Part Three – Project One – Moulding from a surface – Extra samples
“How or if you can use any of the techniques from parts one and two to embellish or manipulate your samples.
Puncture to create holes for stitching, joining or draw through another material.”
First I felt it was best to go back to parts one and two and review the techniques listed there.
Part One – Folding, crumpling, pleats, tearing cutting, heating, fusing. Scratching, embossing, puncturing and stitching.
Part Two – Joining, wrapping.
Some would be easier than others to achieve with the materials I have used so far. Also, these could be applied to the sample as it was being made or after it had been completed. For example, items could be set in to the surface of a sample as it set or could be stitched through once it had been finished.
Materials used so far have been
Plaster: liquid, can be poured, sets hard, heavy if thick layers used.
Paper mache: Strips of paper and glue can be built up in layers inside or around an object, paper pulp is more liquid and can fill areas if poured in. Takes quite a while to set if too wet to begin with, light when dry.
Air drying clay – holds shape when rolled out or formed in to an item. Shrinks slightly when drying, light when fully dry. Difficult to get a completely smooth surface wen rolling out the clay.
These different characteristics could be exploited to give base samples that are then used for further embellishment.
Below are some ideas for samples that could be produced.
Fruit trays and plastic food containers had proved very useful in this work so far. They again came in useful for a number of these extra samples as retaining vessels for liquid plaster before it had set.
Rubble Surfaced plaster
I found a small pot of rubble from some recent DIY work. This was poured in to the bottom of an ice cream tub to form a thin layer. Plaster was poured carefully on to these small pieces to not disturb them too much. The fluid nature of the plaster meant that it found its way through the pieces to form a slab, encapsulating the rubble pieces in to its surface. Once dry the whole piece was released from the plastic tub and turned over to reveal the rubble pieces.
This is a good way to add a more textured surface to the plaster, had it just been tipped in to the plastic tub it would have set with a smooth surface only.
Further samples could be produced using this method where the rubble was added only to one side of the tub giving a stripe of texture to the final sample or using different materials such as marbles, nails, fabric pieces.
While this sample has worked well, the rubble is quite firmly affixed and the sample was removed in one piece, the pink colour of the plaster is still a little distracting. This kind of sample may be better if it can be painted after completion, formed using plaster of Paris or concrete, as they would give white or grey samples, or if the items embedded added a little more interest in terms of a coloured surface.
Plaster of Paris
I had not used plaster of Paris in the first part of this section of work but had got a good enough feel for the conventional plaster that I felt happy to try out this variation in material.
One thing I had learnt though was that it was difficult to clean up any equipment used for making the liquid plaster as it could not be rinsed in a sink, the plaster powder still sets underwater and can ruin pipes.
Plaster of Paris has to be mixed two parts powder to one part water. For these samples I transferred one kilogram of powder to a four pint milk carton. I then added 500mL water to the powder, returned to cap on to the milk bottle and shook the bottle vigorously. This mixed the powder and water in to a smooth paste relatively easily and quickly. The bottle was useful as it allowed the paste to be poured easily and could be thrown away once I was finished with it.
Casting holes in to concrete and plaster is difficult to research as there aren’t many industrial uses where that is the desired outcome for these materials. They are designed to form smooth, continuous surfaces with no holes in. As such there was little for me to use as references so I had to think a little more laterally. To form a hole in a plaster surface there would have to be something for the plaster to form around that could then be removed to leave a hole.
I chose to push some thin nails though the base of a plastic fruit tray. The plaster was then poured on to the tray, to just below the height of the nails and allowed to set.
After a few hours I pulled the nails out of the plaster. Holes had been left in their place so I was happy enough with the sample. However after drying overnight the sample had cracked through most of the holes. I allowed the sample to dry out in the fruit tray and had a think about what to do. My first thought was to try and repair the cracks, I thought about painting them closed or trying to glue the pieces back together but then remembered about the Japanese repair method of Kintsugi. In this style of repair the cracks are not hidden but are enhanced and attention drawn to them, often by using gold to fill them in. I didn’t have any gold to hand so went to town on the reverse of the sample, still in the fruit tray, with a glue gun. This has left some quite ugly glue lines on the reverse of the sample but these have their own pattern to them that is interesting as another, if unexpected, sample.
I then chose to stitch through the holes, just simple running stitches joining a few holes at a time. These looked very crisp from the front, against the smooth plaster surface, but added to the mess on the back of the sample.
I came across the sausage tray in the first part of this work and thought I should revisit it as part of my work to try and cast holes in to some samples. I had already made a paper mache sample; this, once it had dried out was very light and had taken on the lines and patterns from the tray well. I felt that this could be stitched in to but would need a little more weight to wrap threads around. I repeated the sample with plaster of Paris. It too took on the pattern of the tray, even better than the paper mache, probably due to the fine nature of the gypsum grains in the powder.
I had then produced two very similar shaped samples but the materials use to form them had very different characteristics. The paper mache was very light, had a rough surface and, with some effort, could be stitched through either by hand or by machine. In contrast the plaster sample was heavy, unyielding to being stitched through and had a very smooth surface.
I decided to not to embellish these samples. The lines and detail cast in to the surface seem to be embellishment enough. Any wrapping or stitching would obscure these details and I felt that this would be unnecessary.
Fruit trays had been kind to me for this work but I found two identical plastic pots from some pasta sauce that I felt would be useful to make two similar but different samples.
Rebecca Fairleys work shows a ‘sampler’ of concrete samples that have been put together like a patchwork quilt. This was an effective way to show the samples as their similar sizes made them easy to compare.
I thought I might try making two samples of a similar size to see how they looked together, making one out of plaster and wire and another out of plaster and threads.
Ann Goddards work shows how the plaster can work its way through a material to fill the vessel it is poured in to but doesn’t always make it all the way through the material it is being poured through. This can leave small islands of plaster or concrete that have a smooth surface, having been set against the plastic surface surrounding the item, while still leaving the material the plaster was poured through visible.
This was true in the thread sample. I usually leave the cut ends of threads or the pieces torn off fabric samples in a pile at the end of my desk. I took some of this pile and fed it in to the plastic pot to create a thread net across the interior of the pot. Plaster was then poured in to the pot, the whole pot tapped on the desk to level the surface and remove any bubbles in the mixture, and then allowed to set overnight.
The plaster has trapped many of the threads, and has worked its way through to form some small islands of plaster material on the outside of the sample. There are however, some areas where the threads have prevented the plaster from working all the way out the samples surface. At these points the threads can be teased out to raise the surface, leaving a contrast in texture from the hard plaster to the softer threads.
As the plaster formed a good base in the previous sample I hoped that it would be able to trap the wire used in the next sample as well as it had the threads above.
The wire I have used was on a reel and had been on there so long it had come off the reel in coils and twisted around itself. I formed it in to a ball and placed it in to the plastic pot. I then added the plaster to form a large plug at the bottom of the pot, in the same manner as the previous sample. I made sure to leave a fair amount of the wire showing out of the plaster but also tried to cover up the snipped or sharp ends of the wire inside the plaster base.
I had anticipated that I could weave things through the wire but I felt that this sample works well as it is. I think that it would look good scaled up and using much larger wire coming out of the base. There is something chaotic and almost atomic about the black wire as it loops above the pale, white, plaster surface.
There were some plaster drips on the wire from my haphazard pouring of the plaster. I have recorded these in photos and drawing but removed them from the final sample to allow the black lines of the wire to contrast against the plaster surface.
No further embellishment has been added to these samples, they were examples of embellishment being added as the sample was being cast.
Ice Cube bag
I was surprised how well the casts of the ice cube bag worked when I was using plaster. I also thought that I could repeat this with plaster of Paris. The ice cube bag contains many interconnected chambers, this allows the plaster to run between them and form the cubes while retaining the plaster inside the bag.
I still had the plaster in the milk bottle but thinned it with a little water to make it easier to pour.
Before pouring the plaster in to the bag I thought that I could add some string along two of the lines of chambers. These were threaded through using linen string and a yarn needle. I covered the punctures made by the needle in the bags surface with small pieces of sellotape. I hoped that when the cubes had set I could remove the bag and the plaster cubes would have formed around the string and would form a connected line.
It was tricky to pour the plaster in to the bag. I added a little at a time and had to slightly shake the bag to encourage the plaster to filter through the chambers to form the cubes.
I left the bag to set overnight then removed the plastic to allow the cubes to dry more quickly.
There wasn’t quite enough plaster to completely fill the bags so some of the cubes near the top are not as fat as I might like them to have been, but those that formed around the string have formed a connected line of cubes.
The individual cubes produced look like little pillows, making a hard material appear quite soft, and I am very pleased with them. Much more details is visible on the plaster of Paris samples than the conventional plaster samples. I prefer them to be in white rather than the standard plaster pink too. This is an interesting outcome as it shows that items can be cast around other materials if chosen correctly.
Air Drying Clay
I decided to use air drying clay for the last samples in this exercise as it is not a liquid material like the plaster used above. The clay can be formed in to the shape of a finished sample before it is left to dry. This takes away the random nature of pouring the material in to a mould but it also allows holes and apertures to be made in the samples more easily. The clay can also be pressed in to surfaces to record the texture.
I cut nine tiles out of the clay using a small plastic food storage box. As the clay is already semi-solid it will retain holes pressed in to the surface or cut out sections. These can then be stitched or threaded through.
I also rolled out a tube of clay and wrapped it around the outside of a plastic pot. This fulfilled the criteria of using a mould.
In both these cases the clay pieces produced were a base on to which stitch and fabric could be applied.
I first approached the wound pot. This had dried well after a week and held its shape when removed from the plastic former it had been attached to. I really only wanted to add enough fabric strips to give the wound lines of clay a more pot like form, building up the sides of the pot so that it might look like it could retain items within it.
I wound the pink strip of fabric up and down the coils first and extended it out along the top edge to replicate the height of the clay. The green strip of fabric was then threaded on to the coils and over some of the pink areas. Between them these two strips of fabric have given a continuous surface for the pot which could then be embellished further using more stitches or fabric strips. Some of the clay coils are still visible but that adds to the sample, showing that it is not just fabric that is making up this pot. This also reflects the work of Judith Scott where in her wrapped works the object being wrapped was not always completely covered, often parts of these objects were allowed to show through the wrapped surface.
Of the nine tiles produced four had textured surfaces that would not accept stitch directly through those surfaces. These could have been wrapped to leave areas of texture visible through the threads or yarn used but I found the curved corners of these samples difficult to cover with wrapping to produce finished samples. Instead they have been wrapped with patterned washi tape. As this is sticky it adheres to the clay surface and also to itself, preventing the tape slipping off the tile.
The tile is quite small in scale in comparison to the tape used so few strips of tape were needed to cover the surface of the tile, and also leave a small area of the textured surface visible.
Of the remaining tile samples the following surface treatments were applied.
Knife holes – The holes made with the point of a knife have given small pieces of clay lifted from the tile surface. I felt that these could be extended upwards by using wire loops. Lengths of copper wire were cut and a minimum of four loops formed from each length. One group of loops was then threaded through one of the holes in the tile and the excess wire beneath the tile bent backward to secure the loops in an upright position. This was repeated with the remaining holes until all were filled with wire loops. The wire groups were a little unstable so have been secured underneath using small pieces of masking tape.
I really like this sample. I’m not sure if it is the contrast of the copper-coloured wire and the white tile surface or viewing the groups of loops against each other but this works very well. Maybe it’s both together. This could be scaled up, possibly a concrete base and some industrial wires or metal bars to form the loops.
Fork prints – The fork used for this sample had four unequal sized tines. This left two squares in the centre of each print that were smaller than those on the edges of the prints. I felt that these smaller squares could be used to hold a collection of looped threads while the larger squares held the tails of the threads. I stitched the thread around a pencil to get the loops and then tied off the thread underneath the tile to prevent the loops from moving once the pencil was removed. The loops could be manipulated slightly so that they were not all the same size. I had envisaged that the loops stitched in to the tile would be a selection of different sizes as those that I have ended up with are quite similar. Wire might have been better for this sample as the loops could have been physically moved to give a more haphazard arrangement.
Two tiles were produced by puncturing the surface with a toothpick.
One tile had three holes along a central axis. I produced this tile as a nod to a sample from part one where I had cut some squares out of paper. These had then been stitched through and reattached to the paper they had been cut out from. This stitched line allowed the squares to move within the apertures in the paper.
I should probably have repeated the paper sample above in clay. The square could have been cut out of a clay sheet, and the frame left could have been used to ‘hang’ the square from. I might even have stood up independently.
However with this tile I chose to anchor three bundles of thread on to the surface. Small stab stitches were used to secure the threads down through the punctured holes in the tile.
This has given a more varied size of loop and has covered a large area of the tile surface.
The second tile produced using the toothpick had many more holes punctured in to its surface. I chose to join these holes up using thin perle thread but also to take the stitches over the edge of the tile. This gives more lines of stitch on the tile surface and covers a little bit more of the tile with thread.
Cut away – wrapped
The final tile had two sections cut out of it. The whole tiles had been hard to wrap with thread so I hoped that by cutting some areas out of the surface that thread could be wrapped around the tile a little more easily. This was true but there were some sections that were difficult to cover without covering up the holes that had been cut out of the tile. As I wanted a flat layer of wrapping on this sample some areas had to remain uncovered. This had added a good contrast to this samples surface, the flat tile against the slightly raised, wrapped threads.
Below are the pages from my notebook for these extra samples.