Part Three – Project Two – Casting the internal space of a vessel
For this project I chose to use plaster again. There was still quite a lot of powder left in the bag I had purchased for Project One so it seemed sensible to try and use that up. It also fit the criteria that the material used in this project should be liquid to begin with. I chose to fill freezer bags with plaster for this project. By using the same vessels I felt it might be easier to compare the samples when completed.
I filled each freezer bag half full of plaster, then squeezed as much air out of the bag as possible before sealing the bag up using the press seal on the top edge of each bag.
I then thought of places that I could leave bags of plaster on and that had surfaces that the plaster could form around.
I placed one freezer bag of plaster, prepared as above, on each of these surfaces. Below are photographs and drawings of each sample.
Outside grate – This needed careful balancing of the bag of plaster so that it didn’t fall through. I did push the plaster a little bit to ensure that it had made its way through the gaps in the grate.
Gravel – I placed the bag of plaster on an area of gravel in our back garden. I gently pressed the bag in to the surface of the gravel but otherwise left it undisturbed.
Reverse of tile – I allowed the weight of the plaster to press in to the gaps in the reverse of the tile.
Sticks – I placed the bag of plaster on top of a selection of sticks. This was a slightly smaller bag so contained a lower volume of plaster.
I then tried to use found objects and wrapping on a few samples.
Coins – I placed a bag of plaster on the stone floor of the basement. I then poured on a bag of coins and let them sit on the surface of the plaster bag.
String wrapped around bag – I filled the plaster bag as before but once it was sealed I wrapped string around the bag. I was a little shocked when the seal at the top of the bag popped as I had put the plaster inside under so much pressure. I did get some good indentations in to the plaster surface though.
Paper mache – I filled a bag with paper mache, tied it closed and then wrapped it with string. This took a while to dry out so I chose to heat it in a low oven to try and drive out some of the moisture.
Plug and wire – a variation on using just string, I pressed a plug into the surface of the bag of plaster and then wrapped the attached electrical cord around the bag.
Balloons – After researching Victoria Ferrand Scotts work I wanted to try and produce some similar style samples. I didn’t have any tubes I could fill with plaster so thought that balloons might be useful. I first filled the balloons without blowing them up first, these retained very little plaster before overflowing. I then blew the balloons up first and then forced plaster in to them using a bottle. I could only get one really good squeeze of plaster in to the balloon before it stopped stretching and would accept no more plaster.
I produced the small balloon the day before. I then rested this, already set balloon, on top of the balloon filled with more plaster. I hoped that this arrangement would provide a depression in the large balloon once it had set. The small balloon would not sit directly on top of the larger balloon so I weighted it down with a large floor tile. The weight of the tile prevented the small balloon form moving. The balloons were easily removed from the plaster once the piece had set.
I also filled a pre-blown up balloon with plaster, sealed it, and then wrapped some string around it to create two distinct sections. This was then allowed to set over several days.
For the samples that were sat on other surfaces I felt a little disappointed with my results. I had hoped that the weight of the plaster would have been enough to push the plaster into the recesses in the surfaces the bags had been left on. In most cases this did work but the samples produced were not as sharp as I would have liked. Maybe a bit more interference from me, in pushing the samples down while they were setting or resting weights on them might have helped. Although that might have risked splitting the bags of plaster open.
This was most true of the gravel sample. I had hoped that the edges of individual gravel pieces might be visible in the finished sample surface, instead there are some interesting waves in the surface where the plaster has begun to fall between the gravel pieces but has not yet some in to contact with them. Maybe heavier bags of plaster or more liquid plaster would help in this sort of case, allowing the liquid to move a little more freely.
The small bag I sat on the sticks was interesting. While the plaster was still in the bag the areas that had been pushed up by the sticks had formed some very thin areas of plaster, light just about came through them. Unfortunately the bag itself was holding this piece together as when I tried to remove it from the bag it cracked in to several pieces. Initially I was disappointed but then I remembered Karin Ruggabers work where she had cast several small sections to fit together once set. I could use these pieces in a similar way, paint each one and then reform the sample, maybe leaving small gaps between each piece. Nothing has been lost here.
My found object samples were also a little disappointing. I had the reverse problem with the coins where the objects placed on top of the plaster were not heavy enough to leave deep indents in its surface. There are some lines in the surface however so it has worked in its own way. I suspect that if I took a rubbing of this sample through very thin paper there may be more lines that have been subtly made in the surface that might not be immediately obvious when looking at the sample.
The wrapped samples both had their issues. The string wrapped sample popped while being made so some of the plaster was lost. I did reseal it to let it set but that led to more difficulties when I came to unwrap it. I had tied the string around quite tightly, this had forced the plastic bag into the plaster and it had curled around itself. As a result not all of the plastic bag could be removed from the sample so there is still the odd piece adhered to the surface of this sample. Mixed media I guess.
I also tried this wrapping method on a ball of paper mache. Also terrible. As the wet paper pulp was trapped inside a plastic bag it didn’t dry out. I then cut away some of the plastic and repeated the oven-drying technique from Project One. After a day in the oven the outside of the piece was beginning to dry. I then unwrapped the ball completely and allowed it to air dry. It was holding its shape together well so I wasn’t afraid of losing the wrapped marks made in this samples surface.
The plug and cord felt like it should have given an interesting sample, and it did. When the cord was removed there was an indentation in to the surface and the prongs of the plug had left their mark too. Again, this was another sample that the plastic bag was holding together and so when I went to remove the bag by cutting it away the piece split in to three.
If this was a quantity driven exercise then each sample splitting in to tiny pieces would have given quite the haul. As it isn’t and the items should be in one piece this is a disappointment.
My final balloon samples however saved the day. The two balloons rested on each other set well and gave a final sample with a very neat indentation in it. The curve of the final piece when it was released from its balloon shell was very pleasing.
However it was the final balloon, tied once with string, which gave my favourite sample.
The surface of the sample is very smooth, apart from a small indentation where the balloon was tied closed. But what was most appealing to me is that the plaster has given the same pattern on drying that is seen in Victoria Ferrand Scotts work. I really like the sections produced on this piece and the markings made during its completion.
I am disappointed in the samples I have produced for this project but I am happy that I have explored the process, rather than focusing on trying to create ‘Final’ pieces. I feel that I have worked through each part of the exercise well and where things haven’t turned out as maybe I’d hoped I have a good idea now how this could be remedied should I wish to use these methods in the future.