MM Part Three – Assignment Three and Reflection

If this assignment has shown anything it is that I am very impatient.  I found it very difficult to let some of these samples sit and dry before I felt the need to lift up a corner of a bag of plaster or remove a cast from a tray. This did not impact on any of the samples I made, to the best of my knowledge, but I did start to make samples when I knew that I would be away from them for a time to limit the interaction I had with them before they were completely formed or set.

Setting of some of these materials also turned out to be different to dried out. Plaster holds the shape it has been poured in to after a few hours, once the powder crystals that have been suspended in water have realigned themselves against the items they are forming around. This meant that any interaction with the plaster samples after a few hours would not greatly change the final outcome as the plaster had already taken on the confirmation that it would retain once it was dry.

Drying times were much more extended than I had anticipated. Even outside over two sunny days little of the paper mache samples had dried out. While the plaster samples felt dry to the touch after two or three days but were still very cold, a sign that the samples may well still be very damp inside.

Even the air drying clay samples required days to dry. The product information suggests that the thickness of the sample dictates the time it would take to dry, 24 hours per 1 cm depth, but even these thin, rolled out sheets took nearly five days until I felt that they were completely dry.

I had not worked with these materials in this way before, however I was very definite that I could not work with liquid latex. I have come across this material before, and while I am not allergic to it, I do find the smell and feel of the latex very off-putting.

One of the anomalies I came across on reading and researching about these materials and techniques was the spelling used. Moulding, molding, paper mache and papier maché some were American spellings and others British. It is worth remembering to search using the different spellings as this gives different results when using search engines or library searches.

I was surprised at the detail that could be captured by the materials used in these projects. When applied directly to an item paper mache, plaster and air drying clay picked up some very small details and retained them on drying. However putting plastic freezer bags between the plaster and the item to be cast reduced the detail dramatically. This could possibly be remedied by pressing the bags of plaster more in to the surface being cast.

One of the draw backs of the plaster samples is the colour of the final pieces. The pink colour is a strange one and I feel that these plaster samples would benefit from being painted if they were to be displayed anywhere. However applying paint to the surface of these samples might reduce the detail visible.

I really enjoyed peeling back the samples to see the surfaces that had been created. This was especially true of the air drying clay samples. The results of these samples were instantaneous, once they were removed from the items they had been pressed in to, as long as they were not touched again, they retained those textures on drying. This material got me to thinking that it could be used to capture textures, possibly from outdoor sites, on the clay tiles that could then be used to print from.

I have continued to take photographs against more neutral backgrounds. These allow the samples to be the focus of each photograph and not a busy background behind. I have also found that I am taking fewer photographs of the samples produced but using more of them on my blog. This has led to some very image-dense posts, hence Project One of this part of the course has been split in to three blog posts to prevent slowing down loading of the pages or making the posts too long.

While the photographs of the final samples produced are neat I have included some less neat photographs of the samples as they were being made. I worked outside and in the basement to make some of the first samples and felt that I wanted to document the work as it was being produced. This gives some photos that have paving slabs in the background or have been taken in low light levels but the samples could not be moved to anywhere more photogenic while they were setting. I think this adds some authenticity to the photographs as they have been made in-situ as the samples were being produced.

I think that the work that I have produced shows a good progression from my beginnings of working with plaster and paper mache, where I was unsure of the samples and surface that might be produced, to the final samples in Project One combining clay, plaster wire or thread to give embellished surfaces.

Not every sample finished as I had expected it to. There were several that formed completed, continuous surfaces when contained in a plastic bag but on releasing the sample from the bag the surface split in to several pieces. This resulted in me not having the sample I had original hoped to end up with but did give me several smaller samples that I could work with, pieces that could be recombined to make a similar sample to the original or to take a single piece and use that alone.

Ultimately what I found was that nothing was really lost in this way of sample making. I may have been aiming for one thing but could still use the end result once the material used had set, even if it had splintered in to several pieces.

However, there were a few samples that gave good results that I can see potential in.

Ice cubes – I cast the ice-cube bags using both plaster and plaster of Paris. The plaster samples were good and showed the creases in the plastic bag on the cubes produced. However the samples made of plaster of Paris have given a similar shape but a very different look to the sample. As each cube is white it looks like a little cloud or small pillow. The material used is hard but it has given a very soft look, I find that very interesting. I took the twelve plaster of Paris cubes and photographed them together. I think that if I was to cast many more of these samples they would look impressive viewed in a large group, piled on top of each other in a similar manner.

Air drying clay and wire loops – The holes in the clay tile had been made using the point of a steak knife. This didn’t give smooth holes in the surface but had raised the clay removed by the knife from the surface to leave cone like indents. I decided to extend these cones out from the surface using thread, but that wouldn’t have stood up as I would have liked so I chose to use wire instead. This kept its shape and would hold itself upright, away from the surface of the tile, in the way I wanted.

This has given a good final sample, the wire loops look good viewed against each other, the repetition of similar shaped loops, in different sizes forming a jungle of lines.

Plastic pots – The two samples cast in the plastic pots worked well. The plaster of Paris captured the threads and produced an interesting surface where the plaster had seeped through the threads to form small islands of plaster within them.

The wire I had used was very elastic, forming coils that were difficult to contain. By trapping the wire in the plaster of Paris base the spring of the wire could be contained. There is something atomic about the look of this sample. There is a feeling of trapped energy in the loops of wire being held down in the plaster.

Cling film – It was difficult to work out where to put this sample. It was the cast of the inside of a vessel, was wrapped and also was a mould of a surface. Wherever it should be I think that this method has some mileage in it. Similar to the ice cubes, smaller casts could be made, in different materials perhaps, and displayed together.


The final samples that I think could be used in further work are the air drying clay tiles. It was easy to apply these to surfaces, remove them and see the indentations that had been made. They also dried fairly flat so they could be used to print from. They also held holes made in to the surface well so could be easily stitched through.

I wasn’t very impressed by the samples I had produced to begin with. I had hoped that more detail of the objects used to form them would be visible in their surfaces. After looking at them more closely I began to pick up details that I found interesting.  I enjoyed drawing those details.

These are not materials that I would have chosen to use outside of these projects. I am glad that I have given them time to grow on me and to experiment with the surfaces and samples produced. I took the course notes to their word and focused on the process and the materials I was using rather than trying to produce finished and final samples. That being said I think that I have found a few ideas that could be worked on and would produce final, more polished samples, after a little more work.





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