T1:MMT: Pt3: Pj 1: i Moulding from a surface

I leapt straight into sample making as I figured the samples would take time to prepare, make and set. I don’t always have that time. I can snatch research time in small chunks, but making plaster and letting clay dry is not a small chink activity.

I have chosen to use plaster of Paris as it sets really hard and inflexibly, air drying clay that has a polyester compound (I think) – it’s second-hand clay to me – a left over black back from someone else’s fails! I also have some paper based air-drying clay – not quite paper clay but almost and this has a certain flexibility but a long drying time. I also have a black bag full of shredded paper for making either paper clay of papier-mache should I need – but it has currently been commandeered by our newest arrival post-op (we have rescued 2 one year old cats). I mention this because I was having a funny conversation with my children about hand-me downs: without the generosity of neighbours in my last village clothing three ever-growing girls adequately could have been quite a challenge – so we are not averse to second-hand: second-hand art materials, yarn, furniture, the list then grew: second hand books, second hand car, second hand house, second hand cats… molding has a second hand feel to it – the object is handed down into the material: be it clay, plaster and then an impression of it is left from which a new way of using it can be formed.

What I have learnt so far: mixing paster of Paris in a making frenzy just before bed can be messy and probably ill-advised, but you can’t lose the moment when it appears. air-drying anything is just too slow!! I have to wait for these pieces to dry – even 24 hours later they aren’t quite dry (but they’re dry enough for me). Polypropylene rope really hurts when you pull it forcibly out of a plaster cast with bare hands. What else? Stuff breaks. Things you think should work don’t work (the marble sample). Things you think shouldn’t work just do so breath-stoppingly (scrunched T-shirt in plaster).

This project, as i have understood it, is to use a mold to gather the surface texture from elsewhere. I have tried to use natural and man-made sources of textured surface. I have tried to use a liquid and solid based molding material, none of which have any fumes (have some polyester resin awaiting a good outdoor workday) and then there is the encouragement for using a flexible material such as latex (at the moment jelly keeps springing to mind – if I don’t have to keep the sample and can photograph the effect this may be a way to go).

However, first samples for molding:

Marbles in plaster – not successful as they were lost in the depths. possible solution – less plaster!


Flower head in plaster: can’t get it out of the lid, but creates an interesting surface!


Next: flower head next to single layer of bubble wrap from an envelope: love the bubble wrap – create many in’s and out’s and areas of interest – lay this on top of a very thin layer of plaster and pushed it down to ger this.


After that bark surfaces into clay, pressed in, rolled over or covered over to see the different effects.


Some more natural forms: shells and pine cones in the paperclay


Bark comparison between paperclay and air-drying terracotta clay:


I grasped a ball of clay in my bare hand, then wore plastic gloves and sis the same. Very little marks from my bare hand were impresses onto the clay, but the wrinkled plastic gave a more defined wrinkle.


I crocheted a circular form using a 20mm hook and polypropylene rope. Then I immersed it in plaster. Even while I was doing it I had my doubts…it was a nightmare to get out. I took millions of photos as I thought I would destroy eat with each wrench of the fabric.



After unravelling and pulling and cursing for about half an hour, the rope was free. I tipped up the molded surface to see if anything remained under the broken bits:


A landscape of mountains – not sure what happened to get the blue shot – looks almost lunar! Has it worked? I don’t know. It didn’t do what I expected it to – either extreme – it wasn’t completely obliterated by the pulling, nor was the crocheted from clearly molded – but there is still a surface that holds potential exploration (even if it is in a moon buggy!)

Then poor dismembered Sindy – she of one arm and two legs -though I’m not sure if originally they were hers?! My girls used to take the legs off to put the trousers or outfits on that they’d made because they hadn’t always accounted for ‘ease’ over hips! There’s not a lot of give in Sindy’s form! I’d wrapped her in bandage and tin foil to see what shape was left. What shape do we leave in the world when we’re not altogether or we’re gathering everything together that should make us look normal but it’s borrowed or doesn’t quite fit? What shape is left when we’ve been pulled apart and are trying to hold everything together? What shows?


What seems to show is evidence of bandaging, some wrinkle and gentle curves and a little streak of our shine left behind in the mud!

Then. I’ve saved the best until last. Tipping The Pot of Bits (I reckon every house has one of these) into the bottom of a margarine pot and pushing down the paperclay to cover and hold together. Loved this:



And the sample I assumed would fail or at least I didn’t have a clue what it would do: the scrunched t-shirt pushed into plaster. The t-shirt is now damp. The mold is divine. It was so precarious pulling the fabric away once I realised I had something great as some of the plaster had set in wrinkles and folds and I had to pull at the t-shirt millimetre by millimetre. Still, it paid off! You can hardly see the difference were it not for the solidity of one and drape of the other:


Daylight and evening indoor light accounts for different shades.

More I need more of this…no fabric is safe from me now. People better not sit still for too long…

In summary:

Much play and sampling.


Some exciting potential to take forward:


And just as I get into bed it comes to me – the link between what I’m doing in molding and my initial ramble on second-hand: Cast offs! Imagine…a whole series – all those seafinds scrapling that I used before have now found another purpose. Agh! How do I get back to the beach now…must sleep…

4 thoughts on “T1:MMT: Pt3: Pj 1: i Moulding from a surface

  1. I love the pot of bits in particular, it seems to tell a real story, as does the t-shirt. Will apply to the beach findings, I’m sure. The t-shirt is just waiting to be picked up and put on. Weirdly I was trying similar last night with fragments of fabric and plaster and clay – I love the way it creates a sense of absence and presence simultaneously.


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