T1-MMT-P3-p2 Casting with plaster

Coming towards the end of Casting I felt I’d done some interesting exploration in new-to-me materials and some of the samples showed promise for future development. However I hadn’t followed up any of the ideas or inspiration from my research at the beginning of the assignment. I wanted to work at a slightly larger scale, and I also wanted to go a little further with the sense of substance and formality that I found in my initial plaster samples (p3-35 and p3-36, 14-September-2015).

Sample p3-47
The first sample attempted was inspired by the work of Rebecca Fairley (my tutor, my research posted 16-August-2015), in particular the texture and wisps of fibre that attracted me so much.

Sample p3-47

Sample p3-47

Sample p3-47 preparation

Sample p3-47 preparation

Sample p3-47 detail - wisps?

Sample p3-47 detail – wisps?

Some machine-knit fabric from a cardigan (op-shop find) was used to line a plastic tub. Plaster was poured directly onto the knit. There was almost no penetration of the plaster through the knit. It was easy to pull the fabric away with only minor damage to the plaster surface.

The resulting cast is around 14.5 cm square and 2.5 cm high. The photograph above was taken in raking light to emphasise the texture created. The cardigan had a high waist formed with heavy woven ribbon, which created the band seen in the cast.

This sample is very attractive. There is a variety of texture contained in a not quite rigid framework of lines. At a distance there is a strong overall structure, with a lot of interest and detail revealed with closer examination. There is an overall blueish colouring to the plaster due to capture of fibres from the dark navy knit, but you have to look very carefully indeed to see the individual fibres. This sample suggests a lot of potential, my only concern being that it is too directly derivative of the source inspiration.

Sample p3-48
I wanted to follow with a sample more personal to me, so I chose a woven cloth (commercial furnishing fabric – I couldn’t bring myself to use handwoven on an early sample). This sample also brought in the idea from the course notes of influencing the shape of the cast by placing the vessel on a found object.

Sample p3-48 detail

Sample p3-48 detail

Sample p3-48 preparation

Sample p3-48 preparation

Sample p3-48

Sample p3-48

The found object is a child’s toy, a plastic grid that expands into a sphere. I lined this with heavy plastic and then the woven fabric. I adjusted the manufacturer’s recommended water to plaster ratio, reducing the amount of water. I thought a less liquid mix would reduce leakage through the fabric.

When setting up the sample I hadn’t considered the issue of getting the solid plaster out of the sphere, but it was easy to disconnect some of the plastic struts. The fabric came away from the plaster easily. Possibly it had some kind of finish applied during manufacture. Certainly there was no apparent penetration of the material.

There is a delicate overall texture to the finished sample reflecting the plain weave fabric. This results in a very soft response to lighting, quite matte. Combined with the soft undulations from the open sphere vessel the cast looks just like a draped piece of cloth – in fact my partner mistook it for cloth when he first saw it. There is something so gentle and understated about this sample. It has greater mass than the others, being 20 cm wide at the largest point and rising up to 6 cm above the work surface (it’s not actually 6 cm thick, but the base is uneven).

I like the idea of exploiting the trompe l’oeil effect. Could a lace appearance be created? It might be difficult to control penetration by the plaster into an actual lacy (with holes) fabric, but perhaps there are embossed materials that would work, or the lace could be adhered to a backing fabric. Knitted fabrics with runs from dropped stitches could be amusing too – fragility in plaster.

Sample p3-49
This is the result of poor workmanship, not the sample intended.

Sample p3-49

Sample p3-49

Sample p3-49 detail

Sample p3-49 detail

At the beginning of the work session I had prepared for four samples. Unfamiliar with weights of plaster powder for volumes of casts my initial batch mixed was only enough for the first sample (p3-47). I doubled the amount of powder but reduced volume of water in the second batch, which turned out only enough for the second sample (p3-48). I tried to repeat for a third batch, but I couldn’t get a smooth paste. I kept mixing and it only got lumpier. Suddenly it was setting in the mixing bowl. Perhaps I could still use it to cast the grip of my hands (thinking of Alwar Balasubramaniam’s Nothing from my hands, see 13-June-2014). No, it was as if the plaster had curdled. It was crumbling in my hands.

Possible causes:
* I wasn’t following the manufacturer’s recommended ratios;
* I was mixing multiple batches using the same tools, scraping but not cleaning them;
* I was mixing too long. The supplier’s website faq warns that overmixing will cause the plaster to setup more quickly, often before you can pour it into molds.

At this point I took a break and did some clean up.

Sample p3-50

Sample p3-50 detail

Sample p3-50 detail

Sample p3-50

Sample p3-50

My original plan was to play with the visual difficulty with determining if shadow lines are from an indentation or a mound. I was going to use a bed of kinetic sand and make some indentations using a very nice sisal rope, then cover with thin plastic and pour in plaster. Basically an extension of the texturing of p3-40 and the visual challenge in the photo of p3-38. While making preparations I decided this was too close a repetition, and partial embedding of the rope might be more interesting.

I like the combination of materials very much. There seems to be a natural simplicity in them both which creates a link, while the textures contrast. The areas where the clean rope peeps through small windows in the plaster is most effective as the natures of the two materials are clearly evident. The areas of plaster which are textured by rope just beneath the surface I find less interesting.

Sample p3-51
This was planned as the final cast sample and I just threw ideas at it.
* alter the internal volume of a vessel by ties;
* embed resin in plaster, a reverse of embedding plaster in resin in sample p3-39;
* mold with a vessel used out of its normal orientation, to disguise the source;
* create a cast with a void.

I had no idea if this combination could work, which seemed a good reason to try.

Sample p3-51

Sample p3-51


 
Can you identify the vessel?
 

In the photos above the cast is supported in the front plate of an old speaker.

Sample p3-51 preparation

Sample p3-51 preparation

Sample p3-51 full view

Sample p3-51 full view

The vessel was a cut-down plastic 2 litre orange juice container. It was tied with light rope and supported mouth down in a tub. Shards of resin were placed inside, then plaster added.

The next morning I faced the puzzle of de-molding a cast with a void. It took an stubborn hour, but I was able to snip the plastic away in small pieces, spiraling down the handle.

I think this sample is very strong. The shape is complex with a series of flowing lines. There are areas of smooth, simple, solid plaster, then glints of light from the shards of resin. The main protruding shard brings movement and a focal point. There is something new, something of interest, at every angle.

The knob formed by the neck of the container was an unexpected bonus. I thought the cast would have no natural base, which would be interesting in itself. Instead the knob acts as a stable anchor to position the cast, and I think the sample is stronger through having that simplification of shape and distance from the original purpose of the vessel.

Sample p3-52
There was a little plaster left in the mixing bowl, so on the spur of the moment I attempted an idea that had been cut earlier. This links back to assignment 1 and the crumpling of paper. Could crumpled paper be captured, strengthened, made permanent, with the use of plaster?

Sample p3-52

Sample p3-52

Unfortunately this sample doesn’t answer that question. By the time I scurried around, found and crumpled some paper, the plaster was well into setting. The result is unstable and flaky.

However I think it is quite photogenic.

It looks good, but is effectively unpresentable. Even if exhibited in a glass dome vibrations from passersby would dislodge more fragments.

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

8 Responses to “T1-MMT-P3-p2 Casting with plaster”


  1. 1 JulieB September 28, 2015 at 8:37 pm

    Really interesting experiments, Judy. I think the combination of textures in p3-50 is promising – reminds me of some photos I took in a boatyard of rope and chain half submerged in mud.

    • 2 fibresofbeing September 28, 2015 at 10:47 pm

      You have some lovely photos on your sketchbook page from Norfolk. Is that what you were thinking of? I can see some definite possibilities for plaster interpretation of what looks like algae on net.


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Fabulous figure sculpting workshop with Kassandra Bossell!

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