Sculpture Methods - Old and New

This life size, terra cotta portrait bust was completed several years ago. I'm posting it as an example of my work in this medium for a fellow painter who has begun sculpting.
As we discussed, there have been many improvements in mold making and casting in recent years.Things are a lot easier now with rubber, latex molding products.

I thought you'd be interested in seeing the"old method" of plaster casting I was taught by Willard Hirsch while I apprenticed with him in the late 1970's.

Here Mr. Hirsch is seen critiquing my work on a portrait bust at my studio in Mt. Pleasant.

First the completed sculpture is fitted with brass shims and a plaster slurry is thrown onto the model to capture details.

After the plaster mold has been built up to the desired thickness and allowed to dry, it's removed from the original model.

The pieces of the mold are reassembled and wet clay is pressed into the mold to make the final sculpture.

When this pressed form has dried, the pieces of the mold are taken apart and the newly formed damp clay head is allowed to dry.

After drying, it's kiln fired to harden and a patina is applied, if desired.
(See mounted portrait bust at beginning of posting.)

The whole mold making/casting process took anywhere from a week to two, depending on how thick the plaster cast had been made and how long the clay took to dry. The same piece mold could be used to make a plaster cast to be sent to a foundry for bronze casting also.

The process is so much easier these days. But the creative work of capturing a form and likeness in clay remains as challenging as ever.

I agree with you that sculpting adds to an artist's understanding of form and improves painting skill as well.

Best wishes for much success in your new art form.


JJ-40 said...

Looks like a lot of work but your portrait turned out nice.

Katherine Muschick Schneider said...

Hi JJ,
Mold making these days is much easier with modern materials.

Back then the process had to be done in a hurry before the plaster set up. I remember covering myself and everything in sight with plaster "slip" (slurry) when
I was casting a mold.
Mr. Hirsch was far neater in the casting process, but he did have a separate room in his studio for storing and handling plaster molds because of the mess and plaster dust.
Thanks for stopping by.

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