Modelling, mouldmaking and casting course

The next course is scheduled to take place on March 12-16 in Deptford, London SE8 and there are (at the time of writing) still some places available.

April 2011

This is quite an intensive 5-day practical course designed for sculptors, model-makers, prop/puppet-makers or anyone wishing to learn more about the complete process of creating small forms, making moulds and reproducing them in different materials. The focus on ‘small’ forms (i.e. under 20cm) has been imposed simply by the time constraints within 5 days and most of the materials or procedures involved would be the same for larger work. For the same reasons, although we cover many aspects of modelling and shaping within the 5 days, participants are also asked to bring objects for casting with them. One should be fully 3D (such as a head or figure) for 2-piece mouldmaking and the other a simpler one-sided form. In the event that anyone prefers to work on a specific independent project during the course we can usually find ways to accommodate this as long as it’s not too dissimilar, but this would need to be discussed in advance.

We begin the course, rather like ‘jumping in the deep end’ by looking at the 3D objects brought and discussing how the more complicated moulds for these should be made. The reason is, we need to get this process started straight away because it takes at least three days to finish a 2-piece mould. A crucial decision is how the mould halves need to be divided and often it pays to take one’s time in rehearsing this.

rehearsing mould divisions

Participants then begin to prepare their prototypes (meaning the initial sculpture or ‘model’) for the first mould half, usually by creating a half-way bed of plasticine or clay around the form.

making the mould division wall

This is then followed by mixing silicone rubber into a ‘thixotropic’ (non-slump) paste which is carefully coated onto the first prototype half, making sure that all details are properly filled. This usually brings us well into the afternoon of the first day and the moulds-in-progress need to be set aside while the silicone is allowed to cure overnight. The plasticine wall being added in the photo below is in preparation for the next stage once the silicone is ready, which is making a plaster ‘jacket’ to support this half of the mould.

preparing first half of mould for plaster jacket

For the rest of the day we turn to the subject of modelling in ‘Super Sculpey’, a polymer clay widely used by sculptors especially in the film industry and we look at various ways of working with it including the use of internal supports (armatures or foam blocks) or the use of a variety of tools for impressing and texturing.

Sculpey hand modelling

The practical exercise involves each participant modelling their own hand in 1:3 scale, working in two separate halves on reduced photocopies of their hand outline. The photocopies serve well as guiding templates and the hand prototypes can then be moulded the next day using meltable vinyl. This exercise has proved to be popular and straightforward since all information is ‘to hand’ .. but there are alternative options.

By the beginning of the second day we return to the 2-piece mould and fairly shortly after the first plaster jacket is made the first mould half can be turned over, cleaned up (plasticine removed) and the whole process repeated for this surface.

ready for second half of mould

By this time the ‘pattern’ for the five days has been established, of preparing a stage/ moving to something else while waiting (a standard characteristic of mouldmaking or casting work). We manage to pack quite a lot into the five days. After the simpler 1-piece moulds for flatter objects are made (using silicone or vinyl) and the 2-piece mould is complete, participants can try various methods and materials for casting: whether hollow shell or solid; using plaster, resin or plaster/polymer mix; using fillers or colourants; pouring or press-casting.

April 2011 various castings being made

Included along the way is a look at methods of shaping rigid foams (such as styrofoam and polyurethanes) to achieve a variety of prototype shapes. We also demonstrate working with alginate (for life casting), working with latex, absorption casting using latex or clay slip and metallic ‘cold casting’ using polyester resin with metal powder. On the last day, amongst other things attention is given to methods of painting or patination. We always aim for the right balance between the showing of illustrative examples, time spent on practical demonstration and ‘hands on’ activity.

examples to show press-casting hollow heads

Throughout the course participants are assisted in photographing their work to provide a complete record of making-processes and results. In any case each receives a fully instructional CD which includes step-by-step photo tutorials of all the processes covered, together with technical information on the materials and lists of suppliers.

The course is full-time, Monday to Friday, starting at 10.30 and finishing at 5.30 each day. The cost per person is £400 and all practical materials are included. If you would like to know more you can email me at or find a full course description including detailed schedule (and a separate .pdf with guidance on the choice of objects to bring) at this link …..

….. yes, it’s quite a ‘mouthful’ so it’s just as well that it isn’t!

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