Over the past two weekends I have been teaching some classes for The Workshop Cabin in Bath in the wonders of plaster, (cue large amounts of hand cream as it is pretty brutal on the poor mitts). The Workshop Cabin put on really cool workshops, ranging from painting to photography to bookbinding and many more. Definitely check out their site for inspirational activities… I have my eye on the Pyrography workshop already.
Anyhow, over two Saturdays we built, planned, mixed, dipped, wrapped, made a mess, painted and mounted various works. The results are pretty great and I think that the participants were pleased with their results – the sculptures were especially amazing. An added bonus was that it was just before Valentine’s day, so the plaster flowers were put to good use as gifts for some lucky recipients.
All Photos courtesy of Heidi @ The Workshop Cabin
Everyone beavering away with their plaster
Plaster flowers drying
Happy Valentine pressies
Sculptures in progress
The final sculptures…
Final sculptures with bronze paint effects, and some very happy punters…eat your heart out Alberto Giacometti….!
With the festive season fast approaching, here is a sweet and simple little plaque to make from plaster dipped flowers, ribbon and a slate or wood backing. You can find the fully detailed tutorial on how to make the plaster dipped flowers here.
I have had a couple of queries about my plaster and gold feathers, so I thought I would put a tutorial up about making them. They are quite fiddly to make, but perseverance makes it possible!
They look great framed, or randomly lying about. I balance mine on top of picture frames or keep them in pots. They look like the most delicate matt china sculptures.
Feathers – you need quite strong and long ones such as pigeon/pheasant/seagull types. Strong quills and dense tight plumage are best rather than ones that have fluffy edges. Also, if you can get pale ones go for those as a preference. If you cannot find real ones lying around, ebay sell great feathers in the fishing section (used by people for making fishing flies, and much cheaper than buying via Haberdashery or Craft sections and suppliers). I have tried the ones from kids craft shops that are already dyed, but the colours are usually very bright and make it a longer process to create a pure white finished article.
Plaster of Paris – I use regular art shop/craft shop plaster. You can go for expensive fine grade versions, but you will be building up layers so the former is just as good.
Gold leaf, or gold acrylic paint or gold spray if you don’t want to try gilding.
Washing Line – You will need to hand the feather to dry, so some sort of washing line or string home-made version.
Thin Garden Wire – this is to tie onto the end of the feather where the quill is visible, sort of like a little handle.
Plastic Jug – this has to be a t least 2/3rd of the length of the feather.
A hand whisk.
Separate jug/bottle of tepid water.
Find a plastic jug that will fit your feather in lengthways once the plaster is made up. You will also need to fit a hand whisk into it so bear that measurement in mind.
Prepare the feather by twisting the wire onto one end, bend one end of the wire into a S hook shape for hanging the feather later
Mix up the Plaster of Paris. I do it by eye instead of measuring. Fill up the jug by 2/3rds and start adding the plaster to the water and whisking vigorously until it is like single cream in consistency. It starts to thicken really fast so you need to work quickly now!
Take the feather by the wire end and start rolling it around it in the plaster, tilting the jug so you cover all areas of the feather. You will find that the natural oils in the feather try to repel the plaster, so keep going until all the feather is covered. Gently tap the feather to remove excess and hang up to dry. You should have time to do one more feather with this mixture. Don’t worry if not all areas take the plaster mixture, as you will do a second coat later if it is needed. Some feathers take one coat, others need more…. luck of the draw.
After this, the remaining plaster will be trying to thicken, so add some more tepid water and whisk, you should get it thin enough to cover a couple more feathers.
Leave the feathers to dry totally and wipe out your jug asap before the plaster sets hard, use really hot water to dissolve what is left in the jug and flush the sink thoroughly for 5 minutes with hot water to stop drains blocking.
The plaster on the feathers feels damp and cold until it is fully dried out, I leave mine at least 6 hours or overnight to harden off. Then I run another plaster layer again on them if they need it. Again, let them dry totally. They will resemble very fine matt porcelain when finished.
When dry start the gilding. I had never done this until recently, and it is much easier than people think, and it has such an amazing lustre compared to gold paint.
I use diluted PVA as my size, about 50% water added, and brush it thinly over the area in smooth even strokes, avoiding puddles and runs, (as the leaf is wafer thin any marks underneath will be visible when finished). As the size dries it will become clear with a tacky consistency. To test if the size is ready to accept the leaf lightly press your knuckle to the surface, if it clicks when you pull it away it is ready. Do not test using your finger tip as it will leave a print that will show through the leaf, or will remove the size from that area.
The tricky bit – Gold coloured leaf is available in genuine gold and imitation leaf, the genuine leaf will be richer in colour and finish, different coloured metal leaves are also available. I use transfer leaf, (attached to tissue paper), making it easier to apply.
Once the size is tacky place the gold leaf on the object and brush it gently with a very soft brush. Lay the next sheet of leaf down so that it overlaps slightly, and repeat until the surface is covered. When applying to raised surfaces you may need to use small pieces of leaf to fill crevices first, and use a soft bristle brush to tamp the leaf into the grooves. Wait 30 minutes and then buff with a lint free cloth. You can apply a clear varnish if you want to, but I don’t on my feathers.
Here is a useful video showing you how to apply the leaf if you have not done it before.
Yesterday, my friend Claire and I spent a few hours dabbling in plaster with fabric flowers. The process is really simple and they look like the most delicate bisque porcelain pieces when finished. Claire has taken them off for framing in 3D Box frames, and the picture of the framed end result is at the bottom of the page. They can also be made into tealight holders if you dry them flat and push out a space in the center for the tealight whilst they are still wet, or framed, or just left au naturel. As the Plaster of Paris dries quite fast you only have a small window of time to make the flowers, so work in small batches and make new plaster as and when you need it. In the meantime here is the process: Ingredients: Plaster of Paris Water Fabric Flowers (tighter full blooms like roses and peonies are best) Wire cutters Scissors Plastic container for the plaster of paris which is wide enough for dunking flower heads Greaseproof paper Mixing stick. How to:
Prepare the flowers: Cut off any internal plastic stamens. Pull off leaves from stem, leaving the flower head and stem only.
Prepare the plaster of paris by mixing it in the plastic container and adding water gradually whilst mixing until it reaches the consistency of thick cream.
Take a flower, turn it upside down and submerge in the mixture. Twizzle it about, and pull out to inspect. It might not be totally covered in plaster, but you do another dip in more plaster later when it is dry if this is the case.
When it is fully covered (including the insides of the petals) let drips fall off by gentle shaking it in the container. If you want just the flowerhead cut off the stem, but you can leave a length of stem and also dip that in plaster. Cut off the stem to the length you want with wire cutters and place it face up to dry on the greaseproof paper, or in an empty foil pie dish is also good. You can also peg the flowers out to dry upside down on a line, (we tried this way too for the really full blooms and it keeps their shape tight). We dried some of ours flat on newspaper and it stuck and had to to be peeled off when dry, so greaseproof paper is the way to go if lie them down to dry.
Leave to dry thoroughly. If bits look patchy, make up another mix of plaster and do a second dip.
Here is the framed finished version of the flatter dipped flowers:
I have more recently used the flowers on plaques as pictures show below, here is a link to the post about them: