T1-MMT-P3-p1 Molding from a surface – Polymorph

The goal in this project is to capture the texture of other materials using a casting material. I chose to start with polymorph, a thermoplastic, having experimented with it on a sidetrack in Part 1 (21-April-2015).

Sample p3-1 and p3-2

Samples p3-2 (left) and p3-1 (right)

Immediately apparent was the challenge of photographing a shiny white textured surface. I tried multiple backgrounds, lightsources and angles, then chose the best result(s) for each sample leading to some inconsistency in this presentation. Clicking on the smaller images below will lead to a larger version.

Sample p3-1

Sample p3-1 backlit

Sample p3-1 backlit

Polymorph rolled to 5mm sheet, then pressed into a cabbage leaf.

Sample p3-1

Sample p3-1

A series of curved lines are indented in the surface. In this horizontal arrangement the curves are calm as they merge and spread to cross the space. One corner is broken off – I think of a shoreline or rocky outcrop by the sea. In some lights the uneven surface between the curves catches the light, just as the swell of the ocean glints in sunlight.

Sample p3-2

Sample p3-2

Sample p3-2

5mm sheet pressed into a sumo mandarin, the overall curve gently pressed flat while the plastic remained pliable.

This is a highly textured piece. The patterning is very organic in nature and seems to shift as you look at it. A spiral is apparent, but shifts as I try to trace it and a new spiral suggests itself. Some higher areas appear smoothed – a true reflection of the fruit? A mishap in making the mold? The varied depth of the impression, inconsistent reflection and general complexity has proved beyond me as a photographer. A video looked sharp on the phone but blurred on a larger screen.

Based on the first two samples I decided to use the polymorph thinner, looking for more pliability and clearer molding, plus better effects from backlighting.

Sample p3-3

Sample p3-3

Sample p3-3


Sample p3-3

Sample p3-3

Sample p3-3 backlit

Sample p3-3 backlit

3mm polymorph sheet pressed into cabbage leaf.

The extra pliability of the thinner sheet, plus my extra experience in pressing the polymorph into the form, has resulted in a much clearer mold. Lines are crisper and there is more detail in the surface between the ribs of the cabbage leaf. The inclusion of the main rib across one corner and the alignment of major elements on the diagonal creates a dynamic composition. The overall shape of the sheet deformed with the shape of the leaf, and was not adjusted as in sample p3-2. This adds to the sense of movement and increases the response of the work to changes in the direction of lighting.

The thinner sheet is more translucent, thus providing greater impact from backlighting.

Sample p3-4

Sample p3-4

Sample p3-4

Sample p3-4

Sample p3-4

3mm polymorph sheet pressed into sumo mandarin.

Similar improvements are seen in a repeat of the mandarin mold in thinner plastic. The small black dots visible are the remains of crayon rubbed across the surface in an unsuccessful attempt to further highlight the texture created.

The complex surface is still difficult to decipher. There is a sense of a spiral, but still a lot of visual noise. Attempts to photograph a backlit view were not successful.

Sample p3-5

Sample p3-5

Sample p3-5

Sample p3-5 with charcoal

Sample p3-5 with charcoal

Sample p3-5 backlit

Sample p3-5 backlit

3mm polymorph pressed into back of computer card.

The photograph above shows the fine detail that the polymorph can hold as a molding material. The printed lines connecting components are clearly visible if the light strikes in the right direction. Marks appear in clusters, but there is still a sense of organisation and purpose.

It is only in closeup that the detail is visible. Charcoal was rubbed over the surface in an attempt to make the patterning clearer, but the effect is unattractive. The backlit view is more interesting, despite a poor quality photograph. The effect is reminiscent of a city at night – or perhaps a surveillance photograph of a car park.

I think this has possibilities to be a supporting texture in a larger whole. Possibly it could be combined with actual computer parts, or with larger, more three dimensional molds.

Sample p3-6

Sample p3-6

Sample p3-6

Sample p3-6 with charcoal

Sample p3-6 with charcoal

3mm polymorph sheet, molded using wide synthetic warp-faced luggage strap and a loose round braid of synthetic yarns.

Strong, parallel diagonals cross the work in a variety of textures. There is a rigid regularity on the lower left, formed by the warp-faced strap, although the edges could have been captured more clearly. The more chaotic nature of the loose braid and the areas left unmolded provide variety and interest.

The charcoal effect is too messy, but it does break down the rigidity of the strap area.

Although this sample used textiles, it was a careful choice to use smooth surface materials in this initial attempt. The character of the different textile structures has been molded into the surface, but there are no actual fibres caught in the plastic.

Sample p3-7

Sample p3-7

Sample p3-7

Sample p3-7 in progress

Sample p3-7 in progress

Sample p3-7 detail

Sample p3-7 detail

3mm polymorph sheet molded into weaving sample.

In this sample I invited the embedding of fibres from the textile source. The textile was a sample originally created in project 9 of A Creative Approach (14-October-2012). The polymorph sheet was placed in an area with a variety of wefts, including torn fabric strips and woolen rug yarn. It can just be seen in the process photograph that a square of perspex was used to push the polymorph into the textile to provide a uniform pressure. It would be interesting to repeat this sample with localised pressure to take up as much texture as possible.

The closeup photograph shows the fine level of detail – even the weave of the fabric strip weft can be identified. Fibres have been caught in the molding material, an effect that really attracted me in the work of Rebecca Fairley (16-August-2015). Here is doesn’t work, and in particular the scales are wrong. The fine detail of the different tapestry techniques were captured in the polymorph, but are heavily obscured by the wool fibres, which distract rather than enhance.

The rhythm of work was quite different in this exercise. Melting the polymorph pellets and rolling to a reasonably uniform sheet took time and was repetitive. It seemed difficult to be spontaneous, to follow a line of thought or speculation. In some lights the results look like plain, misshapen lumps of white plastic. I spent more time and effort taking many, many photographs – those shown are the best of a large bunch, and some are only marginally useful. I chose the roughly regular square format as building blocks for a larger whole, but it seems to have homogenised the samples.

I was very unhappy with the results initially, and attempted a number of sketches to try to see the samples more clearly.

Sketch of initial molding - 1

Sketch of initial molding – 1

Oil crayon rubbing on copy paper.

Messy and unenlightening.

Sketch of initial molding - 2

Sketch of initial molding – 2

Black marker on cartridge paper.

Sketching this helped me to appreciate the different characters of the samples. As a group they look bland, especially if the lighting is from a direction that doesn’t promote reflections. Looking closely increased my awareness of the detail and the variation.

Sketch of initial molding - 3

Sketch of initial molding – 3

Black conte pencil on cartridge paper.

The overlaid outlines show the close-but-not-quite consistency in sizing of the samples. While I like the softer edges, particularly on the more natural cabbage and mandarin samples, the level of variation is not quite right. It needs to be more or less.

Possible improvements – add colour, be either more or less uniform in size, build up a theme (I think computer components could be explored), try thinner sheets (more pliable and translucent), push further into three dimensions.

T1-MMT-P3-p1 Molding from a surface – Polymorph
Textiles 1 – Mixed Media for Textiles
Part 3: Molding and casting
Project 1: Molding from a surface – Polymorph

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