Sunday, June 19, 2011

Face Casting

My cast face

During the week of classes after the encaustic conference at Castle Center for the Arts in Truro, I was pleased to take Kim Bernard's post-conference workshop on casting wax from plaster molds. I intend to write a post on that workshop showing how the plaster molds were made, but I neglected to take photos of the cast wax objects that were produced. I'm hoping that I will be able to get those photos to make the posts complete, but in the meantime, I thought I would show you my experience with having my face cast in plaster during the class.

These photos were all taken by April Nomellini with my iphone. She did a great job documenting the process, as you will see. (Here's a link to a site showing April's work and I also showed April with the work she made in my Mixed Media and Encaustic class.)

I was feeling a bit leary as Kim placed towels around my neck

I had never had my face cast before and thought I would like to give it a try when Kim asked for a volunteer. Whether I would be able to stay still enough and not laugh or speak during the process was questionable, but I decided to go for it.

Applying vaseline - especially to eyebrows and eyelashes

The first step is to coat the face well with vaseline as a release agent so that the plaster can be removed from skin and hair more easily.

Plaster gauze cut in strips

This process uses the material from which casts for broken bones were previously made before new processes were developed. Small strips of plaster-coated gauze are cut and soaked in water just before applying.

Kim was very good about keeping the plaster out of my hair

Notice the neat edge she put on the mask

The application took maybe 10 minutes and then I had to wait for another 5 minutes or so -- and all that time I had to stay still and not smile, frown or otherwise move my facial muscles. And I had the worst itch on my upper lip!

I like this image with the large mural of a face in the background.

Can you see that the casting has gotten stiffer?

I was a little worried that this might feel claustrophobic, but it didn't. The plaster just felt cool and wet, a good feeling because it was hot in the shed and the sun was beating down.

Now I am deliberately moving individual facial muscles and I can feel
the cast releasing from them. The cast did not feel hard
on my face. I only knew it had hardened when I felt it with my fingers.
It was an odd sensation to feel it pop off as I moved parts of my face.

And there it is!

Kim is explaining that the outside of the cast has to be built up with more
plaster before it can be used as  a mold.  It should be about an inch thick.

Here is the inside of the cast - complete
with a few real eyelashes and some makeup.

This was quite an experience, and I'd like to complete the process by adding plaster so that I could cast it in wax to see it as a positive image. It does feel kind of strange to be looking at myself this way with no animation and closed eyes. It's actually a little chilling and reminds me of the death masks that used to be cast on corpses. Maybe it will look different in wax. Let's hope so.

A big THANK YOU to Kim for doing such a great job and to April for taking such good photos!


Jane Davies said...

Wow! I remember doing this in art class in junior high school. We used the molds to cast clay. Probably kids can't do this anymore because of all the ADD and ADHD. I can't wait to see the wax casts.

Anonymous said...

Nice post, fun process. You were a terrific guinea pig!

Anonymous said...

Simply put....INSPIRATIONAL!

It looks like a lot of your arty blog. Now following!

Ciao Bella!


Kim Bernard said...

Hey Nancy! I see that while I was away sailing you were busy creating this great post. I will share it with my future casting students as it documents the process so thoroughly. Thanks for being such a great student, volunteering your face and sharing it with your blog followers!