Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Plaster bandage direct cast mask!

My 9 year-old step-grandson has been bugging me to do an art project with him.  I suggested an old favorite project of mine, making a direct cast of the face.  So today he was dropped off at my house for two hours, giving us ample time to make the mask cast, to cast his fist in two parts and reassemble them, to eat a bowlful of melon, and even time for him to harass the cat!
We started by tying a covering over his hair.  A shower cap is a good alternative.  
Then we greased up his face with Vaseline, putting an extra-thick coating on his eyebrows.
We cut some plaster into various size squares and rectangles, and I got a bowl of very warm water and some paper towels. (The plaster sets more quickly quickly if the water is warm.)
I started dipping the pieces of plaster into the water, dripping off excess water onto the paper towels, and then smoothing them on his face, leaving his eyes exposed.  I made sure to fold the pieces that would be the outer edge of the mask, to make those edges neater and stronger.  
When I was done, he relaxed for a few minutes to let it firm up.  It didn't take long at all; as a matter of fact, the forehead was pretty solid by the time I was done with the chin!  When I thought the mask was dry enough to take off, I had him wiggle his chin a little, and then pulled I the mask right off his face.  It came off easily.  He went into the bathroom to scrub his face. 
I had suggested we cast a bunch of fingers to add to the mask like spikes, but he wasn't interested. Instead he said he wanted to make a cast of a fist.  I explained that I'd have to cut it in 1/2 to get it off, and so we decided to make it in two pieces.  First we cast the front, then the back, and then we used more strips to attach the two halves together.  The assembled fist is visible in the photo at the top of the post.    
He couldn't resist trying it on a few times while it continued to dry.  
The plan, I think, is to get together again next week to paint it.  I think he wants to add Wolverine claws to the hand, but I'm not sure about the mask.  I'd encourage him to add more details to alter it (horns, spikes, extra eyeballs, etc) but he's an impatient 9-year old and just wants to paint it.  He wanted to take it home to paint but his mom had to explain that she doesn't have the "right" kind of paint.
Tune in next week to hopefully see the finished products! 

Friday, June 24, 2016

PMC at Double H

I spent the day today as a volunteer in the Arts and Crafts building at the Double H Ranch, a camp for children with life-threatening illnesses, located, just 20 minutes from my home, in Lake Luzerne in the beautiful Adirondack Park of NY state.
Perhaps you've noticed the name Paul Newman on the camp sign above.  Well, Double H Ranch was the second of Newman's "Hole in the Wall" camps; Double H came about via a collaboration between Paul Newman and local philanthropist Charles R. Wood.  The lovely little lake you see in the other picture above is Lake Vanare.
 I first explored PMC (precious metal clay) three years ago at the Adirondack Folk School in Lake Luzerne, and I blogged about it here, and here; I've subsequently taken more classes in specific techniques, including hollow forms, and also bracelets and enameled PMC, which I didn't write about on the blog.  So it's no secret that I'm smitten with PMC!

Each summer, my PMC teacher packs up her entire studio of tools and textures, dehydrator, kiln, and more, and spends several days throughout the summer working with the kids at Double H to make themselves unique silver jewelry mementos.  Today was the first time I was able to join her as a volunteer, and it was also my first time at the camp.  We worked with older campers today, girls of  I'm guessing around 14 years old.  The necklaces pictured below and at the top of the post were made by a couple of girls I worked with.
The heart/date necklace pictured directly above, and the one with the triangle and circle at at the top of the post (some sort of secret personal meaning to the symbolism!) were both done by creating the image first on a piece of scratch foam, and then pressing rolled out PMC clay into the design on the foam, to create a raised image.  The paw prints and dragonfly were stencils that had been cut into textured wallpaper (the girls were all from the Bear cabin, so paw prints were a popular motif today).

After the girls finished making their pieces, and went to lunch and then rest period, we filed the rough edges, drilled holes, and went to lunch while the pieces fired.  When we returned, we went to work adding patinas as desired, polishing, adding jump rings, and hanging the pendants onto necklace cords.  I hope the girls are happy with their finished pieces!  I think they are awesome!!  Below, a few pieces from a different table of girls, who chose not to have patinas added to their work. 
 I unfortunately did not photograph the rest of the pieces made by the 15 girls who came today.  The variety was spectacular, from rings with stones, and charms with flowers, to Double H emblems, and all sorts of other interesting designs and shapes.  It was a terrific day.  Here's a few more camp pics:
 By the way, about a year and a half ago, Robert Irvine and the Food Channel's Restaurant Impossible came to Double H and did a makeover of the kitchen and dining area at the camp!  It was an exciting time, and an enormous amount of kitchen equipment as well as waterfront equipment (pedal boats and more) was donated to the camp as part of this awesome makeover!  
 One last thing - I will admit that I went to the camp today with some trepidation.  I did not know what kinds of kids I'd be encountering.  I have a tendency to get very caught up in sad stories and can be emotional about the trials that kids shouldn't have to deal with, and was worried I might get upset by tragedy.  But, the truth is, other than a couple of wheelchairs and a visible hearing aid, the medical challenges faced by these kids were not visible.  The girls I worked with appeared as happy, normal teenage girls away at summer camp having fun, which is the magic of a camp like this.  The camp is a place for them to feel like normal kids.  The only thing someone might have noticed, different from other camps, was the excess abundance of adults - besides the 8 PMC volunteers, the 15 kids arrived with 4 or 5 counselors with their group;  these were college age boys and girls who are immensely well-prepared for the unique challenges posed by working with kids with life-threatening illnesses.    I will definitely return to volunteer with the PMC teacher when I am able to!