3.1; Playing with Mouldable Polymer

Aims: to explore a new and unfamiliar material.

Why did I select this material/process/approach? I chose the product Polydoh by Materialix, from a range of mouldable polymers available on Amazon. The decision was made solely because this pack offered six free mini bags of colour, otherwise I could see little difference between the products and their pricings.

Degree of success: What worked/What didn’t? Why? Almost all the samples I produced were ‘successful’, once I got to grips the temperature requirements! I quickly learned not to introduce or remove other surfaces whilst the plastic is too hot, which prevents unwanted sticking and distortion.

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Although there was a fantastic level of detail, it took an incredible amount of strength to separate the materials. At first, I thought the problem was the similarity between the two types of plastic but I learned from experience this is not the case, the Polydoh was simply too hot when I applied it.

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

SET 1: Small samples made from impressing a variety of surfaces, natural/manmade, porous/non-porous:

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The irregular shapes, that are slightly uneven and warped, won me over because of the level of detail they capture. Viewed individually, they look nothing special but as a group they are more appealing. The plastic has a wax like quality without the fragility.

SET 2: The flexibility of the polymer allowed me to impress the shell, partially enclosing it, I was then able to ‘unwrap’ it, stretching and distorting the organic spiralling pattern:

 

 

The resulting pattern can be better appreciated in my drawing, the impressions were faint and required viewing in a particular light. I included them because I like the idea of taking the surface of a 3-D object and stretching it out flat because the distortion causes an instant abstraction.

SET 3: Polydoh was surprisingly effective at capturing the pattern created by knitted stitches. Whereas Latex engulfed the yarn and was impossible to remove, Polydoh peeled away:

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What these samples added to my exploration of a knitted texture was that some fibres adhered to the surface. Although this can not be very well perceived from the photograph, there is a light covering of ‘fluff’, almost like baby hair, embedded into the surface. This is something I would like to exploit because more than the pattern is being recorded. I think this would fit into my investigation of retaining memory from Part 2.

Did I feel comfortable with the materials/techniques? Was there anything I particularly enjoyed? I really enjoyed the immediacy of this product. I found it really quite liberating compared to the other mouldable materials I have tried. The reasons for this are listed below.

Could I repeat this using a different material/techniques? I suppose most of the samples I made could be produced using other materials but I found the polymer really rather unique:

  • It has similar casting properties to clay and Papier-mâché, without extended drying times.
  • When thin, it is flexible like a latex or silicone (although it is not stretchy)
  • It can be pierced or drilled without breakage, or splitting (a property I believe is quite unrivalled).
  • Compared to plaster and clay it is very lightweight.
  • It can’t be poured like plaster or silicone but it is very ‘squishable’!
  • It captures fine detail as well as any other casting material I have trialled.
  • It can be cut with scissors, and it’s surface painted.
  • It isn’t nearly as messy as all the other materials, so it requires less planning and preparation.
  • It doesn’t smell and is totally safe to use (just watch your fingers with the hot water)
  • Best of all it is totally reversible- if you don’t like what you’ve made, ‘recycle’ it by reheating and starting again. (I don’t know how many times this could be done!)

How does this relate to my contextual research? In a rather oblique way working with the polymer did relate to my research into one contemporary artist in particular: Phyllida Barlow. I have been considering a recent article in the Guardian (here):

She uses the shortest route to get something done. She improvises, makes shortcuts, disregards time-honoured craft techniques.” ¹

This is the antithesis of my personal approach to date (perhaps excluding Washing Machine Spoon). I think the raw energy in Barlow’s work is something I could learn from. I am often frustrated by how long it takes me to make anything- my adherence to rules and meticulous nature. Richard Wentworth calls her “a bish-bash-bosh person” ² and that is a little bit how working with the Polydoh made me feel.

How could I use this material in the future? I’m not sure this material would be to everyone’s taste. It is a synthetic and it does have similar amateurish applications to Fimo, however, I really rather like it. It is incredibly immediate and versatile, I think it is a simple way to test an idea before committing to a more complex process.

Essentially, is a sort of three dimensional printing press, I think it could effectively used in conjunction with a Gelli Plate to produce prints.

What do I want/need to do next? The small samples suggest the need for presentation because in all honesty the number of samples I have already produced is driving me crazy! I am loathe to simply glue them to card, I wonder if I can incorporate some sort of puncturing (drilling) with stitch?

The success of translating the texture of knitted stitches with Polydoh has made me want to explore this further (incorporating knits in my work is a long term personal interest). I have decide to return once more to plaster but this time with more focus and the benefit of some relevant contextual research.

¹ and ²:  www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/may/09/bish-bash-bosh-how-phyllida-barlow-conquered-the-art-world-at-73

3.1; Playing with Latex (3)

Aims: to explore the more traditional usage of thin layers of latex built up over a surface.

Why did I select this material/process/approach? I wanted to check how latex performed on curved surfaces made of different materials:

  • Plaster: sample from previous experiment. Research assures me plaster is ideal for this type of application as it absorbs some of the moisture content of the latex, promoting drying.
  • Golf Ball: curved, non-porous, smooth yet pitted. For such a simple object there seem to be a number of challenges when moulding.
  • Water Bottle: curved, non-porous, super smooth and shiny.

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Degree of success: What worked/What didn’t? Why? The sample that worked least well was the water bottle (right). The super smooth surface was very unforgiving and stipple marks from the brush detract from the overall finish. I found that adding Lumiere paint to latex effects the curing time, acting as a thickener, you get much less working time with it. The bottle was always the last piece I coated therefore the mix was already stiffer, which may have contributed to the finish.

Brush marks are also visible on the other two samples but not to the same degree. This could be improved by applying with a sponge rather than a brush or by the dipping method.

Sample properties: Look/Feel. Structure/texture/colour. I was initially, really only interested in the golf ball sample, however the photographs I just took for this post have revealed the plaster/latex sample (left) in a much more positive light:

DSCF4920The sample is really lightweight and very flexible, I am very attracted to the undulating edge that has slightly rolled in on itself. It shares similar properties to the ‘petri dish’ style samples in my previous post, in that there are varying degrees of thickness which effect the way light interacts with it. By contrast, however, the jewel like glow has been lost, all the samples made in this more traditional manner are duller and lighter in colour.

As I mentioned it was the golf ball sample that really caught my attention. It was a strange squishy dome shape, that didn’t really hold its shape well. The pitted texture translated better visually, as spots of darkened colour, that to the touch were almost unperceivable. This suggested it could be stuffed or turned inside out, as I handled it I began to stretch it and I noticed how this distorted the appearance of the dots:

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Did looking at the sample in a different way reveal anything new? I was able to transform the ungainly, three dimensional, floppy dome shape into something rather more elegant. This totally suits my preference of working flat, but by using the egg cup as a display mechanism, I have developed this into something rather different and unexpected.

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How could I use this sample/technique/material/research in the future? I am always on the look out for pattern. I found the distortion of the hexagonal dents in the golf ball to seemingly random spots really exciting. On closer inspection the spots are not perfectly circular and they still reference the original tessellation of the golf ball. I explored this in my sketchbook in a variety of media.

What this means, in terms of my development as an artist, is that I don’t have to use the sample literally, as an object. I can use it as inspiration for my drawing, pattern and colour work. I can use this process to inform other areas of my work that I am more comfortable with- I hadn’t thought about Mixed Media in that respect before.

Was I experimental/logical/controlled/expressive enough? I think this was the first time I genuinely used the inherent properties of the latex to my advantage. (Stretching it over the egg cup like a drum skin.) I admit that that my appreciation of the stretchiness came quite by accident as I explored the sample with my hands but this signifies to me my changing attitude and a growing curiosity.

What do I want/need to do next? I actually want to move away from Latex and experiment with a different material. I could quite happily ‘go deeper’ but have decided to ‘go broader’ to keep the project moving. 

 

3.1; Playing with Latex (2)

Aims:

  • to explore the addition of colour to liquid latex, using Jacquard Lumiere.
  • to capture textures contained within the circular confines of a pot.

Why did I select this process/approach? I confined my exploration to Lumiere and a small, circular pot to set myself some limitations. This did control the outcome to a certain degree but there was still plenty of room for surprises and discovery.

Sample properties: Look/Feel. Structure/texture/colour. I produced a series of latex discs, this is a selection of my favourites:

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The samples are roughly the same size although they vary in thickness. I often tilted the pots to achieve variation to the density within a single sample. This had the effect of producing a contrast between opacity and translucency. The sample bottom right was so thin on one side it began to disintegrate as I removed it from the mould, the linear strings that remain suggest the texture in a fragile and damaged way.

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I resisted the urge to trim the discs into true circles, celebrating the imperfection. In some cases this has led to the latex that has seeped under the mould, appearing on top. This reveals the contrasting texture below, making the samples more interesting.

Colour-wise, the Lumiere paint was a fantastic choice for colouring the latex. In it’s natural state the latex is like a pool of honey, it has a visceral, inner glow that can be enhanced by the addition of this medium. When first cast, cleaned and buffed the latex appears jewel like, unfortunately when exposed to the environment, dust particles soon dull this shiny, glowing finish. Time is also unkind, leading to deterioration and discolouration.

 

 

 

Degree of success: What worked/What didn’t? Why? (I am actually starting to wonder about the validity of this question, given that I do not have a finished outcome in mind, all samples are experimental- therefore they all ‘work’).

When comparing the samples above, I would be tempted to say the one of the left is ‘more successful’ because it is tidier. Since I am trying to move away from judgements such as these I would actually suggest the ‘imperfect’ sample on the right is more interesting because it compares the two contrasting sides of the surface I was moulding.

Since latex adheres so potently to fabrics, encapsulation seemed a good alternative to casting. In the sample left, the open weave mesh remains raised from the surface and the colour of each element compliments the other, producing an effective sample. On the right, however, the very tight gauge of the tulle is totally enrobed in latex. The matching colour doesn’t help either. Unless I wanted to strength latex by adding a layer of almost unperceivable reinforcement, I wouldn’t choose this combination again.

Did I discover anything new or unexpected? My most surprising discovery was the combination of latex and dry sand. I was expecting to peel the latex away, brush off any residual grains and reveal a very fine grainy texture. This did not happen! Latex has been absorbed by the sand creating a strange foamy texture that is almost like brown bread in both look and feel.

 

How does this relate to my contextual research and tutor feedback? As I made the samples, I kept thinking about Sanne Schuurman. I love the often surprising way she exploits the properties of materials to create new surfaces that exist as just that- new surfaces. I find the way the Envisions Group work fascinating: showcasing “everything but the end product.” ¹ The way they invite us to view the developmental stage of product design is really refreshing and exciting.

These contextual thoughts were helpful because this was the way my tutor suggested I should approach mixed media: “Rather than ‘is this mixed media enough’ perhaps the question could be ‘have I transformed the materials?’ ” and “Try not to control the outcome of the investigation” ² I feel I have a much greater understanding of what she means now and actually enjoyed working in this manner.

Was I experimental/logical/controlled/expressive enough? For once I am quite happy with the level of experimentation I achieved. This was balanced by the limitations I put in place at the beginning which helped me maintain focus. Could I have been more extreme? Yes- but I think I am heading in the right direction!

What do I want/need to do next? A later exercise in the course requires development of samples using techniques learnt in earlier parts. I think this set of samples hold the potential for puncturing, stitching and joining.

I also used my Sanne Schuurman research to change the way I perceive ‘surfaces’ for moulding and casting using this approach. I used drawings in my sketchbook to explore the possibilities this opened up to me; It might be good to test some of these by sampling.

¹ http://sanneschuurman.com/portfolio_page/envisions

² Morton C. MMT Assignment 2 Feedback (May 2017)

3.1; Playing with Latex (1)

Aims: To explore the properties of latex, through a range of experiments to determine the effects I could achieve.

Why did I select this approach? I made a conscious decision to play. This was partly in response to my tutor feedback but was also inspired by the dictatorial nature of the instructions and tutorials I read online. I felt I was constantly being told what I could and could not do, for once the rebel artist in me rose up and decided to make my own discoveries. This inevitably led to a spate of ‘unsuccessful’ outcomes, however each of these ‘failures’ taught me something new.

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

SAMPLE 1: Applying liquid latex to metal bicycle produced strings of discoloured latex:

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This tangle of discoloured latex has a pleasing combination of thin strands and thicker, build up lumps. the edges are very ragged; it reminds me of seaweed. It has linear qualities that suggest it could be used as a ‘yarn’.

SAMPLE 2: This sample was intended to be a flat, round disc capturing a texture contained within a pot (more of these to follow). I did not anticipate how much the latex would adhere to itself as I removed it from the mould. It was destined to be categorised as another failure but as I applied Bruce Mau’s principle: “Break it, Stretch it, Bend it, Crush it, Crack it, Fold it.” I achieved this coil:

Although the sample has failed to capture the texture I intended, another linear form has been created. A thick band of latex coils, imitating a Mobius loop (although it actually isn’t). It has a slightly waxy look and I really like the way light plays with the different thicknesses, making some areas translucent.

Part of my attraction to the coils might be that it reminds me of the shape of Washing Machine Spoon from Part 2! They seem to share a similar energy in their swooping form.

SAMPLE 3: I wondered if vulcanising the coil from Sample 2 would change it’s appearance?

The shape and stretchy qualities were not effected but there has been a subtle colour change. The surface now appears bleached, like chewed gum. (My husband has already made all the references to prophylactics I need to hear!)

SAMPLE 4: Latex seeped through the holes in the plastic canvas, encapsulating it.

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As usual my initial thoughts were that I had failed but actually this sample does have merits, especially since the holes are now filled and it could be used in conjunction with another liquid casting material.

SAMPLE 5: Yarn with knots, dipped in latex:

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Another encapsulation. The latex dipped yarn was a really exciting material to work with as it can be shaped and moulded. It then retains its shape but is still flexible enough for further manipulation.

How could I use this sample/technique/material/ in the future? I would definitely like to use what I learned from Sample 5. Since fabric can be used between layers of latex to add strength to a mould I think this is a viable alternative to latex alone. I have considered how I could use the yarn, for example to knit with:

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This was actually really pleasing because the yarn shared the same stored energy I have experienced when stitching with linen thread. The loops hold their shape, latex can be added like an adhesive if permanence is required. An alternative would be to dip the yarn after knitting with it, that way the texture I am capturing would be that formed by the stitches.

I like the way the knit can be stretched out and the open gauge preserved. The inclusion of latex makes the swatch harder (although it is still flexible). There is a lot more that could be done with this sample, particularly in regard to using it alongside other materials.

I also considered how I could use this method to capture form:

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I like the circular shape enhanced by the coiling yarn. The soft peachy colour that pools and deepens between the strands. The combination of translucency and opacity. The flat texture on the inside created by the smooth top it was formed around, which is complimented by a undulating outer. I think it has loads of potential for development

Am I capturing the texture of another material or am I creating a new one? The texture of the yarn has been disguised by a layer of latex, a new spiralling texture (similar to the thread of a screw) has been created but that is not what we have been asked to do. This is a close call, I can’t decide whether it is a creative solution or a tangential response? Am I just being pedantic? Any thoughts, dear course-mates? 

Was I experimental/logical/controlled/expressive enough? I think for once I can say that I was more experimental than logical as I used the materials.

How does my learning relate to tutor feedback/personal development? I really used the advise Cari gave me to inform this set of explorations. The samples are certainly less refined and more experimental. I did not have an finished objective in mind; I was much more playful and curious.

What do I want/need to do next?

  • to revisit the idea behind sample 2: capturing discs of texture within a pot
  • to explore the more traditional usage of thin layers of latex build up over a texture
  • to continue to experiment with casting knitted swatches in other materials

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!

 

 

Distracted by Paolozzi

Aims:

To explore the work of an artist who used moulding and casting in their creative output.

Why did I select this material/process/approach?

Paolozzi was one of the suggested artists in the course-notes.

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

I wasn’t expecting to find much to like about Paolozzi’s work. On first viewing it struck me as very masculine, with a definite Science Fiction aesthetic.

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As I researched, I fell in LOVE! I felt so inspired by the collages and prints, I began making connections to other artist and relating the work to my own interest. I was extremely surprised at how poignant the themes of fear and threat of war still are today. I jumped straight in, designing a Paolozzi style relief tile with an assortment of junk from the shed. I really thought I was onto a winner here- I even managed to incorporate my love of circles:

As I began to build the relief using clay to support the junk, intending to use latex to capture the whole thing, then cast it in plaster, I started to feel uneasy:

  • What was the point in spending hours and hours covering the tile in layers of latex?(Particularly when I have not even trialled using the material)
  • This is a big piece, 10×10″
  • I can already see the outcome

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

Luckily, my tutor feedback from Part 2 arrived. It couldn’t have come at a better time:

“In terms of context, you’ve looked at quite a lot of practitioners, Scott and Gomes particularly relevant to the focus of this part of the MMT course. Some others may have prompted you to stray away from that focus, e.g. Delauney and Mann took you towards pattern, shape and colour. They seemed to inspire ideas somewhat tangential to the exercises.

Critically consider how your research informs the work in a relevant way. Focus on artists who use appropriate materials and processes to help inform your investigation.” 
I realised that I was making exactly the same mistake again, right down to the Delaunay sketch on the bottom right!! Instead of researching Paolozzi’s use of moulding and casting, I had allowed myself to become distracted by his use of symbolism, pattern, colour and socio-political comment. I take comfort from the fact that I had an inkling things weren’t right, which shows that I am learning, even if it was almost too late!

How does this relate to my contextual research?

Further discussion with tutor made me realise that in future I need to ensure that I use contextual research appropriately in relation to the focus of the coursework.

How could I use this sample/technique/material/research in the future?

I know that I should have been focussing my research on Paolozzi’s sculptural works, yet I don’t think the research I did was time wasted. I found so much to inspire me, that it can’t be a bad thing. I can save this knowledge for a later date.

I have come to the conclusion that there must be a fine line between a personal response with a lateral solution and a tangential investigation.

How could I have approached this differently/What could I do differently next time?

I realise my response to my research was inappropriate, rather than plan the outcome, I should have allowed the materials to guide my experimentation. Cari advised:

“Try not let control your direction or the outcome of the investigation- if you know where it is going, where is the fun and surprise for you?”

What do I want/need to do next?

Before I made the decision to STOP, RE-EVALUATE and CHANGE my approach, I sampled the use of latex and silicone. I intend to review these using my new Pro Forma and allow the discoveries I made to inform my next steps rather than continue to pursue the Paolozzi ‘final product’. Although this feels a bit defeatist, like a failure that I should pursue until I can produce it perfectly, I have come to appreciate PERFECTION is not the goal. Learning is the goal and I need to get back to that.

3.1; Moulding a Savoy Cabbage

In this post I am going to evaluate my experiment using plaster to capture the textures of a savoy cabbage leaf. I will be using my recently developed pro forma to try to analyse rather than recount what happened. This is part of me trying to make my blog work as a tool, following feedback and discussion with my tutor.

Aims: to preserve the transient. To mould directly from the surface of an object with plaster, without imprinting texture into clay first.

Why did I select this material/process/approach? Previous attempts to press air drying clay into the pocket-like, puckered texture of the cabbage leaf failed. The clay was too hard and stiff. The photographs below demonstrate that what detail I did pick up was elongated and flattened:

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

I produced a cast of the top of the leaf, the dome structure, left; and the underside, the bowl structure, right. Both have picked up lots of accurate detail regardless of whether the curve was concave or convex.

Both structures remind me of coral, the top is quite sharp and scratchy because of the way the plaster has settled in the undercuts. The underside has smoother lumps and bumps that are almost like bubbles.

Both are brilliant white in colour, where the plaster has been shielded by the leaf. Around the edges where the plaster has come into direct contact with the supporting clay some discolouration has occurred. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, it adds interest although it does alter the way light reflects across the surface.

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

Overall, I am pleased with these two samples. They are firm and weighty, portraying and accurate representation of the detail texture found on a cabbage leaf. The variety of texture is interesting as the ‘pockets’ in the leaf are smaller around the edge than in the centre. I really like that they are a ‘matching’ pair, there is a definite relationship between the two when viewed together.

I had some difficultly with undercutting, particularly on the top of the leaf. As I pulled the leaf away, I heard lots of alarming ‘ping, ping, ping’ noises as plaster broke away,  I think most of these pieces were very tiny as it didn’t seem to make much difference to the overall finished sample. The other problem with undercutting was pieces of leaf remained stuck in the cast; this occurred mainly around the edges (where the cell structure is very tight). This frustrated the perfectionist in me, but I really don’t think it that big a deal, eventually they will decompose and brush away.

How does this relate to my contextual research?

Actually, physically working with plaster and natural objects made me realise it is not just the absence of colour in Rachel Dein’s work that gives me a melancholic feeling. My early comment about ‘mausoleum’ tiles seems even more fitting now I have appreciated that the organic materials in this process are sacrificed. They become immortalised, forever frozen in the moment they were deemed at their best. They don’t get to wither and die, but nor do they get an ‘Autumn’. The time of year I would actually describe as most aesthetically pleasing. The cyclical nature of organic matter has been broken. I think this makes me sad.

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

This is quite a simple straightforward process, that I found quite satisfying. I found kiln clay much easier to manipulate than air drying clay, it formed a secure supporting barrier that was easily removed afterwards.

Did I discover anything new or unexpected?

I already knew that plaster could create really smooth surfaces but I was impressed at how sharp the definition and edges can be. I found the number of bubbles produced the mixing stage were quite alarming, for the second sample I tried to knock out as many bubbles as I could before I poured. Curiosity makes me wonder what happens if you don’t do this, or if you intentionally create as many bubbles as possible?

How could I use this sample/technique/material/research in the future?

This technique is very versatile, I guess plaster could be used to capture the texture of a wide variety of objects, with or without clay dependant on whether the object is porous or not. Porous objects would soak up plaster and allow it to travel through… Rebecca Fairley adopted a similar process casting with concrete- perhaps I should look into this. In order to seal a porous surface and prevent seepage, I could seal it or use a non-permeable layer (latex? cling film?)

How could I have approached this differently/What could I do differently next time? Could I repeat this using a different material/techniques?

Try using red clay to add a subtle warmth to the sample.

Was I experimental/logical/controlled/expressive enough?

The technique is very simple and straight forward so my logical approach was justified. Now that I understand the process, I should be able to be more ambitious and experimental.

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

I was worried about the tiny pieces of leaf stuck in the casting, until I realised I’m not supposed to be looking for perfection. My tutor report provided guidance for Part 3, reading: ‘Push yourself to keep exploring imperfection and irregularity’ made me look at the additional samples below in a new light:

Waste plaster was poured into the bottom of drinking bottles, I naturally assumed the one on the left was the better casting. Considering tutor feedback, I would say actually the one on the right is more successful, the imperfection that reveals the slightly bubbly, grainy texture beneath the smooth surface offers an interesting contrast. It speaks of decay and degeneration.

What do I want/need to do next?

This was what I didn’t think about carefully enough. Answering these questions in hindsight has highlighted to me where I went wrong. Since I didn’t plan what I wanted to explore or achieve next, I drifted into some irrelevant research which inspired an investigation with a planned ending. After discussion with my tutor, I can see now why it is important to keep research pertinent to practitioner, materials and method. More about this here.