Part 3, Molding & casting, Project 2 – Paper pulp and plaster


My next set of exercises used paper pulp to mold from surfaces. I made the pulp myself using a cross cut shreader (we are having a clear out of old papers ath the moment so this was an ideal opportunity for some recycling!) , a blender, paper, water and a small amount of PVA glue. I poured this into some packaging that I had saved from the bin. Some with interesting surfaces themselves others with items placed inside them to mold from. These included some bubblewrap, string, embroidered samples etc.

I must admit that I totally underestimated the time these would take to dry and wish that I had squeezed more water out at the beginning; but I did get some good results once they were dry and my airing cupboard once gain had room for towels!.


The first sample was molded from my paint set’s lid. it is a very strong impression and is quite smooth to the touch which I must admit suprised me as I thought it would keep it’s oatmeal like texture!


These three samples are textures taken from food packaging. These all had geometric patterns that I found interesting. I am particularly pleased with the first and second samples in this group. They molded really successfully and I don’t think I would know they were molded from packaging had I not made them.


Again these two samples were molded in the food packaging, the first had a layer of large bubble wrap in the bottom. This piece was particularly successful with a good strong imprint. The second sample in the picture is altogether more subtle. I really like the contrast in scale and texture between these two.


This piece had string placed in the bottom of the tray, again it is a good strong imprint which has the same feeling as some of the clay samples made earlier.


The embroidered net was used again to form this sample and worked equally as well as it did in the earlier clay experiments. I also like the way that the texture of the packaging shows either side of the net impression. the change in scale and pattern makes it far more interesting than if it had been molded in a plain tray with no texture.


This larger sample used the lighterweight embroidery in the bottom of the tray. They did not work so well. Thicker, heavier samples certainly work best to get better definition.


The heavier drawn work sample that worked so well for the clay equally worked well here when I started to remove it from the paper pulp once dry however, I really like it still set in it so have decided to leave it in. I love the textures, lines and colour combination of this little sample. I also like the way the hairs on the hessian are enhanced by the pva giving it an almost frosty look. I tried to capture the essence of this sample in my sketchbook:


Before moving on to the next section I tried to collect and record some of the sample’s textures in my sketchbook. Some I tried a couple of times using different techniques. I was particularly impressed with the rubbings using two colours of oil pastel:


Casting the internal space of  vessel

This exercise seemd very alien to me if I’m honest. I have only used plaster once and that was in a traditional way, using a mold to cast a plaque. So filling sandwich bags with it seemed very odd indeed! I only had a small pack of plaster so  decided to fill five bags an dtry relying on gravity to mold them. For this I was inspired by Victoria Ferrand Scott’s sculptures where she hangs or places things on surfaces to create forms.


I decided to hang my first bag up after tying it with string to create a shaped vessel and let gravity do the work. As the course notes suggest I was focusing on the process, not the outcome which left me totally free to experiment.

This created a very organic form shaped a little like a shell. At first I was disappointed with the bubbles that emerged in the piece but on reflection I think they add a little more detail to the surface. I also like the small folds, nooks and crannies creted by the bag creasing where the string was.


For my second sample, I filled the bag as before but this time I laid it over my bubblewrap paper pulp sample and left it to harden.

I must admit to being a little disappointed with this sample as the indentations were not a strong as I had hoped. Again I suppose the process was more important than the outcome.


For my third sample I returned to the tied technique that I hd used on the hanging sample but this time I laid it on a flat surface to dry.

This creted a rather squashed deflated version of the first sample. It did accentuate the folds created by the bag and string. I find it reminds me a bit of a footprint in sand (albeit from a deformed foot!)


For my penultimate sample in this section I decided to try putting some embroidered samples in the bottom of a tray and laying the bag on top. This did leave a mark but it was very faint. It could make an interesting background texture though.

I think my final sample is my favourite in this set. It is just so tactile and ‘soft’ if that can be possible from a cold hard object. It was achieved by laying my final bag over a bag full of large polystyrene balls and leaving it to set.


This created a wonderfully tactile object that you just want to touch and feel. It fits really well in the hand and has some lovely markings in it due to the bubbles and creases from the bag it was cast in.


I wanted to try and draw this piece, I’m not sure how successful I was but I tried my best, I am really not happy with the shadow. I think it is a bit harsh but overall I am quite happy with it as a way to observe and record.


I thought I would add these in at the end as they made me chuckle. I am quite sure that they don’t have a lot of artistic merit but they do go to show that it is wise to think about the shape of the vessels you use for casting!


Review of materials and techniques used for part 3

This part of the course has been something of a revelation to me. I have hardly ever used any of the techniques before so I’m sure that technically they are not of the highest standard but I did really enjoy creating all the samples I made.

All in all I cannot say that I fell in love with the plaster as a medium but it was a very interesting exercise. I have found out that I prefer a much drier material in particular the clay. I seemed to suit my way of working better and enabled me to explore my embroidery’s textural and line qualities in a completely different way. This is something I will be following up in the future with the aim of using it as a technique far more often.

I think I have made a wide range of samples using the materials and tried to use them in an innovative a creative way. I found I became very excited by the textures captured rather than the shapes and liked exploring this area leading me to try as many surfaces as I could (within time constraints). This culminated in my using some of my own embroidery samples to cast from and indeed embed in some cases.




About Julie Hooker

Having recently returned to my roots in Surrey, I am currently studying a BA Hons degree with the OCA. My work is often inspired by the local countryside in the beautiful Surrey Hills area and the wild rugged nature of the North Cornish coast. Steam engines and abandoned industrial history are also recent themes. A free machine embroiderer and felt maker; I like to explore the use of natural, found materials to create my art, whether that be as raw materials to stitch or weave with or as a material with which to produce dye or print with. Previously, I completed City and Guilds parts 1 & 2 Creative Embroidery at the East Berkshire College in Windsor in 2007. I was also awarded first place in the wearable art section of the National Quilt Championships 2008 and 2009 held annually at Sandown Park.
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