T1-MMT-P3-p2 Casting – glorious failure

Project 2 involves casting the internal space of a vessel. I wanted to try casting with both clear and opaque materials.

I heard about a great clear bio resin from eggpicnic (9-August-2015). Entropy Resins (entropyresins.com/) make a number of epoxy resins that have green credentials based on production techniques (less energy and produce less harmful byproducts) and content (waste products from other industry, a percentage of renewable plant-based carbon rather than petroleum based carbon). Plus the word was that bio resins have much reduced odor. In Australia the best sources seem to be surfboard shops. A mix of errors made by me and the supplier left me with Super Sap BRT (specially formulated for white surfboard lamination) instead of the intended Super Sap CCR (designed for casting and embedding). Never mind, I’m not generally using any materials as the manufacturer expected.

Following my research of artists for this assignment concrete looked a very attractive choice, but given this is short term, small scale, home based use I chose to go for plaster instead – moulding (casting) plaster from Aldax.

Plan for first samples

Plan for first samples

The plan for initial samples was focused on learning basic mixing and handling of the materials. They would be placed in a ziplock sandwich bag and suspended with two ties. Unsure about releasing the resin and plaster from their molds, I wanted to trial a simple release agent – vaseline. So I started with resin and two plastic bags, one with interior smeared with vaseline, the other plain plastic. Mixing, placing in the bags and hanging to set went smoothly.

Initial resin - bag failed

Initial resin – bag failed

Within five minutes both bags had failed. One bag was suspended over a bucket, which caught the escaping material. The second was over the worktable, with just two layers of newsprint for protection.

Was it weight, perhaps heat from the exothermic setting (the product I initially wanted had slow cure speeds and low exothermic temperatures more suitable for casting), stresses caused by the ties, something else??? Mixing up the plaster I chose a less ambitious manipulation, simply laying the bags of material across a raised level on the table. Then I pretended to be patient for a couple of hours while resin and plaster hardened.

Initial resin - bucket remnants

Initial resin – bucket remnants

On the right the resin bag with no added release agent, complete with bulk of the resin from the bucket (last used when indigo dyeing and not rinsed since).

Sample p3-33 bucket remains - detail

Sample p3-33 bucket remains – detail

Sample p3-33 bucket remains

Sample p3-33 bucket remains

The indigo-contaminated pool of resin had separated easily from the bucket and at the detail level is really rather lovely. There are bubbles and bits of dried leaves as well as the indigo blue. The top surface is glossy, the bottom a soft sheen from the bucket (and perhaps dirt!). This suggests all sorts of potential for colouring, texturing and patterning – perhaps in a more controlled manner.

The plastic bag separated quite easily on the more exposed areas, but was sometimes caught in the creases of the highly molded areas. I was able to remove all the obvious plastic (this is the sample with no release agent). A small piece of the suspending string also remains caught.

Sample p3-33

Sample p3-33

The final shape is complex and engaging. Is it an elephant, a yawning camel? The photographs were taken soon after demolding. Later in the day the cloudiness of the thicker areas has reduced. It will be interesting to do another comparison in a week, when the resin should be fully cured. Although not intended the resin has captured the moments just after failure of the plastic, and the combination of mass and delicacy with just a little dynamic movement is effective.

Sample p3-34

Sample p3-34

Sample p3-34

The second resin sample is more reminiscent of a scuttling insect. Possibly more material was lost, or there was less in the bag, as there is definitely less material included.

Sample p3-34 Paper remains

Sample p3-34 Paper remains

The spilt material is thoroughly bonded to the newspaper that covered the worktable. Soaking in water and rubbing have had little effect. I wonder what effect the resin would have on crumpled paper.

At some stage I should try drilling into this material. It could be useful to be able to stitch or tie to create a join. Perhaps this is a way of manipulating / preparing text or imagery for incorporation in a larger work.

Samples p3-33 and p3-34

Samples p3-33 and p3-34

Although this sampling entirely failed in terms of the original intention, it has resulted in some very interesting and unusual shapes. They are much more delicate and detailed than I had imagined in researching and preparing for this project. The amended manipulation of the plaster samples was more as I anticipated.

Sample p3-35

Sample p3-35

Sample p3-35

Sample p3-35 alternate view

Sample p3-35 alternate view

No release agent was used with this sample, but the plastic separated from the set plaster with no difficulty. Shaping and interest was created by lifting the central area of the plaster with a support during the setting time.

Very thin sheets of plaster stretched up the sides of the plastic bag. Much of this has broken off, but a delicate edge remains. This contrasts with the heavier bulk at each side, the sense of weight increased by the folding around the corners of the original bag. The surface of the plaster is smooth and shines where it touched the plastic, also adding to the gravity and a certain formality in the cast.

Sample p3-36

Sample p3-36

Sample p3-36

There are slight differences in the second plaster sample. The sandwich bag mold had been smeared with vaseline before casting – a release agent that wasn’t needed. It impacted the surface finish of the plaster, which is textured and rough rather than smooth and polished in appearance. There were lots of small, irregular pieces of plaster caught on the sides of the plastic rather large flat thin sheets.
Samples p3-35 and p3-36

Samples p3-35 and p3-36

With both samples the nature of the original container is apparent. The bottom fold of the plastic bag has left a clear line. The corners have left easily understood folds. That’s not necessarily a bad (or good) thing, but I would like to develop some alternatives.

Sample p3-37

Sample p3-37

Sample p3-37?

There were a few dregs of resin left in the mixing container, so some quick experiments were added to the plan.

Could kinetic sand (16-April-2015) be used as a mold for resin? This could give a lot of flexibility and avoid constraints of fixed molds. Answer: no, at least not when used as I did with no lining. The resin seeped into the sand. It didn’t harden it, but substantially reduced its flow characteristics.

Could resin be used as a coating on an object, like a stiff varnish, without fully embedding the object? Answer: inconclusive. I dribbled on the last of the resin and spread it across the surface of the leaf with my mixing stick. More seeped underneath than I realised, so there is more embedding than intended. Some embossed markings from the container – recycling and manufacturer information – were captured in the resin. That’s a good reminder to be very conscious of all elements of a make-shift mold. A different technique might give the effect I was looking for – suspend the object and apply resin on all sides. A dribble might form, but that could probably be removed discretely.

What would my wooden mixing stick look like if entirely covered in resin? Answer: a varnished wooden mixing stick.

Glorious?
Within minutes of setting them up my resin samples looked like a messy failure. When those complex shapes appeared from the ruins they seemed glorious, triumphant or even phoenix-like.

I’ve been working on this post a couple of days, and in my mind a question mark has appeared. Glorious? Complex, yes. They grab my eye and I pause to try to make sense of them, as if I should recognise them somehow. Interesting, but I’m not convinced they have potential – or not direct potential. They are so fussy and intricate. I don’t think the shapes would work scaled up. They would have to be simplified and that free, chaotic, dynamic look would be hard to retain. They are frivolous, showy. They defy gravity, even while gravity had such a direct impact on their shaping. I couldn’t see them building into something real, something beyond a sample.

I had reached that conclusion, then turned around to look once more at the offending samples… and saw something else.

Samples p3-34 and p3-36

Samples p3-34 and p3-36

The overall shape of these two samples is similar – long, low, with a lifted bridge-like section in the middle. As the maker I know that gravity was involved in both in quite different ways. Sample p3-34 was made the other way up, and the “bridge” formed because resin flowed out and the level of material was lower. Sample p3-36 “defied” gravity, with extra support placed under the middle.

Still, there is a visual link and I think they look good together. Light is reflected, light is absorbed. There are sharp lines and smooth curves. There is softness and hardness and variation in texture.

Sample p3-12

Sample p3-12

I look back at the “failed join” of sample p3-12 (1-September-2015). In fact all four materials – resin, plaster, composimold, polymorph – look good together. Each offers something different in appearance and properties to the mix. Interesting…

T1-MMT-P3-p2 Casting – glorious failure
Textiles 1 – Mixed Media for Textiles
Part 3: Molding and casting
Project 2: Casting the internal space of a vessel
Casting – glorious failure

9 Responses to “T1-MMT-P3-p2 Casting – glorious failure”


  1. 1 Claire B September 14, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    I adore them, especially p3-33 & p3-34. No idea how they could be scaled up and used but maybe that’s part of the attraction. This is a fascinating exercise and I’m wondering where it will go if you move towards textiles. Could you adhere to or embed hessian, yarn strands or torn fabric I wonder?

  2. 2 fibresofbeing September 14, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    Great aren’t they – and I thought it was a total disaster with all the mess. Embedding textiley things is definitely on the agenda. Thinking of starting with the heat-treated lame which looked good but was too fragile to use.

  3. 3 sallyharrisonart September 14, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    Truly fascinating, as always.


  1. 1 T1-MMT-P3-p2 Casting with plaster | Fibres of Being Trackback on September 26, 2015 at 8:12 pm
  2. 2 T1-MMT-P3 Molding and casting – Sorting | Fibres of Being Trackback on October 11, 2015 at 5:37 pm
  3. 3 T1-MMT-P4-p1-e3 Initial back drawing | Fibres of Being Trackback on November 14, 2015 at 1:15 pm
  4. 4 T1-MMT-P5-s7 Reflection – Mixed Media for Textiles | Fibres of Being Trackback on March 28, 2016 at 5:01 pm
  5. 5 Biennale of Sydney – MCA | Fibres of Being Trackback on April 28, 2018 at 8:00 pm
  6. 6 Workshop: Matthew Bromhead – Drawing and Sculpture | Fibres of Being Trackback on July 11, 2018 at 7:42 pm

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