Part 3, Stage 4 – Sorting

27 February 2017

Part 3, Stage 4 – Storting

Although I made more samples than the brief suggested, many were simply variations on the same technique, moulding different surfaces with ‘families’ of similar materials (for example the press mouldings which I made using different types of clay). This enabled be to understand the behaviour of the materials in different circumstances (i.e. to see which surface and material combinations gave the best results).

Project 1 – Moulding from a surface

I will briefly discuss the materials and methods from each category followed by the samples which I have selected as being my favourites or which have development potential.
Clay press:
I used air-drying clay, polymer clay and paperclay. Polymer clay was expensive, difficult to work and gave the worst results, so I would not choose to use it again. Although paperclay gave marginally better results than air-drying clay, it was much more expensive and it warped as it dried. My choice of which to use would depend on whether the warping was important to the final result and how much material I needed to use.
There were many patterns which gave great results and which I can imagine using in combination with other moulded surfaces or contrasting materials – from left to right, top row: sample 2c) Fruit netting/paperclay, sample 7a) Fern leaves, air-drying clay, sample 9a) homemade pattern from lego and acrylic paint shims. From left to right, bottom row: sample 12a) candleholder, sample 15a) textured knitting/paperclay
However, there were three stand out samples: sample 16, knitted string and sample 18a) scored polystyrene meat tray because of their fabulous textures and amazing level of detail:
The last stand out sample appeals to me for a different reason. Sample 18a), crushed can is fascinating because by taking an impression (the negative), an item which is everyday and easily recognisable becomes exotic and intriguing (see below):
Mouldable polymers (Softsculpt foam):

Making the samples helped me understand which relief surfaces made better impressions. The downside of this technique is that it is very size-limited (see discussions in stage 2&3). However, it’s flexibility and stitch-ability are a big plus, so I would use it if it were suited to my project.

The only samples which I felt came out really well were sample 18, metal beer bottle tops (below left) and sample 23, homemade paperclip print block (below right). It demonstrates that I would need to experiment to find suitable pattern materials before, which may limit the scope of use of this material.

Papier mache:

The carton Pierre gave unique and interesting results. The mess, and multistage preparation was a downside, but because I like the results, I would use it if I had an application. 
My favourite pieces two pieces were sample 26, polystyrene meat tray (below left), and sample 27, Press mould of a child’s toy (below right).
Of these two, the one which excites me most is the polystyrene meat tray mould. It is the combination of the regular raised diamonds with the texture of the carton Pierre. The two viewed together provide an interesting contrast or small, delicate, repeating pattern and single focal object, and could form part of a larger piece.
I was surprised by the versatility of layered papier mache and in particular the semi-transparent results and different surface treatments. It is cheap, easy to use and gave some great results. Both samples I made were excellent, but the different properties and opportunities for development of the papier mache sphere (sample 28) interested me most (see below):
This sample has appeal, because it suggests so many directions for development:
  • It is interesting when lit from behind, and could have an object placed inside it
  • It could be cut, torn and rejoined
  • The surface texture is wrinkled and interesting
  • Objects could be trapped between the papier mache layers to embellish the sample
For this reason, I decided to develop the sample. I did experiments with samples of the papier mache shell in my sketchbook, and some stitched samples which I mounted onto an A2 display card. I only had time to carry out preliminary investigations, which didn’t fully test my ideas. There is potential for this line of enquiry to be resolved further in a variety of directions and I think it would make an interesting project.
Formable fabric:

I tried wetted leather, ModRoc, starched fabric and rice paper. Starched fabric gave disappointing results and I was underwhelmed by my wetted leather samples. ModRoc was straightforward to use and versatile, giving excellent results providing a textured (woven) surface was acceptable. I was surprised that rice paper was formable, and was drawn to the delicacy of the sample that I produced. I would need to do more work with this material to assess it properly, but it has potential for stitching because of it’s fabric-like quality.
The stand out samples were 36, ModRoc with bubble wrap (below top) and 40, ModRoc and modelling balloons (below bottom)
I’m not sure just yet how I might use the moulded bubble wrap surface, however the ModRoc-covered modelling balloons present an interesting configurable sculpture in their own right. The only aspect about this sample I did not like was the surface finish, which I would have preferred to be smooth. This is something I could explore through development, perhaps by adding layers of paint or varnish.
I was initially very excited by several of my latex samples, particularly sample 44, chard leaf (below left), and sample 48, latex mould taken from an aluminium pie dish (below right)
It was on this basis that I decided to develop sample 48. After some sketchbook work, additional moulding and stitching, I produced sample 72.
I noticed that over time, the natural latex in samples 44 and 48 discoloured and they became much less attractive. I was also disappointed with sample 72, both because of how the mouldings had turned out and because they didn’t contrast well with the cork. For these reasons I would probably not choose to develop this sample further.
Silicone rubber:
I love the results I obtained with silicone rubber. However, cost meant that I confined myself to one colour, and because I neglected to buy any thixotropic agent, I had some technical difficulties with “run-off”. However, the results were sufficiently encouraging that I would certainly consider experimenting with this material further and using it again.
Three samples which stood out and which I love for their delicacy and detail are: sample 51, chard leaf (below top) and sample 48, mould taken from bubble wraped sheet (below middle) and sample 54 (below bottom)
Plaster of Paris cast in a clay press mould:
This technique surprised me. Although a two stage process and messy, the results were excellent, with lots of detail and it being possible to mould complex surfaces with undercutting. 
My favourite pieces on their own were samples 59, pegs and 60, spoon handle. I like them, because as negative impressions of everyday objects (rather like sample 18a) of project 1), they make intriguing relief surfaces. 
My next stage of development would be to explore different relief-making tools and to make new castings. There would be an option to combine these surfaces into a panel (similar to Paolozzi’s reliefs), or to use them in 3D sculptures (a technique also successfully used by Paolozzi). I would also like to think about joining them with contrasting flexible materials and investigate whether this might provide fruitful outcomes.
There is a huge potential for using kiln-dried clay as a mould for silicone instead of air-drying clay. Air-drying clay did tent to stick to the silicone, and because of the clay’s it’s rigidity, it was not possible to mould from a pattern with undercutting (project 1, sample 54). In this respect kiln-drying clay has the promise of being much more versatile and successful as a mould material.

Project 2 – Casting an internal space of a vessel

I confined myself to casting with plaster of Paris, and despite plenty of messy disasters, I also achieved some excellent results. The samples which I would consider developing further are my fabric internal surfaces: sample 4, knitted fabric (below left) and sample 5 burlap-lined bag (below right). I can imagine experimenting with lining different shaped bags and vessels with these fabrics, but also trying out new fibres textures.


I also loved the results of my Henry Moore inspired casts of the internal surface of a balloon – samples 2a) and b)


These foetal-like samples could be enhanced by experimenting with different surface finishes and mounting orientations. They could also be used as a source of inspiration for other work, as they are in themselves a rich source of inspiration for texture, shape and pattern. Because they require a very strong balloon (i.e. a punch balloon) to cast them, there was a tendency for the shape of samples 2a) and 2b) to be constrained, making them appear similar in form. Looking for alternative stretchy moulding vessels might allow me to experiment with longer, narrower shapes or to work on a larger scale. However, this would be difficult in my current environment.

My favourite sample by far (and the most original) was my casting of the negative space between balloons (sample 6).


Technically, it was extremely challenging and not very practical to produce and work on this sample in a domestic setting. If I had a dedicated workshop then I would be wanting to explore different negative spaces, using different items as “positives” and different containers. It’s a very exciting line of enquiry; the shapes and breakthrough areas are complex. To a certain extent the shapes are repetitive but at the same time un-predictable. There are interesting edges with missing “corners” and “edge sections” which have not been cast in plaster because of the presence of the balloons. Intriguing, is that once the balloons have been removed the viewer has no way of knowing what the objects were which produced the spaces.



My favourite ideas for development are:

  • Project 1, sample 28 – papier mache balloon
  • Project 2, sample 6 – plaster cast of negative spaces (not really suitable for a domestic environment, but the idea is one of my strongest and has a huge potential for variation and development)


If I were looking to extend my techniques:

  • Experiment with different relief patterns in kiln-fired clay and take plaster or silicone casts from these.


If I wanted to refine samples which I already like:

  • Experiment with surface finishes for project 1, sample 40 – ModRoc cast balloons 
  • Experiment with making negative impressions of everyday objects in air-drying or paperclay – extending on the work of project 1, sample 18.
  • Continue with variations of kiln-fired clay moulds, taking plaster casts from different surfaces and reliefs.

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