would then assemble, he started making cylindrical mold components—a process he uses to this day—stacking various pieces to create larger forms that then get cast as one piece.

11 Beginning to assemble the mold, fitting the pieces together. 12 Continuing to stack and assemble the mold pieces for the work Spherulite.

Collaborating with the Clay

The first time Link cast one of these modular molds, he was surprised by the way the slip seeped out at the seam lines. An admitted perfectionist, Link says he was tempted to clean up the excess and smooth all the seams, but something told him not to. Though the result was not expected, it appealed to him. He felt he needed to learn to let go and not have the end result be so perfect. “My biggest learning curve was to let that be,” he says, noting that was a difficult thing to embrace, but that the lesson has been the most important one he’s had in the past 10 years. He realized that he actually didn’t want to control every part of his process, and now enjoys this way of working with the material instead of against it. The result is an aliveness in the work because of this collaboration that permits the clay and process to have a voice. Even when he repeats a form, each one is distinct due to the unpredictability of the slip.

12 Continuing to stack and assemble the mold pieces for the work Spherulite. 13 Adding the final layer of mold pieces.

Embracing Challenges

Link will often divide a larger piece into smaller sections, pouring each section separately, so he can utilize a range of colored casting slips. His goal is to have different facets or planes of color on the finished piece without having to decorate it after it is cast. “It’s not always easy to work with stains,” he notes, and he has gone through much trial and error to settle on a color palette that works. Some Mason stains can alter the properties of the slip. Darker colors, such as black and certain blues, lower the sintering temperature of clay, which can cause deformation. Some colors change the viscosity of the clay. Still, he doesn’t mind confronting technical difficulties, noting that it’s important to keep himself challenged.

Technically, his mold-making skills are improving over time. Though this may seem like an asset, Link says he’s finding that the mold seams are getting smaller, so not as much slip is seeping out. “The seams get more perfect and less interesting,” he observes. It’s presenting him with a new challenge in how to keep that sense of spontaneity in the work. He’s started making sphere shapes and more complicated modular combinations on a larger scale that will allow him to keep pushing the boundaries beyond his technical skill. In the past few years, Link ceased using the software to generate a finished piece. Instead, he’s allowing space for spontaneity as he innovates new ways to join the modular components.

14 The mold is now complete and filled with clay slip through the black funnel and the hose attached to the bottom of the mold. The blue funnels allow the air to go out and back in during the draining of the mold. 15

Though he prefers the look of porcelain, which he utilizes for his smaller works, casting large parts in porcelain can get complicated due to the risk of deformation. For larger pieces, he works in stoneware, though that brings its own challenges. Because it takes longer to set in the mold and the slip can seep out too quickly, Link sets buckets beneath the mold to catch the excess.

When casting a larger piece, he pours slip from underneath the mold rather than from above. He would run the risk of inadvertently touching the walls by pouring a larger piece from above, which could deform its structure. Link’s newest works incorporate both an inner and outer mold. He has wanted to find a way to bring texture and dimension not only to the outside of a piece but also to its interior, which is typically smooth on a cast piece. “Sculpture is 360 degrees. I don’t want the piece to be interesting just from one perspective.” The process of making the mold parts so he can remove them from inside the piece has taken years to develop.

16 15–17 Disassembling the mold, layer by layer.

To finish the work, he glazes some pieces while others—mostly the porcelain work—are left unglazed on the exterior. Glazing the exterior, he says, would alter the sharp edges where the slip has seeped out. He fires his porcelain work in an electric kiln to cone 8; firing any higher can cause deformation.

Making Time to Experiment

Link is employed three days a week at The Council for Legal Aid, a government organization, where he works with interpreters and translators. He appreciates that at the end of the day, he can close the door to one part of his life and still have creative energy for his art. His private studio, just a 5-minute walk from his home, is in an old building that used to be a school and is now home to 30 artists’ studios.

18 Spherulite out of the mold and drying. It’s already on a kiln shelf to avoid having to move the work. 19 All of these pieces are ready to go into the kiln for the bisque firing.

Residencies and uninterrupted time to work have been essential to Link’s creative pursuits. His employer is supportive of his life as an artist, and is flexible in allowing him time off to attend residencies, which he tries to do once every two years. Link enjoys traveling and working alongside other artists, and has completed residencies in Japan, Korea, and Indonesia. His approach to residencies has been to take a break from his usual way of working. While in Japan, for instance, he made work for and participated in a wood firing—something he would never have access to in the densely populated city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, where he lives. The residencies, he says, “are like reinventing yourself,” adding, “I wouldn’t be enjoying the moment if I went there and made the work I always make.”

20 20, 21 Once bisque fired, the pieces are sprayed with a sinter engobe. These pieces are waiting for the glaze firing.

Link has exhibited in galleries both nationally and internationally, including in Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Belgium, and the US. He says it’s difficult to sell his large sculptural pieces. Lots of money and time are invested in making them, with his largest works—from concept to design to construction—sometimes taking up to a year. But he says he feels compelled to do it for himself, to see his vision come to life.

22 Spherulite, to 28½ in. (70 cm) in height, stoneware, sinter engobe.

Over 100 transparent boxes containing various shaped molds fill the shelves in Link’s studio. On days where he doesn’t know where to begin, he’ll pull molds from different boxes and find new ways to combine the parts. The possibilities remain endless.

To learn more about Joris Link, visit or follow on Instagram at @joris_link.

the author Susan McHenry, is a studio potter, writer, and educator based in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She has an MFA in writing and literature from Bennington College. To learn more, visit or follow on Instagram @susanmchenryceramics.