Monthly Archives: February 2017

Part 3, Stages 2&3, Project 1 – Moulding from a surface – development projects

20 February 2017

Stages 2&3, Project 1 – Moulding from a surface – development projects

Having completed the experimental stage of project 1, the course notes required that I start to think about how of if any of the techniques from parts 1 or 2 could be used to embellish or manipulate my samples; the aim being to decide on two or three ideas to develop, creating a new subgroup of samples. My thought process is recorded in pages 33-53 of my sketchbook.

I started by reviewing all my samples from parts one and two, including surface distortion, joining and wrapping. There were many ideas which I could have developed. The ones which I chose to explore in my sketchbook were:


  1. The encased object (p.33) – reference to project 1, sample 28
  2. The wrapped object (p.42) – reference to project 1, sample 36
  3. The squashed object (p.46) – I felt that this exploration was more suited to casting internal space and I used it as inspiration for project 2, sample 6.
  4. The displayed object (p.47) – reference to project 1, samples 48 and 50
  5. The punctured cushion (p.53) – reference to project 2, sample 1. This idea is also related to casting an internal space
Of the three ideas which were related to casting a moulded surface, the two which I felt had the most potential for development were “The encased object” and “The displayed object”
The encased object:
I started by taking sample 28 and thinking about how I might make cut-outs (linking to Part 1, project 2, exercise 4 “cutting holes”). I thought about how I might bridge these holes, or alternatively join pieces of my papier mache balloon surface. I also recalled a sample where I had used stitching decoratively, to emphasise an opening.
 Above: sample 28
SAMPLES 62-64: Gap sewn with dressmakers’ cotton and fishing line
I used two different methods of joining which I had used previously in Part 2 (Project 1, exrecise 1, sample 6 and Project 1, exercise 5, sample 6). The samples on the left are worked with dressmakers’ cotton, the one of the right with fishing line. From left to right they are sample 62, 63 and 64.
The two samples on the left are interesting because of the contrast between the fine threads, which both divide and emphasise the negative space made by the tears. It reminded me of the work of Erin Tucker’s series Frayed and Fragile” (2013), which I mentioned on page 41 of me sketchbook. Sample 62 (left), uses a “mattress suture” which has the effect of emphasising the opening as well as joining the two pieces. Sample 63 (middle) is more “untidy” because of the knots and loose ends.
I don’t feel that sample 64 (right) was successful because the fishing line tore and puckered the papier mache shell, whilst being difficult to tie. Visually, it was not very obvious, so didn’t have the effect of emphasising or accentuating the negative space.
SAMPLES 65-67: Gap sewn with bookbinders’ thread 
For this series of samples, I explored the use of a thick waxy thread to sew with different stitches across different sized and shaped holes.
Sample 65 (left) is worked in “mattress suture” stitch, sample 66 (middle) is worked in twisted insertion stitch (taken from Part 2, project 1, exercise 2, sample 8), and sample 67 (right has been worked in individual knots (after Part 2, project 1, exercise 1, sample 6).
I actually favour the stronger definition given by the thicker waxy bookbinders’ thread compared with the dressmakers’ cotton, although I prefer the red colour of the cotton. For future sampling, I would look for a red bookbinders’ thread. 
Out of the three samples, I think that sample 65 works best because of the contrast between the even, regular stitching and the torn edge and irregular shape of the negative space. I don’t like the regular rectangular shape of the hole in sample 67, although the stitch might work with a torn edge (further experimentation would be needed). The sample which is least appealing is sample 66. It reminds me of shoe lacing, which doesn’t fit the narrative of my line of enquiry (biological tissue and surgical repair).
SAMPLES 68-69: Emphasising the edges of the gap with bookbinders’ thread
Using sample 11 of Part 1, project 5, exercise 2, and the work of artists Linda Dacey as my inspiration, I worked two further samples to explore using thread to empahise the edges of a gap rather than joining.
Sample 68 (left), is worked with a simple running stitch around the edge, whereas sample 69 (right) uses intentionally irregular oversewing. Whilst these samples are quire effective, I prefer sample 65 and the knotting from sample 67, so these are the ideas which I would take for ward for further development.
Sketchbook work/where next?
I made some sketches of the stitched samples and did a series of experiments with my papier mache surface to add different textures. These are detailed in pages 40-41 of my sketchbook.
The next stage of sampling would be to make some more spheres from papier mache and to explore different shaped gaps bridged by stitching. I would probably make two of three spheres using the knowledge gained about surface treatments from my sketchbook work (page 41), using my favourite stitch types from samples 62-69. this would allow me to narrow down and resolve my sampling towards a finished piece.
The displayed object:
Thinking about some of my latex and silicon samples which looked like Biological specimens, I considered how these might be mounted or displayed. There was read across from some of the joining samples from part 2 (project 1, exercise 3, samples 7 and 8), and also some of my wrapping techniques from part 2, project 2 (sample 2). See sketchbook, pages 47-49.
The samples I considered from part 3 were: project 1, sample 50:
And project 1, sample 48:
My preference was for sample 50, but I felt that it was too fragile for the idea which I had in mind. I didn’t have time to purchase the thixotropic agent which would have made the silicone more viscous and allowed a more robust sample to be made, so I decided to develop sample 48 from project 1. 
I wanted to make the sample look more like biological tissue, so my plan was to make a similar family of samples, colouring the latex with red acrylic paint. Because the natural latex had turned an unattractive brown colour over time (see below), I decided to mix a creamy/white colour paint in with the first layer instead of leaving the latex natural.

SAMPLES 70: Paint-tinted latex moulds of aluminium pie dishes
Unfortunately the result didn’t turn out as I’d anticipated. The initial layer of latex (which I tinted with cream acrylic paint) was opaque, and as a consequence, very little of the red colour showed through (see below):
SAMPLES 71: Paint-tinted latex moulds of aluminium pie dishes

In this group of samples, I reverted to using an un-tinted first layer of latex, but I made sure it was thinner (so that it wouldn’t have the same impact when it goes brown). These were better, but I still felt that they were a little uninspiring and not very “biological”.

SAMPLES 72: Paint-tinted latex moulds of aluminium pie dishes
I decided to scrunch up my pie dishes more, as I had done in sample 48. This time I tinted the initial layer of latex with cream acrylic paint, but I made sure that I applied it only selectively, so that it didn’t cover the whole surface. I then added subsequent layers of latex tinted with red acrylic. The photo below shows work in progress:
I was much happier with the finished samples (see below):
I like the raggedness of them and the fact that the pattern is less recognisable as a pie dish. I decided to proceed and stitch these pieces to my cork background. I used a similar arrangement to sample 7 from Part 2, project 1, exercise 3 (see below):
My finished sample is shown below:
I chose cork because I wanted to make reference to the mounting of a biological specimen for dissection. In hindsight, I don’t think there is enough colour contrast between the latex moulding. I could/should have explored alternatives before making my sample.
I made a sketch of the sample and then some other sketches of different arrangements.
The exercise helped me focus on which features of the sample I liked (the negative spaces and the divisions made by the stitching and the sides of the cork), and which I did not (the juxta-positioned colours of the sample and the cork). Of the different layouts I sketched, I like the one used in the sample (the first of the four sketches), and the final one (picture frame-like).
Sketchbook work/where next?
I was unsure after working this sample whether there was enough potential to develop it further. I like the geometry of the the sample and the stitching but not the colour and texture combination. So I if I did decide to develop the sample, I would concentrate on finding an alternative to cork which gave a better colour and textural contrast with the latex. Perhaps stainless steel or aluminium? Perhaps plain coloured ceramic? With this in mind, I placed some embossing foil behind the sample and photographed it again:
It became slightly more engaging, and more so when I framed the photo to view only part of the sample:
I also viewed the sample lit from behind with an angle-poise lamp (see photos below):
And in close up:
The translucent property of the latex is now revealed, and by framing get the image so only part s visible, it has all of a sudden become more dramatic and intriguing. An alternative way to achieve similar results might be to increase in scale (so it resembles a specimen viewed under a microscope). So, this is the direction I would take the sampling if I were to develop it. I would also consider silicone rubber for my mouldings as an alternative to latex because of the discolouration which occurs in natural latex over time.



Part 3, Stages 2&3, Project 1 – Moulding from a surface (blog post 2)

18 February 2017

Stages 2&3, Project 1 – Moulding from a surface (blog post 2)

***** continued from blog post 1 ********

Formable fabrics:
I decided to carry out a series of experiments to determine how well texture can be reproduced with the following materials:
  • Wetted leather 
  • ModRoc (plaster impregnated bandage) 
  • Starched fabric 
  • Rice paper
Wetted leather:
I left the leather to soak for about 15 minutes in warm water before moulding it over my chosen surface. I pulled the leather taught and left it secured with pins and clamps as it dried.
  • Cost: Cheap. Although leather can be expensive, offcuts can be purchased relatively cheaply and the only other material required is water.
  • Ease of use: Fiddly; the leather has to be kept taught while it dries, and needs to be in continual contact with the pattern. Pinning or some other means of securing is needed.
  • Reproduction of surface texture/detail: Good, but not the most detailed.
  • Handle: Remains pliable, although it does harden slightly after the wetting and drying procedure.
  • Potential for colouring and working: Leather can be coloured with specialist dyes. It can be stitched, punctured and distressed.
SAMPLE  30: Leather stretched across homemade pattern used in sample 10
This was the pattern in which I had glued keys, coins and a nail onto a piece of wood. I simply stretched the leather over the surface using my fingers and various implements such as paintbrush handles and toothpicks, to work the leather into the crevices. I then left it in place until dry.
The result was almost like a ghost image. It reminded me of some of Eduardo Paolozzi’s reliefs, but on a smaller scale. The underside (suede side) of the leather had better defined shapes, as it was touching the objects (see below):
I only had one type of leather, which was thicker than I would have chosen. I’m sure a more accurate relief could be obtained with a thinner, softer hide, such as nappa leather.
SAMPLE 31: Leather stretched across a wooden spoon
For this sample, I used a wooden spoon, stretching the wet leather around it and holding it in place with drawing pins and paperclips to keep its taught. I left it until the sample was dry.
The result was good, but unremarkable (see below). Drying took several days.
The sample retained it shape well after the spoon had been removed.
SAMPLE 32: Leather shaped with a plastic spray bottle
I chose this bottle because it had an interesting ribbing on the handgrip. I started by simply stretching the leather over the bottle, but found that I needed elastic bands and string to keep it taught (see below). I wondered whether these would also mark the leather.
Opposite the ribbed area, I formed creases in the leather to make it fit around the bottle top. The finished result is shown below:
The leather held the creases and marks well, although as a sample, it’s not really very appealing. Maybe these techniques could be used in another context?

The ModRoc was easy to use. I cut it into appropriately sized strips for my project before momentarily emerging it in warm water before taking out and squeezing gently to remove excess water. The pre-impregnated plaster strips could then be laid across the textured surface. Where possible, I built up layers in different directions for added strength. I left the plaster to dry until it had completed it’s exothermic phase, then removed the mould or pattern before leaving it to dry completely. I used Vaseline as a release agent for all my ModRoc samples.
  • Cost: Cheap and readily available (£1 for a roll from the NUA student shop)
  • Ease of use: Not difficult, and certainly easier than casting plaster. A plastic sheet is useful for protecting the work surface.
  • Reproduction of surface texture/detail: Good, however where the pieces of fabric join, there are ‘lumps and bumps’ and inevitable surface texture caused by the fabric itself. 
  • Handle: Rigid and shell-like.
  • Potential for colouring and working: Finished work could be varnished or painted. Areas where the plaster is not as thick could possibly be stitched or punctured, although there is a risk of cracking.

SAMPLE 33: ModRoc with flattened aluminium pie dish

I flattened a pie dish to get more texture into it’s surface before moulding. The result is shown below:
It would be possible to trim the rough edges with scissors, or a scalpel, if desired. A lovely sample,
SAMPLE 34: ModRoc with fruit squash bottle
I moulded around the bottom third of a squash bottle. However, it was not until I attempted to remove the cast, that I realised that the bottle was tapered inwards, causing the cast to crack as it was removed. Something to watch for in future.
SAMPLE 35: ModRoc with crushed tin can
This was a different can, but the same idea which was used in sample 17. Unfortunately, it was not a success. There was undercutting, particularly i the ring-pull area, which meant the cast cracked and broke when the pattern was removed (see below):
SAMPLE 36: ModRoc with bubble wrap
I used the same piece of bubble wrap which I had used for sample 29. The result was stunning. Not only was the surface in contact with the plastic textured, so was the reverse surface. There were areas of smoothness, areas of fabric textured roughness and creases reflecting those in the plastic itself.
The result was a firm crease shaped ‘shell’ in a wave shape (although a different shape or flat could easily have been formed). I have explored this sample in a series of observational drawing in my sketchbook on pages 29-30.
SAMPLE 37: ModRoc moulded around a yoghurt pot
This was a simple idea, not to Cover the yoghurt pot entirely, but just to make a bridge over the open top, which could be easily removed when dry. The result was a cup-shaped cast which resembled fabric draped across a jam jar (see below)
Turning the piece over, gave a ‘dish’ with a convex dome in the centre.
Thinking about traditional Japanese packaging, I had the idea of using it as a container for marbles (see below):
It looks almost like a waterlily or lotus flower. Sketches and discussion of possible developments have been made in my sketchbook (see pages 42-45).
SAMPLE 38: ModRoc moulded egg box

Despite applying vaseline, the casting did not release properly, and I had to pull pieces of cardboard off the cast. This was because the egg box paper was so porous, that the vaseline soaked in, and effectively did not form a barrier. Nevertheless it is a good casting and a very faithful representation, which I have mistaken for a real egg box several times!
This sample is explored in my sketchbook on page 21.

SAMPLE 39: ModRoc with water balloon and plastic fork
An unlikely combination, but I was thinking also about using the modRoc as a joining method.
I first filled up a water balloon with water then covered most of it with the modRoc (leaving a small gap near the tied balloon opening). I then wrapped and joined the fork. Finally, I also incorporated some pieces of lace and cotton thread. When the ModRoc was dry, I pierced the balloon with a pin to let out the water and I removed it.
I can’t help think that this sample resembles a lamb or goat head, with the water release hole symbolising the mouth.
I’m really pleased with the extra texture added by the fibre and thread scraps. Although they are partially covered by the plaster, it is a good way of integrating them into a mould, giving the impression of hair or fur.
SAMPLE 40: ModRoc and modelling balloons
I wanted to created an inter-twined sculpture of two balloons.
I did not bother with a release agent, because I decided that I would not be attempting to remove the balloon from the casting. First I moulded a round a single balloon, which I had tied together to form a looped shape (see below):
When this first sample was completely dry, I threaded another modelling balloon through and tied it, before starting to cover with modRoc, as before. I also added some string fibres for extra texture.
I had fun configuring this sample in lots of different ways and photographing it. In some positions, it appeared acrobatic, others like two linked arms.
Starched fabric:

I used laundry starch which I first dissolved in water before soaking cotton muslin fabric. I then laid the fabric over the pattern/mould and allowed the fabric to dry completely before removing it.
  • Cost: The starch is cheap and readily available (£2.05 for 200g from Amazon)
  • Ease of use: Not difficult, however the instructions were ambiguous, stating “scoops” without detailing the volume or weight.
  • Reproduction of surface texture/detail: Not particularly well defined. Possibly because the starch solution which I had used was not sufficiently concentrated. A more closely woven fabric may also have worked better.
  • Handle: Stiffened, but still pliable.
  • Potential for colouring and working: Would be easy to sew into tear or puncture. However, I suspect that handling would remove the stiffness and any shape would be lost.

SAMPLE 41a): Starched fabric stretched over a homemade pattern of keys, coins and nail (see sample 10)

I used the same pattern which I had made for sample 10, and which I had also used for sample 30. Initially, I felt that the results were disappointing; I could barely make out the shapes of the objects. However, in certain contexts, maybe this could be a desirable effect? The sample looks almost “ghostly”, and you have to use your imagination to decipher what the objects might have been. There is the feeling of just a fading trace of something lost.
Not surprisingly, the fabric was stained by the wood and metal. However, this might be desirable effect in some instances.
SAMPLE 41b): Starched fabric with bubble wrap
This was the same curved piece of bubble wrap which I had used for samples 29 and 30. When the fabric was removed, it retained the shape of the bubbles, but not the overall curved of the wrap. I was a little disappointed in this respect.

Rice paper:

I used strips of wetted rice paper which I laid across the pattern/mould. The starch in the paper acts like glue, so when dry, the paper  sticks together and takes the form of the object.
  • Cost: Not particularly cheap (approx. £6 for 8 x 12″x54″ sheets), however economical, providing the project is small.
  • Ease of use: Very easy.
  • Reproduction of surface texture/detail: Good, although not as well defined as ModRoc.
  • Handle: Stiffened, but still pliable.
  • Potential for colouring and working: Would be easy to stitch, puncture or tear, however handling is likely to degrade the moulded surface. Colouring would have to be done whilst wet, before moulding.
SAMPLE 42: Rice paper with flattened aluminium pie dish

This was the same dish which I had used for sample 33, so it was nice to be able to compare results with the different materials. I made an observational sketch of this sample on page 28 of my sketchbook.
I was very surprised how well this moulding worked with nothing more than wetted rice paper. Unlike sample 33 (made from ModRoc), which is rigid, this sample is pliable, workable and much lighter weight. I would have liked to make some more samples from rice paper, however, I ran out of time.
I had some latex already, so I thought I would try it. I liked the idea that it could be coloured with water-based paint and is soft enough to be sewn into. If used alone, the resulting skin is stretchy. A firm mould/casting can be formed by adding a layer of fabric gauze. A sprinkling of talcum powder prevents the finished latex skin from sticking to itself.
Although latex can be applied by brushing on or dipping, to dip would have required a large amount of latex to fill a suitably-sized contained, so I opted for the brushing technique. 
  • Cost: Liquid Latex (skin safe) is quite expensive (£13.99/litre from Amazon), but it is economical in the quantity used for each mould.
  • Ease of use: Very easy, although it has to dry between each layer, which makes the whole process time-consuming. It also damages the brush used to apply it, but forming a skin around each bristle which builds up over time. A release agent is not necessary. Due to it’s stretchiness, it can be used where there is a undercutting (although deeply undercut surfaces were not successful).
  • Reproduction of surface texture/detail: Excellent – every detail is captured.
  • Handle: Pliable and rubbery, forming a stretchy skin.
  • Potential for colouring and working: It dries to a rather unattractive semi-opaque off-white, which I have found changes to an even less attractive yellowish brown over time. However, it can be successfully combined with acrylic paint before application, which also speeds the drying time.
SAMPLE 43: Latex mould of a polystyrene meat tray
The tray was the same one which I used for sample 26 and had a diamond-shaped base. I started by brushing layers of natural latex onto the surface letting each layer dry between applications. Numerous applications were made over approximately 2 days. Because I don’t find the natural latex colour very attractive, I decided to make the final layer coloured by incorporating some acrylic paint. This gave amazing results (see below: tray left, moulding to the right)
The diamond showed up as the natural beige colour, where the latex was more thickly applied, but where it was thinner, it was sufficiently transparent as to allow the brown paint to show through, giving a really interesting two-tone effect.
The application of the latex is not uniform, although I think this adds to the samples interest with texture and colour variation.
Because I liked this sample so much, I decided to make another series using the same two-colour technique. I have also made some observational drawings and analogies on pages 24-26 of my sketchbook.
SAMPLE 44: Latex mould of a chard leaf
Using the same method as above I applied layers of latex to a chard leaf from my garden. 
The leaf was quite floppy and highly textured with a lot of undercutting, so I wasn’t particularly optimistic about the results. However, the finished sample is an excellent replica of the original surface, made even more dramatic by the use of a final coat of latex coloured with acrylic paint.
The sample is also highly tactile and stretchy. I made observational drawings on page 22 of my sketchbook.
Despite initially loving this sample, I have been disappointed with how the uncoloured latex has discoloured over time (see below)
In future, I shall not leave any latex in it’s natural (uncoloured) state.
SAMPLE 45: Latex mould of an avocado skin

This was a beautiful casting which captured the subtleties of the surface. Again, I used a natural latex layers initially, followed by a final layer coloured with green acrylic paint. The outer edge is where the layer made a “mould” of the plastic bag which I was resting the avocado skin! It could easily be trimmed off with a scalpel or scissors, however, I left it because it is an interesting surface in it’s own right.
SAMPLE 46: Latex mould of a homemade pattern using staples
This was the same pattern that I had used for sample 13, simply brushed with layers of latex. Unfortunately, the paper stuck to the latex, and the sample tore as I tried to remove it (possibly due to undercutting).
SAMPLE 47: Latex mould taken from a crushed can
Taking inspiration from sample 17, I coated a crushed can with layers of latex. Unfortunately, due to the undercutting around the ring-pull area, it tore as I tried to remove it from the mould. It was also quite a “ragged” sample because of how the latex has spilled over the edge of the can and onto the plastic sheet which it was resting on.
SAMPLE 48: Latex mould taken from a flattened aluminium pie dish
Taking inspiration from samples 33 and 42, I covered a similar flattened pie dish with layers of latex. There is a hole in the final sample because the piece dish was punctured as latex ran through. However, the sample is really interesting, especially in the two-colour version (see below)
It reminded me very much of a biological specimen, with the natural latex resembling fat. I have discussed this in connection with potential development work and developed analogies on pages 47-52 of my sketchbook.
As there is a lot of thickness of natural (uncoloured) latex in this sample, the discolouration over time has been particularly marked (see below, after a few weeks). I find the brown colour unattractive, so I will colour all my latex in future.

SAMPLE 49: Latex mould taken from a scored polystyrene meat tray

I scored a plastic meat tray with a scalpel before applying the latex in layers using the same method as before. It was the same mould which I used in sample 18 (from which I had taken a press-mould using air-drying clay).
I really like the surface texture created, however, some of the polystyrene stuck to the latex as I removed the casting. It was not serious, however it is visible on the finished sample.

I bought some general purpose condensation cure silicone, consisting of base and catalyst. It was necessary to throughly mix these components throughly before casting. So that I could make sure that it was mixed properly, I bought some pigment which I added at the same time. I didn’t have the facilities to cast by dipping my object/surface into the silicone, so I opted for pouring it on. The mistake I made was that the silicone was too runny and tended to run off the surface (at least in parts) before it had set. I should have purchased a thixotropic agent (an additive which makes the silicone thicker, and suitable for this type of application). Nonetheless, I got some interesting results, and because I had not not added the thixotropic agent, some very thin and delicate membranes. An advantage with silicone is that it only adheres to itself, so unless a silicone mould is being used, a released agent is not needed.
  • Cost: The general purpose 1.1 litre kit of condensation cure silicone (1 litre base + 0.1litre catalyst) which I purchased from MB fibreglass cost £16.67. The small pot of pigment (enough for this quantity of silicone) cost about £2. Whilst not cheap, I was able to make several samples, certainly enough to give me a feel for working with the material. 
  • Ease of use: Very easy, although it would have been better if I’d added a thixotropic agent.
  • Reproduction of surface texture/detail: Excellent – every detail is captured.
  • Handle: Pliable and rubbery, forming a stretchy skin. However, I feel that it is more fragile and prone to tearing than latex.
  • Potential for colouring and working: Pigment (if desired) must be added before casting. Lots of colours and finishes are available. The finished material can be stretched, stitched or punctured.

SAMPLE 50: Silicone mould of a chard leaf

I decided to attempt moulding the chard leaf because of my success with latex in sample 44. However, the silicone was less viscous than the latex, it tended to run off the surface leaving a lacy pattern with many holes (see below), rather than a continuous skin.
As you can see from the photo collage, I enjoyed experimenting by viewing the sample under different lighting conditions and seeing what shadows it would cast. I also explored the sample through sketches (see sketchbook page 48-49), both observationally and to explore the context in which this sample might be developed further. 
The downside of this sample is that this sample is extremely fragile. However, this is also part of it’s appeal and it is because of it’s intricacy and delicacy that it is one of my favourite samples.
SAMPLE 51: Silicone mould of bubble wrap
I used the same piece of bubble wrap as I had to make samples 29 (papier mache), 36 (modRoc) and 42 (starched fabric). Once again, because the silicone was not viscous enough for my application method, it tended to run off the surface. However, this resulted in some areas of extremely thin membranes, as well as some areas where holes formed (see below):
Although extremely delicate, this is a very attractive surface. The silicone has captured every detail of the creases in the bubble wrap plastic, yet in other areas, it is smooth and shiny. I like the different thicknesses of silicone and the “breakthrough” areas.
Lit from behind, the sample gives an interesting effect, with the thin areas of letting through more light than the areas where the silicone has pooled (see below):

SAMPLE 52: Silicone cast taken from an air-drying clay mould of avocado skin

I had already made a mould of the avocado skin using air-drying clay, into which I poured the silicone.
Because the air-drying clay was hard, the only way to remove the casting from the mould would have been to break the clay! However, the clay was rock hard and not very brittle. A gentle tap with a hammer was not sufficient, so I decided to give up rather than risk injury.

SAMPLE 53: Silicone cast of polystyrene meat tray

This was an identical meat tray to the one used for samples 26 (carton Pierre) and sample 43 (latex).
I was really pleased with this casting. A pliable surface which could be manipulated (for example by wrapping around another object), and an excellent replica of the surface.
SAMPLE 54: Silicone casting of air-drying clay mould of knitting sample (see sample 16)

I altered sample 16 by building up a wall of clay to make a mould which would contain the silicone.
You can see from the mould (above) that minute pieces of silicone stuck to the air-drying clay and stained the mould. It was also very difficult to remove (although I did manage eventually!) If I was repeating this casting, I would opt to use kiln-fired clay instead (which remains pliable unless fired, so is easy to remove by peeling back).
The results were amazing (see below) – astounding levels of detail, right down to the texture of the fibres on the string!

Plaster of paris casting using pressed clay moulds:

This was the last set of moulded surface samples I made. They came about because I had been using plaster of paris for project 2 (casting an internal surface) and had plenty left over. After the difficulties with using air-drying clay as a press mould, I thought of trying kiln-fired clay, which being pliable, can been peeled away after casting. This means that it is possible to make a usable mould even where there is undercutting. Guided by Brooks (Brooks, 2005: 31), I opted not to use a release agent on my patterns (the exception being the mould made from a piece of bark).
Making the moulds first was a similar process to using the air-drying, polymer and paper clays. I cut off and rolled up a thick piece of the clay, then made an impression with the pattern of my choice. If it didn’t look as if it would be deep enough to hold the plaster, I rolled up a “sausage” of clay and attached it around the sides to make a wall. 
I then mixed up some plaster of paris. I didn’t weigh the amount of water and plaster, I just added the plaster to the water filled bucket until “islands” of plaster appeared on the top of the water. I squeezed out lumps with my hand, then poured the plaster firstly into a jug, then into my moulds. I waited until the plaster was set before peeling away the clay. 
In general, I was delighted by the range of surfaces which I was able to create and the level of detail captured. I noted however, that the clay tended to stain the surface of the plaster brown. This would not be an issue if the sample were to be painted, or some other surface treatment applied.
  • Cost: The kiln-fired clay cost £8.25 for 5kg from Amazon. There was enough to make all the moulds shown above, and it will probably be reusable. The plaster of paris cost £23 for 25kg. I only used about 1/10th of the pack for these samples.
  • Ease of use: The clay was very easy to use, being more pliable than the air-drying and polymer clays which I used. The plaster was straightforward, but extremely messy (especially as I am working in a domestic environment). I found that it can be difficult to make up the correct quantity (I usually made too much), and a dust mask and eye protection are needed during preparation.
  • Reproduction of surface texture/detail: Excellent – every detail is captured. It is a bonus that undercut samples can be used.
  • Handle: After a few hours it is touch-hard, yet still fragile. The plaster dries very hard over a period of days (depending on the thickness), but retains a powdery, porous surface.
  • Potential for colouring and working: Dry plaster casts can be painted with acrylic paint, stained with shoe polish or varnished. 
SAMPLE 55: Plaster of paris cast from moulding of a candle holder
I used the same metal candle holder that I had used for sample 12 (air-drying clay) and sample 21 (mouldable polymer) as a pattern. I made a mould by pressing the surface into a slab kiln drying clay. The plaster cast which I took from the mould gave good detail, however it was difficult to get even pressure when making the mould (I had to roll the candle holder in the clay), and this is reflected in the plaster cast.
The edges of this cast are a bit messy, because I was not too particular when making the walls of my mould. Presumably they could be filed down or sanded (although this would be messy).
SAMPLE 56: Plaster of paris cast from moulding of a seashell
I was very surprised how well this cast came out, picking up every detail, it could almost be mistaken for another shell!
SAMPLE 57: Plaster of paris cast from moulding of some bark
The pattern was made from a piece if bark to which I applied a dusting of talcum powder as a release agent before taking a mould using the kiln fired clay. 
I built up a wall of clay around the impression to make a mould into which I could pour the liquid plaster.
The resulting cast came out very well, being heavily textured and reflecting the relief pattern of the bark. The only problem was that there were some small residual pieces of bark stuck in the clay and in the cast. They would probably be painted over.
SAMPLE 58: Plaster of paris cast from moulding of a piece of burlap
I cut a small piece of burlap and pressed it into a slab of clay to make a mould. The cast was a a lovely representation of the fabric.
SAMPLE 59: Plaster of paris cast from textured surface made with clothes pegs
I made a simple round impression in the clay with a lid, then textured it but pushing the end of a clothes peg into the surface (see below)
The resulting cast (being the negative of these impressions) was a most intriguing surface. The image below shows the cast from above:
And in this image it is viewed from the side:
This example shows how a mundane object can be used to make a truly stunning and unusual surface (see also, page 8 of my sketchbook for an observational drawing)

SAMPLE 60: Plaster of paris cast from textured surface made with a spoon handle
This sample was made using a very similar technique to sample 59, except the implement used to make the texture was a rounded handle end of a plastic spoon, which I twisted as I inserted it into the clay. The photo below shows the two press-clay moulds for samples 59 and 60 (which were made together in a single piece).
The finished cast was a unique textured surface, which reflects the dynamics of the way in which the clay impression was made.
There is an observational drawing on page 8 of my sketchbook, which together with sample 59, places these textured surfaces in he context of an idea for development of textures slabs could be juxtapositioned (i.e. “tiled”).
SAMPLE 61: Plaster of paris mould of a textured surface made with piping cord
The clay mould for this sample was a bit ad-hoc. I took a slab of clay and pressed it roughly flat with my fingers before pushing down lengths of piping cord in a striped pattern.
The resulting cast reflects not just the detail of the cord fibre, but also the undulations of my finger marks. It is a bumpy, uneven cast which has element of uniformity from the roughly parallel string impressions. It has spontaneity which add to it’s appeal.


Brooks, N. (2005) Moulding and casting. Marlborough. The Crowood Press Ltd.

Part 3 – Stages 2&3, Project 1 – Moulding from a surface (blog post 1)

13 January 2017

Stages 2&3, Project 1 – Moulding from a surface – blog post 1


There are four methods which can be used to capture the texture of other materials. 

  1. To make an impression by pressing the textured item into a soft surface (e.g. pressing into modelling clay)
  2. To mould a pliable material by forming it around a hard textured surface whilst wet (e.g. fabric soaked in liquid starch or sugar solution which subsequently dries and hardens to retain it’s shape)
  3. By brushing thin layers of a moulding liquid onto a textured surface. When it subsequently sets it retains the shape and texture of the surface (e.g. latex, silicon)
  4. By pouring a casting liquid into a textured container. When the  liquid subsequently sets it retains the container shape and texture (e.g. plaster or concrete)
The course notes state to use at least four different casting materials to make around six objects. There is no reference to first making a mould, then casting from it, and the guidance seems to hint at using ready-made containers such as textured meat trays or skins of fruit and vegetables. For this project, I have tried to explore as many techniques as possible, and to get a breadth of experience with each method. 
The categories which I explored were:
1. Clay press
  • Air-drying clay
  • Polymer clay
  • Paperclay

2. Mouldable polymers (Softsculpt foam)

3. Papier mache
  • Carton Pierre
  • Layered papier mache
4. Formable fabric
  • Wetted leather
  • ModRoc
  • Starched fabric
  • Rice paper
5. Latex
6. Silicone rubber
7. Plaster of paris cast in a clay press mould.
This obviously gave me more than 6 samples! However, I felt that I needed to make a few with each material to understand how it would be have in different circumstances.
Evaluation of outcomes:
I wanted to compare different materials and their pros and cons, so I thought of the following questions to ask for each sample:
  1. How much does it cost?
  2. How easy is it to use?
  3. How well does it capture the surface texture/detail?
  4. Is it soft and flexible or hard and rigid?
  5. What options are their for colouring and subsequent working (i.e. drilling, stitching, surface distressing)

I wanted to use the project as an opportunity to learn about and compare the behaviour of materials. I started by investigating types of impression which could be made into different types of clay. Below are some general comments about my experience with each:
  • Air-drying clay – cheap (£4/kg from Amazon). Soft and easy to use. It captured texture well, and dried rigid. It is possible to subsequently apply surface treatments such as painting, varnish or possibly metallic leaf. Dries a pale grey colour.
  • Paper clay – expensive (£12.85/454g from Amazon). Softer and easier to mould than air-drying clay but much more expensive. Compared with Air-drying clay there is less tendency to crack, the finished piece is lighter weight and the surface finish is smoother. However, it does tend to warp and curl as it dries. Dries a pale beige colour. 
  • Polymer clay – expensive (£12/454g from NUA student shop). Firm and difficult to work. Did not capture the detail as well as air-drying clay. Rigid with a mottled appearance after firing. Can be drilled or surface distressed.
SAMPLE 1: Homemade pattern from crushed eggshells
I used the crushed egg shell pattern – sample on page 12 of my sketchbook (see below)
I pressed the clay against the surface, smoothing it out using my thumbs and a plastic rolling pin. I then carefully peeled the clay from the surface. No release agents were used during the moulding process.
Sample 1a) Air-drying clay:
I used DAS brand of air-drying clay in a white colour. Once moulded, the clay was left on a talcum-powder covered plastic board overnight to dry. 
The finished result captured the relief reasonably, however the edges were not as sharply defined as the eggshell pieces on the pattern. The fine brush marks from the acrylic paint were not visible in the mould, despite being visible in the rubbings on page 11 of the sketchbook. The result reminded me of pox-marked skin!
SAMPLE 2: Homemade pattern from cut up fruit netting
I used the cut up fruit netting pattern – sample on page 12 of my sketchbook (see below):
Sample 2a) Air-drying clay:

I used the DAS Brand of clay in the same way as sample 1a).
This surface was more accurately captured in my moulding compared with the egg-shell pattern. Lots of fine detail of the net, but once again, the fine detail of the acrylic paint brush marks was not replicated.
Sample 2b) Polymer clay:
The brand of clay which I chose to use was ‘Super Sculpey’. It is described as ceramic-like and with a semi-translucent finish. The only colour available to me was beige, although it can be purchased in other shades.
Before moulding it was necessary to work the clay in the fingers until kit became soft and malleable. This was both time consuming and uncomfortable (because the clay was so stiff). After moulding in the same way as for the air-drying clay, I laid out the sample on a metal tray and “fired” it in my domestic oven at 130degC for 15 minutes (in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions).
The texture of the fruit net was well replicated, although not as well as air-drying clay. Some acrylic paint brush marks were visible. However, there was a mottled effect caused by inclusions in the material which distracted from the relief pattern making it difficult to visually read. The finished moulding was rigid and tough. Despite the finish being supposedly translucent (manufacturer’s description), to me it appeared opaque. The colour was unchanged by firing.
SAMPLE 2c) Paperclay:
The paperclay gave a finish comparable to the air-drying clay, maybe slightly better definition. However, as the sample dried it did not stay flat, but warped and curled.
SAMPLE 3: Homemade paperclip print block
I used an existing print block made from opened out paper clips glued onto a cardboard base. To make my moulded surfaces, I used the same methods as for sample 2.
Sample 3a) Air-drying clay:

The air-drying clay produced a reasonable replica, although the clay did not peel away particularly easily from the pattern (I did not use a release agent)

Sample 3b) Polymer clay:

I took the polymer clay mould after the air-drying clay. I didn’t use a release agent and some areas got stuck slightly as I tried to peel it off from the pattern. This was because the paperclips were becoming unstuck from the card, so there was some undercutting of the clay.
The level of detail is similar to the are-drying clay. 
Sample 3c) Paperclay:
The paperclay also produced an excellent sample. It was smoother than the air-drying clay, however it did warp as it dried, as can be seen from the photo below:
SAMPLE 4: Avocado skin
I made a pattern by taking the skin of half an Avocado and turning it inside out. I did this so that the mould would appear as a dome and show off the texture nicely. I used the same methods as for samples 2. I didn’t need to use a release agent, although the skin was ‘single use’, because it had to be torn during removal.
Sample 4a) Air-drying clay:
The sample was delightful – a very detailed and beautiful texture, which was more interesting because it was a dome rather than flat.
I can imagine several of these pieces being joined in interesting ways, with contrasting joining materials.
Sample 4b) Polymer clay:
The sample was disappointing because it lacked detail. Consequently, it was nowhere near as dramatic as sample 4a).
Sample 4c) Paperclay:
A good replica, comparable with air-drying clay.
SAMPLE 5: Lace
First, I rolled a slab of clay flat. I then laid the piece of lace on a clear flat plastic lid, and placed the clay slab on top, pressing down. Turning the lid over carefully, I was able to see the fabric the other side and check that they clay was making contact with it in all places (see below):
Where necessary, I applied additional pressure selectively with my fingers, before gently peeling the clay off the lid and the fabric.
Sample 5a) Air-drying clay:
The moulding replicated every small detail of the lace fabric. Because the impressions are shallow, the effect is subtle and delicate.
Sample 5b) Polymer clay:
The level of detail is similar to air-drying clay, although the relief is more difficult to discern because of the colour and mottling of the clay.
Sample 5c) Paperclay:
A very detailed replica, although I’m not sure that the impression is as deep as the air-drying clay sample (possibly because I didn’t press as hard). Again, the sample warped as it dried.
SAMPLE 6: Homemade hot glue pattern
I made this pattern by ‘drawing’ with a hot glue gun onto a piece of used etching polycarbonate. When the glue dried it made a raised surface which I used as a pattern for moulding (see below)
The idea came from a book which I have on printing, which suggested the same method for making print stencils (Bautista, 2014:10). I used the same method of moulding as for sample 5.
Sample 6a) Air-drying clay:
The clay made a very faithful replica of the pattern. I love the loose painterly feel of the marks which the glue makes. It got me thinking about exciting possibilities for using a glue gun to ‘draw’ a pattern design which is a recognisable image rather than the abstract marks which I used for my sample.
Sample 6b) Polymer clay:
As, I have seen in other samples, the relief on the polymer clay image was more difficult to read than the air-drying clay.
SAMPLE 7: Fern leaves:
I found two different species of evergreen fern from the garden and pressed the leaves into flat slabs on clay (using the same method as sample 5). The photo below shows the moulding in progress:
Sample 7a) Air-drying clay:
The air-drying clay produced a very detailed, accurate replica of the leaves.
Sample 7b) Polymer clay:
Polymer clay was again disappointing. The detail did not transfer as well and the image was feint. Also, some of the hairs from the fern stem and some tiny pieces of leaf stuck to the clay, as I removed it. I removed the leaf fragments with the tip of a knife, but I could not extract the hairs and these remain embedded in the clay.
Because the polymer clay moulds were consistently of lower quality than air-drying clay and in consideration of it’s higher cost, I decided not to do any further mouldings using it.
Sample 7c) Paperclay:
A vey detailed impression, similar to air-drying clay.
SAMPLE 8: Bergenia leaf

The Bergenia (also known as “Elephant Ear Plant”) has waxy evergreen leaves which have bold veins and toothed edges. I used the same method as sample 5 to make an impression on rolled out strips of clay.
I chose this leaf because it was not too large and had characteristic “bite” marks at the edges. Being the winter there was not too much choice. I would have ideally liked a leave with more delicate veins to better assess the mould properties of the clay.
Sample 8a) Air-drying clay:
The mould is a reasonable replica, although I don’t find the leaf impression particularly dramatic or interesting.
SAMPLE 9: Homemade Lego and acrylic paint shims pattern
For a while now I have been pulling off saving those dried up layers of paint which form on paint tubes as excess paint dries around the opening. I have been fascinated by the shape of these ‘shims’ – similar, yet each slightly different.
I made my pattern by gluing shims and lego strips onto an unused polycarbonate etching plate (see below):
The paint shims were flexible and I wasn’t sure if they’d stay put during the moulding process, but in the event they were fine. I used a hot glue gun to secure them to the plate.
Sample 9a) Air-drying clay:
The impression made was bold and accurate. Both these components worked really well and I can imagine them being used as part of a larger piece.
SAMPLE 10: Homemade pattern of keys, coins and nail
I chose coins because I wanted to see if my moulding would be able to capture the detail of their surface markings. I chose keys and nails because they are bold and have a high relief. I chose a piece of wood to mould them on to see if the wood grain could be captured in the mouldings.
Initially, I tried to glue the metal objects using UHU. The glue did not hold, so I tried again using the hot glue gun. The result was secure was there was some messy overspill of glue onto the wood. Never mind; I went ahead with my moulding.
Sample 10a) Air-drying clay:
I found that the clay stuck to the pattern, so I sprinkled talcum powder as a release agent, as recommended by Brooks (Brooks, 2005:31). Unfortunately, the clay still stuck because of undercutting along the shank and bit of the keys. There was a further issue due to the way that I applied pressure with a rolling pin, causing the clay slab to ‘jump’ and produce ghost mouldings (this was the first press mould which I made and I subsequently modified my technique to ensure I applied a more even pressure).
In addition to the difficulties I have outlined above, I was also not able to replicate the detail from the face of the coins, nor the wood grain within my moulding.
SAMPLE 11: Homemade pattern using cocktail sticks and string
I attempted to make a pattern by using a hot glue gun to secure cocktail stick and A coil of string onto a piece of wood. The pattern making was not successful because I found it impossible to prevent the glue from overspilling and messing up the surface (see below):
None the less, I decided to go ahead and make a press mould, thinking that the glue trails might add interesting extra textures!
Sample 11a) Air-drying clay:
The resulting mould was a mess. Because the Cocktail sticks and string were not flush to the wood there was severe undercutting and the clay slab did not pull away cleanly.
Although I actually rather like the finished results, it does not reflect the initial surface and could more easily have been made by simply scratching with implements along the clay surface.
SAMPLE 12: Candle holder
The metal container which I used to as a pattern originally housed a glass jar and a scented candle. The design is bold, and I was able to roll a flat slab of clay before pressing it with my fingers against the surface. When I peeled the clay away, I laid the mould flat to dry.
Sample 12a) Air-drying clay:
The resulting mould is bold and very well defined. Although it has a fabric-like quality it is a more striking relief than the mould which I look from a piece of lace (sample 5). This is because my pattern was rigid, so I was able to press the clay almost through the holes. I am very pleased with this result and I shall look out for similar found objects which I might use.
I developed this idea through observational drawings in my sketchbook (see page 32)
SAMPLE 13: Homemade pattern using staples
I used a pattern which I had developed in my sketchbook (see page 13). I did not use a release agent. Being card, there was a tendency for it to absorb the moisture from the clay. 
Sample 13a) Air-drying clay:
I used talcum powder as a release agent because the first sample I had made (13b) had tendency to stick when I peeled away the clay. However, I have found that it’s not ideal using powder because the clay tends to move across the surface, as the impressions are taken. That’s what happened in this case, and “ghost” impressions are visible. 
Sample 13b) Paperclay: 
This sample was the first impression that I took for the pattern, without the use of a release agent. Although there was some slight adhesion of the clay to the staples, the resulting sample was an excellent impression of the pattern. However, there was a lot of surface warping because the sample was thin.
I was interested in the very subtle shadows and tonal variation in this sample, so I made an observational sketch (see page 27 of my sketchbook).
SAMPLE 14: Fabric selection
I took four different fabric types: a rolled up pipe cleaner, some corduroy, some decorative trim and fur fabric. I used Vaseline on the corduroy and fur fabric as a release agent. No release agents were used on the other materials. I then made a press mould using paperclay.
Sample 14a) Paperclay:
Apart from the trim and perhaps the pipe cleaner, the other materials gave a very subtle impressions which were rather disappointing.
There was no perceivable difference between the behaviour of the materials which had Vaseline applied as a release agent, and those which did not. However, due to fraying at the cut edge, there was some corduroy and fur fabric fibre left stuck in the clay after it was peeled away.
Although this was not the intended outcome, it reminded me of the work of Rebecca Fairley, who, as well as taking moulds of fabrics, sometimes also imbeds them into the casting material, or works them in a way which leaves visible fibres behind. As can be seen in the case of Rebecca’s work this can give an attractive outcome. I need to bear in mind when using “fluffy-fibres” fabrics that shedding will occur around the edges. The effect is not aesthetically pleasing in my sample, although it might be useful in another context.
SAMPLE 15: Textured knitting
I cut a piece of an old jumper which I had knitted, with the aim of taking a press-mould and seeing whether the cables could be replicated as a textured surface in the clay.
Sample 15a) Paperclay:
I decided I would smear half of the sample with Vaseline release agent and the other half I would not use a release agent, so that I could compare the results. There was no difference, either in the ease of peeling back the clay from the knitted fabric, nor the quality of the impression.
Some of the stitching are visible, but it isn’t as dramatic as I’d hoped. It is still a pleasing effect and I wonder if the pattern might be emphasised by applying colour selectively across the high points?

SAMPLE 16: Knitted string
I knitted a piece of garden string in garter stitch using 12mm needles. I smeared Vaseline onto the knitted square before taking press mould impressions with two types of air-drying clay. I purposely chose a loose, open, lacy stitch and a textured yarn (the string).
Sample 16a) Air-drying clay:
I made impression in a slab of clay, then built up “walls” around the edge with the idea of later using it as a mould for a plaster or silicone casting (N.B. In the photo below, the sample has already been used as a mould for silicon rubber, and there is some residual yellow staining)
I was very pleased with the impression which was really bold and, in the negative, resembles scales.
Sample 16b) Paperclay:
If anything the mould turned out even better in paperclay. I was pleasantly surprised that the knitting came away from the clay easily and that there were very few retained fibres. However, once again the sample became warped as it dried.
SAMPLE 17: Crushed can
An encounter with some rubbish whilst on a walk gave me the idea of using a crushed can as a pattern (also being an opportunity to use a found object). Instead of using this can embedded in the mud (which would have been difficult and time-consuming to clean), I used a fresh can from home. The muddy can was very visually appealing, however, in that the placement of the mud in the low points reminded me of “Surface d’empaquetage” (Christo, 1960) and Christo’s early wrapped cans and bottles (Beach packaging design, 2015).
Sample 17a) Air-drying clay:
First, I smeared a crushed can with Vaseline (my release agent) before pressing a slab of clay into the can to make my sample. I encountered some technical difficulties with undercutting, so there are parts of the mould which tended to pull away as I peeled it off the pattern. However the finished result is generally good, and the negative impression is very intriguing – considering it has been taken from a familiar everyday object, it looks very different from the original.
I enjoyed making an observational drawing of this sample in my sketchbook and thinking of was in which the image might be viewed/manipulated (see sketchbook page 31).

SAMPLE 18: Scored polystyrene meat tray

For this sample, I thought back to my earlier work in surface distortion for part 1, project 4, exercise 2. I used a scalpel to scratch and gouge at the base of a polystyrene meat tray to creat a textures surface for moulding.


Sample 18a) Air-drying clay:

I pressed some air-drying clay into the base of the dish to take an imprint. No release agents were used. The clay was removed from the tray when dry, however, because of the fragile nature of the scored polystyrene, some of it was pulled away with the clay, so it would probably only be possible to use this once as a mould.
The effect is a very faithfully reproduced textured surface which looks almost like a loosely woven fabric or weaving. I love the different densities of marks and how the different height ridges create shadows of different tones.
Mouldable polymers:
I had some sheets of softsculpt (a thermoplastic foam) already in my inventory, so it made sense to try this material. The fact that it can be punctured or sewn into after moulding was also appealing. The foam comes in two thicknesses; the thicker version being more suitable for small embossed plaques and patches and the thin version being better for sculptural forms (Hedley, 2004:87-97).
In both cases, I heated the oven to 140deg C before placing pieces of foam on a baking tray to heat up (60 seconds for thin foam, 90 seconds for thick foam). I quickly took the foam out of the oven and moulded it using my pattern/s.
  • Cost: Expensive, £3.95 for 4 x A5 sheets, two of each thickness
  • Ease of use: Not difficult, but it only remains plastic for a few seconds after heating, so it is difficult to mould large areas, and/or to make a surface with relief areas of different heights.
  • Reproduction of surface texture/detail: Better with some surfaces than others. Generally did not capture as fine detail as clay or plaster.
  • Handle: Soft and bendable, similar to polystyrene foam or Funky foam. It returns to it’s pre-heated condition approximately 10 seconds after removing from the heat source.
  • Potential for colouring and working: Can be stitched by machine or hand. Colouring is possible with acrylic-based paints, spray paints and fabric paints (Headley, 2004:92).
SAMPLE 18: metal beer-bottle caps
I placed several bottle tops flat side down on a wooden board. I took the heated foam and placed it on top before quickly placing another wooden board onto the foam and applying pressure for 10 seconds. Upon removing the boards and bottle caps, the impression was set into the foam (see below)
The impressions are really deep and uniform. I like the crinkled edges and the negative spaces which are created between the circles.
SAMPLE 19: A mixture of different textured items

For this sample I used the thick foam and a variety of items placed on a board (see below), using the same method as sample 18.
The sample was really disappointing (see below)
This was because it was impossible to apply adequate pressure across all the items at the same time, due to them being different heights/thicknesses. As a consequence, most of the textures and contours were not adequately replicated. 
Luckily, because Softsculpt is thermoplastic, it recovered when put it back in the oven to heat and I was able to use it for another sample!
SAMPLE 20: Forming around a basket
I heated a thin piece of Softsculpt form before forming it around my work basket (see below):
It had to use my hand to apply pressure around the curved surface, which would have been impossible had the piece of Softsculpt been any larger. In the event, however, I produced an interesting double-sided sample.
It was easy to use an office hole punch to make a hole in the sample through which to attach the label.
SAMPLE 21: Candle holder
Using the same candle holder as sample 12 for my pattern, I pressed a heated piece of thin Softsculpt to make an impression (see below):
The replication of detail was adequate, however not as good as the air-drying clay. I experienced similar issues as I had with sample 20; it being difficult to apply and maintain even pressure whilst the foam was heated and still plastic.
SAMPLE 22: Bottle-opener
I only had one bottle opener (see below), so I had to work quickly to make multiple impressions whilst the foam was still plastic.
The photograph below is the finished sample, which displays three impression, each progressively shallower/less marked, as the foam began to cool.
this demonstrates the limitation of the material. To re-heat it wold have removed all three impressions and returned the foam to it’s original unmoulded state, so the only way to produce relatable multiple impressions is to have multiple patterns.
SAMPLE 23: Homemade paperclip print block
This was the same print block that I had used in samples 3a)-c) and sample 19. I used a thick piece of Softsculpt in black (the foam comes in black or white, being otherwise identical). I used the same methods as sample 18, pressing the pattern and foam between two wooden boards.
The sample is very impressive, with deep, well defined imprints, even picking up some subtle background texture of residual paint and glue (see below):


(Carton Pierre)

Having reviewed the types of papier-mâché and their recipes, I decided that it would be interesting to try and mould using Carton Pierre, which is supposed to be good for capturing fine detail in texture. The recipe was from the US (Hall, 2011), and I wasn’t quite sure what they mean’t by “joint sealer”. When I looked it up it appeared to be a type of mastic, however, I wasn’t sure whether it was the flexible (polymer) type of sealer, or just a powdered filler. Other sites mentioned whiting or plaster, so I decided that the general purpose powdered DIY filler which I had would probably work. I didn’t work to the exact recipe or quantities in Hall’s video, but I mixed until I got a consistency which looked right. 
The ingredients/method used were as follows:
  • 1 toilet roll, shredded and soaked in water for about half an hour.
I then took batches of the shredded paper and lacerated them in a blender, before squeezing out the water with my fingers. I then put the pulp in a bucket and added the following:
  • About half a large yoghurt container (500g size) of PVA glue
  • About half a large yoghurt container of flour
  • About 2 tablespoons of linseed oil
  • About half a large yoghurt container of of made-up general purpose DIY powdered filler
I mixed all these ingredients with my fingers to make a formable pulp. I used “Papermaking techniques book” (Plowman, 2001), for ideas, included press moulding (Plowman, 2001: 58-61) and casting (Plowman, 2001:66-75).
  • Cost: Cheap, and all the ingredients are readily available household items.
  • Ease of use: Not difficult, however fiddly, time consuming and messy. It takes several days to dry completely.
  • Reproduction of surface texture/detail: Surprisingly good, but my Carton Pierre did have a bumpy and cracked surface texture of it’s own. This could probably be reduced/eliminated by changing the ratios and adding a greater content of DIY filler.
  • Handle: Rock hard and tough.
  • Potential for colouring and working: Can be drilled. Varnishing is recommended to ensure that it is sealed against the uptake of moisture from the environment. It may also be painted.
SAMPLE 24 Sweet packaging

Sample 24a) Chocolate packaging:

I rubbed the inside of the packaging (see below) with Vaseline as a release agent before pressing the pulp down firmly with my fingers and leaving it to dry.
I made just one mould to see whether the paper pulp would hold together with such a small item. It did, and the texture makes the sample resemble a sweet made from dedicated coconut.
In a larger piece several of these could be made and arranged to form a repeating pattern, perhaps being contrasted against a textured fabric background, such as fur fabric or artificial turf. This idea was prompted by the piece “Loosing touch with reality” by Susan Benarcik (Benarcik, 2015). In this piece, I liked her use of contrast between smooth plaster casts of hands and rough texture of the wheatgrass. For my samples I “buried” them in artificial grass, instead of letting them hover above as Benarcik does (see below, samples 24a) and 25)
Sample 24b) Turkish delight packaging:

Using the same method as sample 24a) but with a small textured sweet tray (see below):
The mould was great, capturing all the detail. However, the shape, size, texture and the smell of linseed oil reminds me of those pre-formed birdseed “cakes”.

SAMPLE 25: Heat formed blister packaging
This packaging was from a toy figure and gun which I gave my son form Christmas. It made an excellent ready-made mould. As before, I smeared the inside with Vaseline before pressing the pulp into the mould with my fingers. I left the moulding to dry completely over several days before removing it from the blister packaging.
The finished samples are shown below:

Sample 25a) Gun:
Despite being quite thin and narrow, than sample came out well.
Sample 25b) Robot:
Also a good mould.
SAMPLE 26: Polystyrene meat tray
The meat tray had an interesting diamond relief pattern (see below). I used the same method as for sample 25, pressing the pulp into the mould.
I was a bit hasty removing the sample from the tray, and because it was not fully dry, one of the edges crumbled. The sample is very tactile, and I like the fact that not all of the diamonds are perfect. There are lively shadows.
SAMPLE 27: Press mould of child’s toy
First I pressed some of the Carton Pierre into a flat slab with my fingers. I then used a plastic toy spanner to make an impression in the surface. I removed the toy when the moulding had justed to set.
Traditional papier-mâché:

I tore strips of paper and wetted them with a mixture of 2 parts PVA glue to 1 part water. Prior to moulding, I applied a layer of vaseline to my mould, as a release agent. I then built up layers of paper to mould my surface (about 3 in total, working at right angles too the previous layer for strength). The samples were left to dry thoroughly before removing the mould. It’s worth noting that there are other ‘glue’ recipes, however I chose PVA rather than wallpaper paste or flour because I wanted a tough, translucent finish.
  • Cost: Cheap. PVA glue is cheap and type of paper can be used (although thin paper works best)
  • Ease of use: Not difficult, but fiddly, time consuming and messy. It takes several days to dry completely.
  • Reproduction of surface texture/detail: Good, however where the paper joins and wrinkles there will be some surface texture. A completely smooth surface is difficult to achieve. 
  • Handle: Hardened tough and shell-like.
  • Potential for colouring and working: Although coloured paper can be used, I have found that the dye often runs when it gets wet. My preferred solution would be to apply acrylic paint or varnish when dry. Ink stains may also be possible. It is easy to puncture, cut and fold a papier-mâché shell, if desired.
SAMPLE 28: Balloon mould
I used a ballon and a mixture of plain newsprint and white tissue paper to make the shell. I like the fact that there were both opaque and translucent areas –  see below:
When lit in natural daylight the ball also looked attractive (see below):
It was generally quite tough, although it could be cut or torn and it was possible to push and deform areas with the hands, if desired. Another aspect of this sample which I like is the attractive surface texture (close-up below):
It reminds me very much of a skull. I decided to sacrifice this sample for some further tests, so it no longer exists in it’s entirety. I have developed this idea further in my sketchbook (see pages 33-41).
SAMPLE 29: Moulded bubble-wrap
I used a curved piece of bubble wrap as my textured surface and I applied tissue paper only, using the method described above. The finished mould was crisp and delicate, translucent and with a shiny surface. Being made of tissue it was lightweight and bendable.
****** The experiments are continued in the next blog post (blog post 2) *****

Bautista, T. (2014) Printmaking unleashed. Blue Ash, Ohio. North Light Books. 
Beach packaging design (2015) Christo’s early wrapped cans and bottles. At: (Accessed 1 February 2017)
Benarcik, S. (2015) Susan Benarcik: Loosing touch with reality. At: (Accessed 4 March 2017)
Brooks, N. (2005) Moulding and casting. Marlborough. The Crowood Press Ltd.
Christo (1960) Surface d’empaquetage [user generated content] Creat. Arte tivu. At: (Accessed 1 February 2017)
Hall, J. (2011) Papier-mâché and paper clay. At: (Accessed 9 January 2017)
Hedley, G. (2004) Surfaces for stitch: plastics, films and fabrics. London. Batsford.
Plowman, J. (2001) Papermaking techniques book: over 50 techniques for making and embellishing handmade paper. London. Quarto publishing.

Part 3, Stage 1 – Technical research

9 January 2017

Stage 1 – Technical research

I am entering the moulding and casting assignment with no experience whatsoever, so I have allocated extra time to research the techniques and methods. In this blog entry, I am jotting down a summary of my findings with links to appropriate books, websites and tutorials, so that I may return to the information at a later date, should I need to.


Materials considered:


I have had very limited experience (as a child) of making plaster of paris figures using rubber moulds. A lot of care had to be taken when pouring, to ensure that there were no air bubbles. The plaster also tends to shrink as it dries.

I learned that there are different grades of plaster, some being finer ground than others (Brooks, 2005:117). Plaster may be poured into a mould, or applied in laminated layers by dipping strips of scrim or other loose weave material into the plaster. It may also be used to make a mould from which castings can be taken.

ModRoc is a proprietary product which consists of ready to use plaster impregnated bandage and the Craftmill website gives instruction and tips for usage (Craftmill, n.d.).  

Plaster castings may be made using a mould of plaster, clay press or silicon (Brooks, 2005:31). Plaster castings may be left unfinished. Alternatively, a variety of different protections and decorative surface treatments, such as wax, iron powder, paint and wood stains may be applied (Brooks, 2005:127).


Clay, Paper clay, Air-drying clay, Polymer clay, Papier-mâché and Carton Pierre:

I was initially confused by the terms for different types of clay and their methods of curing. However, I found the George Weil and Sons Ltd website very informative with an excellent range of products (, n.d.)

I have used air drying clay before. It is a readily available, cheap and easy to use material. Similar to plasticine in consistency and handling, it dries hard after a few hours exposure to air. It could be used for making moulds from a textured surface, or pressing into with objects to make surface impression. I have painted it successfully with acrylic paint. It is not foodsafe or waterproof (Hobbycraft, n.d.)

Made from pieces of paper soaked in water and bound with adhesive, papier-mâché is cheap and readily available (especially since waste paper is often used). It is possible to use layers of paper strips, or to mould using paper pulp or shredded waste paper. It is best used in hollow or shell applications (there is a risk that the centre of a large solid sculpture might remain wet).

Initial investigation into paper clay suggested that a kiln was need to fire it, unless a particular brand was purchased (for example, P’clay), and the sculpture was small and hand-held (Paperclayart, n.d.). However, I was able to find further clarification and an explanation of the difference between papier-mâché and air drying clay on the papier-mâché resource website (Hall, 2011). Hall also gives a recipe for Carton Pierre (a very fine form of papier-mâché used for moulding where plaster would be too heavy). Her version is made of pulped toilet paper combined with various readily available binding and preserving materials.

It appears that paperclay was originally made from clay slips with the addition of paper, and requiring kiln firing. These days there are some paper clays which contain no clay (nor necessarily paper!) and are air-drying (Hall, 2011). An example is “Creative Paperclay”. The product webpage says that it resembles softwood when dry and can be carved or sculptured. A different product “Delight” by the same manufacturer (also air-drying) is lighter weight and can be coloured by kneading with water-based paint (, nd).

Polymer clay comes in a variety of forms. Some (such as Scupley brand), requires oven baking to harden it. Polymer clay is available in different colours, and as a solid and as well as a liquid which bakes to an opaque. Makin’s brand, however (which also comes in a range of pre-mixed colours) is air-drying (, n.d.). 



Concrete is a familiar building material, as well as being regularly used for ornamentation and sculptures. I found several instructional websites giving information on concrete casting projects for the garden and home (Instructables, 2016), (Moulding/casting concrete bird bath with rhubarb leaves, n.d.).

Other sources show that very small concrete castings are possible, for example to make jewellery (DIY diamond necklace out of concrete, n.d.), (Jim Cotter on cement and concrete in Jewelery, n.d.), (How to make DIY concrete jewellery – DIY style tutorial – Guidecentral ,n.d.). 

Art Concrete is a website/resource which gives specific information on applications of concrete to art projects, including very small scale projects (Goss, 2015). Although it gives specific ‘recipes’, because it is a US website I found that some of the materials were not available for small volume purchase in the UK. The author also has a blog which I found useful as a source of inspiration, and for troubleshooting (Goss, 2014)

In most cases a mould will be needed to cast from concrete, and this can be made from a range of materials including plaster of paris, timber, fibreglass, expanded foam, concrete and rubber. However, the mould must be non-porous, so would it have to be sealed, for example with varnish (The Concrete Society, n.d.).

Every website seems to have it’s own suggestions on which brand of cement and mixtures of concrete to use. I found the most valuable information in the chapter on “Ciment fondu casting” in Nick Brook’s book “Moulding and casting” (Brooks, 2005:149-150), which covers cement, sand, mixing ratios as well as information on storage and handling and surface treatments.


Resins and eco-resins:

I was excited by the idea of casing with resins because they can be clear and used to trap items (such as delicate seed pods and flowers). I started by researching the main types of resin:

  • Polyester
  • Polyurethane
  • Epoxy
  • Eco-resins
The first three on the list are toxic and require specialist handling and storage, whilst eco-resin is safe, being made out of natural materials (Nottingham Trent University, n.d.a). 
Polyurethane resins are fast curing (de-mould times of an hour or less), and because of their very low viscosity, can be used for bubble-free casting without degassing equipment. They can be used for both clear and coloured translucent castings and pigmented or stone-filled castings (Brooks, 2015: 83). However, polyurethane resins are expensive and extremely volatile, and specialist personal respiratory equipment, specifically designed for use with this type of resin, must be used (Brooks, 2015, 85).
I found a company which supplies a starter kit to produce a silicone mould and polyurethane resin casting (Easy composites, 2015). There is detailed information on their website regarding the specific technical use, safe handling, storage and disposal of these products. The shelf life of polyurethane resin is about 6 months once opened.
Polyester resins are versatile, being available in different transparencies and hardnesses,  with a wide range of compatible pigments. They are also relatively cheap. However, methanol is produced during curing, which must be expelled, so good ventilation is needed, along with specialist personal protective equipment (Nottingham Trent University, n.d.b). In addition, polyester resins require a vacuum (degassing equipment) to prevent bubbles forming during the curing process. 
Eco-resins (or bio-resins) are a recent introduction, formulated from plant-based derivatives such as sunflower seed oil and soya. They were developed in response to increasing information about the health risks associated with working with polyester, polyurethane and epoxy resins. They do not require toxic labelling and are safe to use in a studio/workshop environment with minimal health and safety concerns (Brooks, 2015: 101). Eco-resins also require specialist degassing equipment to prevent air bubbles during the curing process.
Thinking about the use of resins in this project, both polyester resin and eco resins are unattractive because of specialist degassing equipment required. Epoxy resin is undesirable for reasons of cost and toxicity. Having read the data sheet for polyurethane resin in the starter kit (Easy composites, 2015) I am not convinced that it is suitable to use such a toxic material in the home/domestic environment. I do not have a dedicated studio and most of my work is conducted in the utility room and a back office of the house. In a workshop with a fume cupboard I might be inclined to give it a go, but I don’t feel that I would adequately be able to seal the curing area from the rest of the house, nor adequately ventilate the room. 


Jesmonite was invented in 1984 primarily as a construction material. It is a safe alternative to traditional resin systems, consisting of a water-soluble acrylic polymer and calcium carbonate which requires only minimal handling protection in the form of a dust mask and gloves (Brooks, 2005: 71-71).

I found a very good blog post produced as information for CCW (Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon college) foundation students art and design course, which lists general information, tips and hints and suppliers (Foundation 3D, n.d). Nottingham Trent University’s website also gives further details (Nottingham Trent University, n.d.e).

From what I have discovered it does not seem to be possible to cast Jesmonite as a transparent, although as a solid there are many options for colours and effects such as metal and stone fillers (Brooks, 2005:70-71). I have not found any reference to Jesmonite moulding requiring specialised degassing equipment.


I have included these substances together because they are both have culinary applications. I thought they might be safe alternatives to polyester/polyurethane/epoxy resin, because they are transparent (albeit somewhat more stretchy and soft).

I found a very good YouTube video explaining a recipe for a glycerine and gelatine mould (How to make a mold with gelatine and glycerine – part 1, n.d.), and I found that both these ingredients were available in sufficiently large packet sizes to make them viable for moulding. In the follow on video, the glycerine/gelatine mould has been used to successfully make a casting with plaster cloth (a release agent of turtle wax/Vaseline is used). The author cautions against using the mould for paper mache casting because of the high water content of the paper pulp, which she thinks may dissolve/degrade the mould. She also demonstrated that brushing on the glycerine/gelatine was not a suitable method for mould-making (How to make a mold with gelatine and glycerine – part 2, n.d.)


Ice casts are possible in any vessel which is freezer proof. Being clear, there is a possibility of viewing objects trapped within the solid. However there is an obvious disadvantage of the casting becoming liquid at room temperature.

Silicone rubber:

Although primarily used as a mouldmaking material, silicone rubber can be an attractive and versatile casting material. It is flexible, has excellent stretch capabilities, and can be clear, translucent or coloured (Brooks, 2015: 125). It is generally safe to use and can even be obtained in food-safe or skin-safe grades. Nottingham Trent University’s site, gives information on the two types of silicone (condensation and addition cure), with tips and hints on how to use them effectively and pitfalls to avoid (Nottingham Tent University, n.d.c). It appears that some types of silicone require degassing in a vacuum chamber, whilst others do not (Bentley advanced materials, 2017).

Silicone rubber is a flexible, durable material which will set at room temperature with the addition of a catalyst. Release agents are generally not required (Brooks, 2005:63). It comes in a variety of hardnesses, meaning it can be made into objects which are either pliable or firm (Nottingham Tent University, n.d.c). It is an extremely useful and versatile material.


I watched Notting Trent University’s “Introduction to latex”  (Nottingham Trent University n.d.d), and a further YouTube video on using liquid latex to make moulds by painting layers and dipping (How to use liquid latex, n.d). It would appear that latex is the forerunner to silicone rubber and they seem to be similar in use and suitability. I understand that latex is only available as an opaque.



Candle making is an obvious application of wax casting, although there are several types of wax which could be used for casting in moulds, including microcrystalline wax, paraffin wax, modelling wax and glass wax. Although wax generally gives off minimal fumes unless overheated, it has a low combustion temperature and goggles and protective clothing are needed to protect from splashes. Colour must be added to wax in it’s melted state. (Brooks, 2005:159-160). For transparent casting, CCW (Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon colleges) suggest using glass wax (Foundation 3D n.d). Glass wax is very brittle and, according to Brooks, is best poured into silicone moulds (Brooks, 2005, 160).

As well as solid casting, hollow wax casts can be created by brushing on layers (Brooks, 2005:162). There are no surface treatments available to protect or colour wax. However, it can be subsequently carved with a knife or shaped whilst warm with a wax modelling tool.


Fabric stiffening with starch or sugar:

I have used a sugar solution in the past to stiffen and mould crocheted lace. The fabric can be formed into sculptures, vases or even boxes. I can imagine that if used with a fine fabric such as butter muslin, it should be possible to sculpt a textured surface from a flat sheet of fabric. I found an instructional webpage on how to make and use a stiffening sugar solution (Curinga, n.d.). Potential disadvantages of sugar solution over starch might be yellowing with age, and the tendency of the fabric to take up moisture and loose stiffness or become sticky and in humid conditions. Laundry starch is readily available as a stiffening agent, although I haven’t used it before.


Fluid acrylic paints/gesso:

Fluid acrylic paints can be used to both colour and stiffen fabric, which can be moulded to shape before it dries (Monk, 2012:10-11). Gesso or acrylic medium can also be used in a similar way (Monk, 2012:8-9, 17).


Moulding with leather:

I found an interesting YouTube video which explained how leather can be wetted and formed over a textured surface (Leather moulding, n.d.). Another video suggested softening the leather first with a solution of water, shampoo and denatured alcohol (Leather upholstery, n.d.). This is a technique which appeals to me because leather can easily be punctured, sewn, or joined to another material, so the moulding could be used as a component multi-media piece. 

Softscuplt foam:

Softsculpt is a heat formable foam available for purchase in A4 sheets (Painters craft-box, n.d.). The foam is first heated (either in an oven or using an iron), after which, for a short period of time before cooling, impressions can be made by pressing into the foam with 3D objects, or by pressing onto a raised surface. The thin version of Softsculpt may be used for making 3D sculptural forms (Hedley, 2004:87-90). The impressed surfaces may be coloured with paint or permanent markers and may be stitched into (Hedley, 2004: 92).



Bentley advanced materials (2017) Addition-cure silicon rubber. At: (Accessed 13 January 2017)

Brooks, N. (2015) Advanced mould making and casting. Marlborough. The Crowood press.

Brooks, N. (2005) Mouldmaking and casting. Marlborough. The Crowood press.

Craftmill (n.d.) ModRoc plaster of Paris bandage for modelling. At: (Accessed 10 January 2017)

Curinga, K. (n.d.) How to starch decorator fabric with sugar. At: (Accessed 11 January 2017)

DIY diamond necklace out of concrete (n.d.) [user generated content] Creat. That’s how I made it. At: (Accessed 11 January 2017)

Easy composites (2015) Silicon mould resin casting starter kit. At:!/starter-kits/silicone-mould-resin-casting-starter-kit.html (Accessed 9 January 2017)

Foundation 3D (n.d) Resin casting. At: (Accessed 17 January 2017) (n.d.) Model making. At:,80,-1,-1 (Accessed 9 January 2017)

Goss, A. (2014) Art concrete: Questions. At: (Accessed 11 January 2017)

Goss, A. (2015) Art Concrete. At: (Accessed 11 January 2017)

Hall, J. (2011) Papier-mâché and paper clay. At: (Accessed 9 January 2017)

Hedley, G. (2004) Surfaces for stitch. Plastics. Films. Fabric. London. Batsford.

Hobbycraft (n.d.) Clay FAQs at: (Accessed 9 January 2017)

How to make a mold with gelatine and glycerine – part 1 (n.d.) [user generated content]. Creat. Ultimate paper mache. At: (Accessed 11 January 2017)

How to make a mold with gelatine and glycerine – part 2 (n.d.) [user generated content]. Creat. Ultimate paper mache. At: (Accessed 11 January 2017)

How to make DIY concrete jewellery – DIY style tutorial – Guidecentral (n.d.) [user generated content] Creat. Guidecentral English At: (Accessed 11 January 2017)

How to use liquid latex (n.d) [user generated content online] Creat. Richocoarm. At: (Accessed 9 January 2017)

Instructables (2016) Fun with concrete. Instructables guides. At: (Accessed 11 January 2017)

Jim Cotter on cement and concrete in Jewelery (n.d.) [user generated content] Creat. Jim Cotter. At: (Accessed 11 January 2017)

Leather moulding (n.d.) [user generated content] Creat. Nicola Silja. At: (Accessed 9 January 2017)

Leather upholstry (n.d.) [user generated content] Creat. Cechaflo. At: (Accessed 9 January 017

Nottingham Trent University (n.d.a) Casting techniques. At: (Accessed 9 January 2017)

Nottingham Trent University (n.d.b) Polyester resins. At: (Accessed 9 January 2017)

Nottingham Trent University (n.d.c) Silicon. At: (Accessed 9 January 2017)

Nottingham Trent University (n.d.d) Latex. At: (Accessed 9 January 2017)

Nottingham Trent University (n.d.e) Jesmonite. At:

Monk, L. (2012) Exploring creative surfaces. D4daisy books Ltd.

Moulding/casting concrete bird bath with rhubarb leaves (n.d.) [user generated content] Creat. Bobo Gaming. At: (Accessed 11 January 2017)

Painters craft-box (n.d.) Softsculpt sheets. At:

Paperclayart (n.d.) Studio FAQ support. At: (Accessed 9 January 2017) (n.d.) Products. At: (Accessed 9 January 2017)

The Concrete Society (n.d.) Casting concrete sculptures. At: (Accessed 11 January 2017)