Sunday, June 19, 2011

My plaster molds

I have been asked why I would use plaster molds because plaster molds allow for making several pieces, and so how can an artist claim that the work is one of a kind?

Well, I'm assuming that the person does not understand the processes involved in making a doll, ball-jointed doll, or any type of porcelain or ceramic sculpture. Some knowledgeable people would laugh this off, and be kind of insulting. Maybe I would tell the person to research some more on his or her own the things or factors that are involved in ceramics.

The only way forms like the doll pieces can be created is by using a plaster mold, and the only way a plaster mold can be created is by having a previous shape. Ceramic materials need to be hollow if they are thick. Each ceramic piece of dolls, including ball-jointed dolls, are like little tubes and vases. There has to be a space where air can escape. Aside from this, ideally, the thickness of the pieces should be almost equal. Fortunately, because my pieces are small, then a little variation in thickness would not crack the piece while it is in the kiln being fired to more than 2300ºF.

So, if I am to make the shapes by hand, it would be difficult and impractical, the shapes would be irregular and the pieces would dry and crack even before I come up with a perfect shape.

Plaster has a strange characteristic. It is hard as stone, but it absorbs water. So liquid ceramic called a "slip" would be poured into a mold made of plaster, and the plaster would absorb the water from the ceramic slip, first absorbing the water of the slip that touches the mold. So, after a few minutes, depending on how thick you would want the ceramic to be, you would pour out the excess slip, so that there would be a layer of ceramic that has taken the shape of the mold, and the interior would be hollow. The hole of the mold, where the ceramic slip was poured in, would also result in a hole on the ceramic, much like a vase would have a hole.

So, the plaster mold stage is needed. If the piece is supposed to be one of a kind, then the mold would no longer be used. However, when it comes to doll art, usually the body needs to be standardized, so the size would be the same, and people can switch dresses and costumes between dolls. The way to make the dolls one of a kind, in my opinion, is not the one-time use of doll parts. A gallery owner, answered this question for me, without even me asking her opinion about this.

She said that I should see the dolls that I make as a canvas. As a canvas or material, I can make one-of-a-kind compositions, by varying the color, the markings, and even using one or more as part of a larger arrangement. So a doll can become one-of-a-kind, if I change the hair color, skin colors and markings, costumes, and if I group them or include them in different settings or themes.

I still cannot really encourage people to play with my work, because ceramic materials break if dropped. Commercially available dolls don't break when they are dropped. While both are collectible, you lose a lot if the ceramic breaks.

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