Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Moldmaking makes me weary...

Day seven of moldmaking...
my back hurts
my neck hurts
my arms hurt
my hands are dry and itchy
my Birkies are covered in plaster shavings

I've made a LOT of molds. Here is the tally so far:

2 Kulfi molds
2 Toot Sweet head molds (I owed Addi a head mold, one that I made before was not so good)
1 Toot Sweet body mold
2 Taboo head and tail molds
1 Taboo body mold
2 Dafydd tail molds
1 Dafydd body mold
Partial Brownie body mold
Partial Brownie head mold
Partial Brownie leg mold

One more day and I can stop doing plaster for a while, having gone through 90 pounds of #1 moldmaking plaster. Just finishing the Brownie body, head, and legs and one more Taboo will get me to my goal for this session.

Then, on Friday, I will start with the rubber mold of Little One. I am going to document the process of rubber moldmaking of Little One for a possible article in The Boat, so it will take more time since I will have to pause for photos and writing text each night.It should take about five days, depending upon the weather, since one pour of rubber has to cure for at least 12 hours before doing another one. Then I will go up to Santa Ana and pick up another 100 lb bag of plaster, and do some more plaster production molds. Another Dafydd, an Otto, another Brownie, and maybe two Little One molds should about polish off half of that bag, then we'll see.

In the meantime, here are a couple of little tips for those of you doing plaster molds. Most of which you would know... some of which you might have forgotten... you may have a better method but these work for me.

1. #1 Pottery Plaster has a mix ratio of 100% water to 150% plaster. In other words, you want one and a half times as much plaster as water, by weight. Always put the water in first. Quickly sprinkle/disburse the plaster over the surface of the water... don't dilly dally. Then, let it slack for several minutes.

2. Fresh plaster is smooth, powdery and mixes well. You can feel that it is very soft. If your plaster is grainy, or rough textured, throw it away. You're wasting your time. It won't seal well with the mold soap, and the mold will stick together and possibly risk your original.

3. Apply soap with a soft flat brush, without diluting the soap if you use some variation of PlasterLube. Smells a bit like saddle soap. Apply cleanly, don't flood near the edges, brush it on and don't foam it or agitate it. Wipe with a clean, just slightly damp natural sponge. Reapply like this, twice. Don't apply it to fresh plaster too soon... the plaster needs to set up well. Wait until the plaster has cooled, at least half an hour after pouring it. Otherwise it doesn't seal, and will stick.

4. If you have to do any scraping of the fresh plaster pour, such as removing small blemishes or cleaning up the edge along the model, then take a clean, almost dry sponge and wipe the area that you scraped. This seems to settle the particles down and makes a better seal when you hit it with soap.I didn't used to do this but I swear, it helps.

4. If you sealed the edges of your mold, so that you could remove plaster that might run around the edges and stick to the sides. scrape off the soap when you finish your mold. Sealed edges never evaporate the water from casting as well as unsealed edges. Took me a long time to figure that out. So anything that you can see from the outside when the mold is closed, should not be sealed with soap when you go to use the mold. Just scrape it with a flat metal blade, anything handy. You can tell when the soap has been scraped off.

5. Keep your sponges separate, never dip the soaping sponge (used for large areas, not for the areas nearest the model) into the water. Never dip the water sponge into the mold soap. It dilutes the mold soap, and by the end of the day the soap won't be able to seal anymore. Just as your pour your last pieces, just in time to ruin the whole mold... so watch that mold soap dilution!

6. Rub a finger tip dipped into mold soap onto your mold boards as you begin boxing up your mold. Even with acrylic or well sealed wood, the mold soap will help to release the plaster and keep your boards in good shape. Don't bother to wipe it off... just rub it on like you would grease a muffin pan (obligatory food reference)

Speaking of food... Carlsbad now has a hand dipped chocolate store. Not as good as the one in Boise, but pretty good. A piece of chocolate after a long day of moldmaking does help.

Oh, the photo above? Yasha supervising, of course. On our newly sodded back lawn.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


What does $848.00 worth of foam look like?
Funny you should ask....

I was down to TWO BOXES worth of foam last week, a frightening low supply. Though I don't do as many horses every month as I used to, still.... it's like having two boxes of Mac'n'Cheese in the cupboard. Just call me Old Mother Hubbard....

Since I'm not doing OF production now, which generally meant one horse shape produced in quantities of about 300, I can't predict what configuration the foam needs to be. Some horses are narrow and straight, some have a turn or outstretched limb, some are much smaller. So, this time I ordered blocks of foam that would completely fill a box that is either 12 x 12 x 10 or 14 x 14 x 10. Each block is either 12 x 12 x 4.75 or 14 x 14 x 4.75. That means that each horse will have a hand carved hollow in which it rests, for maximum protection-- and maximum flexibility. Surprisingly, the foam prices didn't go up as much as they could have. Each foam block is costing me approximately $5, so each horse takes about $10 worth of foam. (the smaller pieces are a little cheaper, the larger ones a little more, of course) That's only $1.00 per box more than I paid two years ago. Since the foam is a petroleum product, the pricing varies with the changes in oil costs. I won't complain about a buck!

The order is a total of 200 blocks. It will ship fifty large horses and fifty small horses. It's about all that I can store comfortably, along with the small 7 x 6 x 6 foams that I still have left over from mini production.

Today, Bob and I will store this foam up in the loft, before it gets dirty and dusty. The weather has turned warm... it's the first really warm, sunny day so far this summer! So it will be hot work, but very rewarding, like a squirrel hoarding its nuts.

I'm also making molds this week and next week. Made one and a half yesterday, with a nice long stretch of good weather and unencumbered days ahead to do what needs to be done. I'll be making the rubber mold on Kelly Savage's "Little One", for a limited production custom run. I've also made a new mold for Kristina Lucas's "Kulfi" and will be shipping it to her as soon as it is dry. There has only ever been one Kulfi mold, Kristina didn't intend to do him in production, but with our advanced techniques and knowledge, she wanted to take him out and dust him off and consider re-issuing him. Sia has been a ripping success, now Kulfi (one of the best-loved of Kristina's horses) may make a comeback! I will also have a Kulfi mold, after Kristina gets hers, and will take a VERY limited number of custom requests into consideration. I want to play with more color options that are now possible! I'm also making new molds on Dafydd, Pixie, Brownie, Taboo, and maybe Otto.

Off to work!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Stormy Days...

(click on photos for larger image)

It's hard to be quiet about horses that turn out so well. These two Stormys, sneak peeks shown above, were finished in the last few months. The pinto was finished, actually, this morning. Still warm out of the kiln. I've really be stretching my technique on the Stormy mold, trying things that will enhance the color (as long as I can pull it off successfully) because Stormy challenges, and brings out the best in a painter. Whether resin or ceramic, Stormwatch throws down the gauntlet and tells you to GO FOR IT!!

There's another bisque Stormy sitting on the shelf, ready to go, and it will be a lot of fun to see him come to life as well.