Sunday, June 26, 2011

New Work and July Stealth Show

"Schematic", 2011, 30" x 40", paper, ink, metal, oilstick, tacks and encaustic on panel

The annual encaustic conference seems to be a real marker in my life, like BC and AC. Even before I register for it in January, I start planning my life around it. As the beginning of June nears, I start shunting things to AC when I'll return home, conference over, and have all that luxurious time to kill. Funny how it never happens like that.

So when I got back from the conference this year, I was faced with all the doctor, dental, hair and car appointments that I had put off, plus all the work from my day jobs that I had postponed. However, Arden Gallery had promised to hang my work in the middle section of their gallery during July and I wanted to include new work. Yes, it would have been a lot simpler if I had not decided to try out a new series that I'm calling "Building Blocks," but I am not known for my simple approach to life: if I can complicate things, by gum, let me at it.

"Cinch", 2011, 30" x 40", paper, ink, metal, oilstick, tacks and encaustic on panel

So in addition to everything else I had to get done, I managed to make some new work. Here are two new works from the Building Blocks series that will be hanging at Arden Gallery for the month of July along with three other pieces. This will not be an official show with a postcard, reception and all the rest but a summer try out for me as a new artist. I'm thinking of it as a stealth show and I'm very excited to see my work hanging all together in a premier Boston gallery on Newbury Street.

I'm planning on being at the gallery on Saturday afternoon, July 9th, to welcome friends and visitors, take photos of the work and just celebrate the moment for the personal achievement it is. If you are around and want to stop by to say hello and take a look, I would be glad to see you. If you can't make it that day, the work will be there for the month of July, so I hope you will stop by if you are in Boston.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Making Plaster Molds for Wax Casting

Kim Bernard at the beginning of her mold making workshop

The week of workshops held after the encaustic conference at the Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill (the  "post-con workshops") are a great opportunity to pick up some new techniques or skills firsthand from specialists. I was really happy to see that Kim Bernard was doing a one-day workshop on making plaster molds for casting wax and signed up right away.

I do not use either plaster or cast wax in the work I'm making currently, but it never hurts to learn something that may rattle around in your mind for a while and be useful some time in the future. I started out thinking that I was really more interested in the plaster objects than in those made out of wax, but I have to admit that the wax objects are pretty alluring.

Kim with a big bag of plaster

Before we began making molds, Kim explained about plaster, also referred to as plaster of Paris, but sold as "gypsum plaster" in large paper bags. It can be bought in small sacks or plastic containers in hardwares or home stores, but is much less expensive to buy by the bag. It's important to store it in a dry place as once moisture reaches it, it will harden and become unusable. If you can store it in a sealed plastic bucket, it will probably stay more moisture free.

The way it's mixed is to fill a flexible plastic container about half full with cold water and then add plaster to it by the handful, crumbling each handful into the water to eliminate any lumps.When the dry plaster builds up enough to be visible on the top of the water, you stop adding more and let it sit without stirring or jostling for about five minutes until it sets up. After that you begin slowly stirring it with one hand so you can feel the viscosity change.

Here Kim has just added the first layer of plaster over the clay object she is molding

One-Part Molds
We began with the simplest type of mold - just one part - and made on a simple object with no undercuts. For this we used clay to model an uncomplicated shape. (Note that we did not use the artichoke that I brought which was way too complicated even for a two-part mold.)

As the plaster becomes thicker and thicker, it is smoothed onto the object

The plaster is built up to about 1" thick over the object and then flattened
on the top so that it will stand flat when it's turned over. This is Kim's lovely mold.

This is my awkward-looking mold. 

Once this process is completed, you have to wait for the plaster to finish hardening. It becomes quite warm as it hardens and must cool down before continuing. This took maybe 20 minutes or so.

Here Kim is showing the inside of the mold after removing the clay from it

Kim scrubs the mold with a toothbrush to remove traces of clay and
then lets it sit submerged in the water for five minutes or so

The mold is saturated with water so that the wax is less likely to stick to it and will separate more easily.

Here Kim has positioned and shimmed the mold
so that it lays flat and she has ladled wax medium into it.
 (Photo courtesy of April Nomellini.)

This is the molded wax object.  (Photo courtesy of April Nomellini.) 

After the wax is ladled in, it is left to cool and will harden from the outside in. You can either let it cool entirely so that it forms a solid object or you can stop the process when the wax shell is 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick by pouring off the excess wax from the middle.

We all completed this process with the objects we formed from clay, making the one-part mold and casting it in wax.

My one-part mold and the wax cast

Our class was held outdoors in "The Shed"

A broader, more tilted view

Two-Part Molds

First part of the clay mold for a banana. At the stem end of
the banana is a funnel-shaped piece of clay that will become a pour spout.

Once you have made a one-part mold, you can easily move to a two-parter because the process is the same and it's not even twice as hard. This time the clay is shaped around an object, leaving about an inch beyond it and building up a little wall around the edge (see above). A pour spout is made at a good spot for wax to flow into the mold and three or four impressions are made in the clay that will be used for registration. The most important part of the two-part mold is deciding where the line will be where the two parts come together to form the wax object. With a banana that line is pretty easy to decide.

Now here's where I had to call in reinforcements: I spaced out on the next step in the two-part mold and got in touch with Sherrie Posternak, who had been in the workshop with me. Sherrie kindly filled in the blanks for me and sent me a bunch of great pictures.

Applying a release agent to the banana (photo courtesy of Sherrie Posternak)

This is a step I forgot. You have to apply a release agent (liquid dish soap with 1/3 water) so that the plaster doesn't stick to the object you are molding.

Plaster is added in stages as with the one-part mold - first quite liquid

The plaster is built up to about one-inch thick over the object
and left to cure until it cools down

Once it is cool, the clay is removed, exposing the object surrounded by
one  side of the plaster mold.

The mold is cleaned up with a tool called a "sureform" and the other side is prepared

Here's another one of Sherrie's photos showing the mold prepared for receiving plaster

The photo above shows the first part of the mold and the banana coated with two or three applications of release agent, with the funnel-shaped pour spout remade and in place, with a couple of edges built up with clay and with clay shims underneath so that the mold sits flat on the table.

Next plaster is applied in stages until the mold is built up to about one-inch thick

Here's the two-part mold curing as we wait for it to cool (Sherrie Posternak photo)

When ready, the mold is cleaned up again with the sureform
(especially the seam edge where the two parts come together) and then
the two parts are carefully pried apart with a bread knife

The object being cast (the banana) is removed when the two parts of the mold are separated and then the mold is placed in a bucket of water, cleaned up with a toothbrush and soaked if it's being cast right away.

Here the two-part mold is ready for wax to be added (Sherrie Posternak photo)
The two parts of the mold are taped together to hold them in place and the mold is placed into a container to hold it upright with the pour spout on top. Wax is ladled into the mold until it reaches the top of the pour spout - it will settle as the wax cools. The wax-filled mold is left to cool until the wax hardens and then the parts are carefully separated. The seam edge and the pour spout edge are cleaned up with clay tools or a knife and repaired with small additional amounts of wax.

This sounds like a lot of work, but the molds can be reused to cast multiple wax objects.

Apparently neither Sherrie, April nor I took a photo of the cast banana. It may not have been cooled enough to remove from the mold by the time the workshop ended, or maybe we were all distracted by the face casting which went on at about the same time the two-part mold was being filled.

This was a good class with a lot of info and I will use this post to follow the process if and when I use it.

A Final Note
Because my two-part mold was not ready to take apart at the end of the workshop and I was hurrying to clean up so I could get in to hear Joanne's talk about Wax in the Galleries, I never separated the two parts of my mold and removed the banana.

My two-part banana mold
Here is a photo I took of it in the studio today. It's really not as green as this looks, but I think the gases being emitted from the decaying banana are forcing the two sections apart. Tomorrow I'll try separating it, but I may just have to toss it if it's too nasty. Oh, the travails of making art.

Many thanks to April Nomellini and Sherrie Posternak for providing photos and info.

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!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

More About the Encaustic Conference

Surface and below

I've been home for four days and I'm still not here. I wake up at night and don't know where I am. Do you think I have a problem, doctor?

It's not only that I don't travel much, but that my brain and all my senses were so thoroughly taken up with wax and its adherents that it's taking me a while to settle back into my life. Perhaps after I've spent a couple of days in the studio, I'll feel relocated into normalcy.

Note: click on pix to enlarge

Saturday at the Conference
My blog posts have joined me in being discombobulated because I've already posted images from the vendor room that I took on Saturday. But surely we could stand more surprise pix.

I just love the I'll-get-you-for-this expression on Joanne's face

Never too many diamonds!

A stunning example of bricolage sculpture, if I do say so myself.
I understand that Pippa has put my phone number into her rolodex.

After participating in the Managing Media panel Saturday morning and pulling off the great Thank-You-Joanne Surprise, I spent the day in the vendor room trying to blog and just hanging out. Matter of fact, I spent most of the actual conference hanging out in the vendor room, and I understand from the Conference Director that the Bureau of Encaustic Affairs will be conducting an investigation into my overly-social behavior.

Sunday at the Conference
So before They catch up with me, let's move right over to Sunday when we all had such fun at the Art Fair. Debra Ramsay did an excellent long-distance job of organizing this event, and next year I hope she will appear in person. I took way too many pictures, but here are a few that I liked.

Binnie's and my cards outside our room

Binnie's work

My work

David Clark and Laura Moriarty visiting our room

Kimberly Kent's work

Bascha Mon's prints of her head paintings

A page from Kay Hartung's book

Jane Longman's work

Kathleen Lemoine

Dottie Furlong-Gardner's monotypes

Karen Frazer's beehive

Corina Alvarez Delugo

A stack by Marybeth Rothman and Lisa Pressman
 (including the red one of Lisa's that I bought)

Work on the bed by Peggy Epner and on the table by Deanna Wood

Good sign for four painters

Good sign and a good promo poster

Amazing trompe l'oeil work by Christine Kyle

Jane Nodine's work

Jane looking like the cat who swallowed the canary (many sold pieces)

Michelle Belto's work

Karen Freeman and her work

Jessica Greene's work (my only studio student - note those "sold" signs)

Elena DeLaVille

One of Elena's works

Cherie Mittenthal and her work

Joanne Mattera's work (and on the left note the conference trophy)

David Clark's installation

Pamela Blum's bathroom exhibition

Part of Laura Moriarty's bathroom installation

Charyl Weissbach's two-panel work (this work turned yellow/green
in the camera but was actually a more neutral color)

Detail of above 

This was a lot of fun. Next year I hope we can get a list of participants and their room numbers so we will be sure not to miss those we want to see. This year, without such a list, it was always a surprise to find out who was behind the next door. I did like that discovery aspect of it, so maybe we should just leave it the way it was.

The Art Trade
Lisa Pressman and I organized this participatory event and I counted 60 people there. I don't think all of them were trading, but the vast majority were. This last event of the conference was also a lot of fun, but unfortunately I didn't get any pictures except some really blurry ones of Lisa and me.

We look like we're right off the bingo lineup at the local VFW.

Next year we need to plan an earlier event because we were all dragging by the time the last ticket was drawn and package chosen. I think just about everyone was very pleased with the work they received in exchange. People were very generous and really gave nice pieces. And we did have a few laughs - always an important component.

Addendum: How could I forget Jackie Battenfeld's talk Saturday night? It was informative and inspiring. Now I'll have to read the book that's been in my studio since last year's conference.

Keynote Speaker Jackie Battenfeld in the Mayflower Room

Next post: Kim Bernard's post-con workshop in mold making and casting.