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Submitted by: Susan Ingram, Jackson Academy, Jackson, Mississippi
UNIT: Sculpture relief - casting - handmade paper
Grade levels: Middle School through high school (adaptable to elementary)
The student will develop a greater understanding of three dimensions: height, width, and depth. The student will understand the relationship between the positive and negative relationship between clay, plaster, and handmade paper by completing the steps in the creation of the final product: cast handmade paper.
Book: The Papermaker's Companion: The Ultimate Guide to Making And Using Handmade Paper - This valuable reference covers everything, from the basics to more advanced techniques like shaped sheets, embossing, laminating, and watermarking. Included are extensive step-by-step instructions on processing pulp, building papermaking equipment, and making paper-based projects like cards, lamp shades, and sculpture.
Lesson 1: Create 3-D Clay Image
Place 2 layers of masking tape on each seam of a small cardboard box. Box should be taped inside and outside to prevent plaster from leaking.
Cover the inside of the box (the inside bottom of the box) with a thin layer of clay (1/2 " [1.3 cm] or less).
Build up a 3-D image inside of the box with clay. There should be no undercuts in the clay image. The clay image should be at least ½" below the top edge of box
Lesson 2: Pour Plaster Mold
Mix plaster according to directions in a large bucket.
Pour plaster quickly over clay image in box. Plaster should reach top edge of box.
Tap box to release air bubbles within the plaster.
Plaster will set up within several hours.
Lesson 3: Clean up Plaster Mold
Remove and discard cardboard box and clay from plaster. Clay can be saved to be used with this lesson again. Keep this clay away from clay used for ceramics.
Use X-acto knife to remove all bits of clay from image in plaster. Also, remove any over-hanging edges of plaster.
Cover plaster mold with one or two coats of shellac. Allow shellac to dry completely. Note: Floor wax can be substituted for Shellac.
Lesson 4: Paper Pulp
1. Mix paper pulp according to directions.
2. Spray plaster mold with release agent, such as WD-40 (Pam cooking spray also works)
3. Press wet paper pulp into plaster mold. Use a sponge to remove as much water as possible.
4. Paper pulp should dry for approximately 48 hours. A fan aids the drying process.
Lesson 5: Cast Paper
1. Loosen the edges of the paper pulp. Carefully remove the paper pulp from the plaster mold.
2. Cast paper may be painted with watercolors. Advanced students may want to try air brushing
Additional notes from Susan:
Small cardboard box
1. My students make their own 4"x 6" (10 x 15 cm) corrugated cardboard boxes. I cut the 4"x 6" (10 x 15 cm) bottom and 2" (5 cm) side pieces for the boxes.
2. Lesson 4: Paper Pulp
My students make their own paper pulp. They tear good quality stationery and cards (donated by a local printer) into postage stamp size pieces. The paper pieces become pulp when blended in a blender with plenty of water.
3. It is also possible to color the pulp with pigment, pieces of brown paper bags, or Construction Paper. I have found, however, with large groups of students, it is a better plan for students to paint the cast handmade paper with water-based paints.
You can also make paper casting molds from clay - carve into clay - bisque fire - then use as per lesson. For low relief molds - you can press thick sheets of paper into the molds. Gently lay the sheet onto mold and press out the water with a sponge.
For a Louise Nevelson lesson - Press all sorts of gadgets (assorted found objects) into the clay - bisque fire - then make a paper cast. Nevelson did some very interesting cast paper works. Some can be found online.
Note from Grace:
I would NOT recommend using the plaster with this. I would highly recommend using clay to make your relief molds, as when my class and I tried this we had so many problems with the plaster. If you do want to use plaster then here are a few recommendations:
Have the students put their cardboard box in a plastic sack before they pour plaster in case the box leaks the plaster will run into the sack rather than all over. I would not recommend over taping or overly strong tape as it makes it difficult for students to get the box of the plaster mold later. I would recommend having runnier plaster over thicker plaster so it fills in around the clay easier. I"m not sure if it was the climate outside or the plaster, but it took forever to dry so you may want to have activities for while they're waiting for things to dry; you can also put them in a kiln on the very lowest setting possible so it's enough heat to dry the plaster but not burn the cardboard off (though some cardboard may lightly burn). With the pulp have spoon or other tool as several kids didn't want to get their hands in the pulp as it looked and felt gross (I affectionately called it "paper vomit" as that's what it looked like). Tell them to be careful when pressing the pulp as the plaster molds might break.
Like I said I would recommend using clay relief mold rather than plaster. I made one of both, the plaster broke before I could cast that one, but the clay one worked so much better. I don't know if or what other problems someone else might have but I know out of (roughly) 45 students we only had 3 or 4 who were able to successfully cast their project. Hope this helps someone avoid some troubles.
Side note: Rather than finding card-stock to tear up my classes tore up old projects and papers that students put in the recycling bins.