3.1; Silicone, Latex and Plaster

Before I gave up entirely on the idea of a Paolozzi inspired tile, a decision made to ensure materials and technique drive this set of investigations rather than a pre-planned outcome, I decided to try to cast some of the pieces.

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Aims:

  • To cast the bicycle gear and a threaded bolt because these objects posed the most difficulty in the production of the tile.
  • To introduce myself to silicone as a casting material.
  • To introduce myself to using liquid latex to form a mould.
  • To discover how casting with silicone and latex differs from casting using clay.

Why did I select this material/process/approach?

I had already become quite familiar with imprinting objects into clay and transferring the detail into Plaster of Paris. The objects I selected seemed to suggest a more flexible mould would be required in order to remove the rigid objects.

The bicycle gear has a complex shape with many undercuts, it is quite large. I decided to trial using silicone from a tube because I had seen it used on You Tube for fairly large projects. Apparently if you do not have enough product to cover the entire surface in one go, more can be added without worrying about adhesion- it loves to stick to itself.¹ I guessed the flexibility of the product would allow me to release the metal from the casting.

The bolt has a spiralling thread that suggested a flexible material would be required to release it, the stretchy, elastic properties of latex sounded suitable and since it was a small object it wouldn’t take long to paint on the requisite layers.

¹YOUTUBE: Silicon Mold Making & Casting. Gray’s School of Art

Sample properties: Look/Feel. Structure/texture/colour.

Silicone cast: The silicone has a pearly white, waxy look with many fractures and fissures like ice. I feels flexible, yet flaky; although I can hardly bring myself to touch it because it smell so awful.

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Plaster moulding taken from Silicone cast: Appears a fairly accurate representation of the original, with the inclusion of an irregular raised grainy texture from the cracks in the silicone. Hard but brittle in thinner areas.

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Latex cast: Extremely accurate shape. Appealingly smooth, flexible and stretchy texture, rather like a pool of honey, without the stickiness!

 

Degree of success: What worked/What didn’t? Why?

The silicone had a cottage cheese like consistency, I don’t know if I didn’t knead it enough or if it was the particular product I used. This meant that visually it has a waxy, almost flaky texture, the consequences of which were that it tore in places as I pulled the gear away. The plaster picked up this grainy texture rather than the pocked rusty surface of the gear. This experiment demonstrated silicone’s suitability for translating complex shapes, coping well with the unfortunate undercuts.

Colour-wise the silicone sample is quite exciting, discolouration for the rust has travelled along the fissures in the silicone. Combined with the pearly white, waxy material this makes a fabulous organic pattern.

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These delicate, lacy lines were lost in the plaster casting, where the colour became a more all over, solid, tea shade.

The latex sample showed me the potential of this material. Although it was unsuitable for use as a mould for plaster, (the Mod-Roc jacket disintegrated as I removed it and a problem with an undercut left a split) I rather like the shape and handle of it.

Did I feel comfortable with the materials/techniques? Was there anything I particularly enjoyed?

I loathed the silicone, although squirting it into a bucket and squeezing it was easy, the smell is just too awful. I don’t know if this would be the same for 2 part silicone but I am now loathe to try it. I would have to be desperate to achieve a particular effect to use this material again.

Latex however, really captured my imagination (which is odd because the results were perhaps less visually dynamic). I will definitely be exploring the potential of this material in future experiments.

How does this relate to my contextual research?

With practise I could probably produce a Paolozzi style composite relief using these materials. However, in my initial research I did not focus carefully enough on his sculptural works. I recall reading about ‘lost wax techniques’ and assemblage methods but paid more attention to concepts and to his collaged works. I think I am beginning to see how I could make my research more efficient and useful, I perhaps should have been focussing on ‘how’ and ‘why’ instead of ‘what’.

How does my learning relate to tutor feedback/personal development?

The last point about contextual research relates to my feedback because in Part 2, I clearly allowed my research to ‘draw me away from the key focus of the exercise.’ I think my nonspecific research into Paolozzi led to similar issues. I need to make sure in future that I concentrate on the ‘key focus’. Perhaps set myself some questions in advance of my reading?

Cari also reminded me not to ‘try to control the outcome of the investigation’. I would not have designed this tile and tried to execute it, had I already had my feedback.

What do I want/need to do next?

I feel like I am back on track. Now that I have evaluated the work I did on Part 3 as I awaited my feedback, I can implement the changes necessary (link back to Response to Tutor Feedback). I next intend to explore the potential of latex, without having a predetermined product in mind: I’m going to play!

 

 

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