Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fish Float

What a better way to celebrate back-to-school than have a clay day! Yippee for me. With everyone back to school this morning I met a friend for breakfast then came back to my studio and pulled out the clay. It’s been way too long since I’ve been able to get my hands muddy. So long in fact that I needed to cull some partial bags of rock hard mystery clay and double check some other supplies. I really wanted to make a fish head mold today using a lovely salmon head I had put in the freezer 

a couple of months ago. I especially loved the lines on the underside of the fish near the gills and could see a whole wall full of various clay fish heads! I had plenty of Potter’s Plaster but had to pull out a couple of chunks that had hardened from a little moisture, but the rest was still powdery fresh. When I measured the height of the salmon head I noticed that the head was too tall for my existing mold boards that Bill Sabo and I had used on our whole fish casts. I cut new wood and made a mold that was tall enough, laid clay on the bottom and in the seams of the mold. I used a nonstick cooking spray on the boards for good relief once the plaster would be dry. Here is a video on making a one-piece plaster mold from Ceramic 

Arts Daily. There is also a handy chart for the water to plaster mixing consistency.

Dressing the salmon head was a bit tricky. After he thawed a bit, I noticed one of his eyes was damaged and his mouth wouldn’t close so I mended those areas with clay. I also needed to build up a base for the head to attach to and sit on since I couldn’t have any undercuts so the fish head could be removed from the hardened plaster cast. Once I had the heal all cleaned up and details showing I mounted the head to the clay base in the mold, readied my plaster and began pouring. 

I had enough plaster that I had also wanted to make some slump molds for slab work and decided to pour the fish head last. As I scraped the last little bit of plaster into the mold holding the fish head, all of the sudden that fish head had released from the bottom of the mold like a beach ball being held under water AND SHOT UP THROUGH THE TOP OF THE LIQUID PLASTER! Dropping my plaster bucket on the ground, I screamed as the head bobbed gently in the warm liquid, ghost-like and staring at me with it’s one good eye! I was not even expecting that and it scared the bejeezus out of me! 

After I composed myself, all I could do was laugh and thought “well, fish DO float!”

With lots of water cleanup, I managed to salvage the mold and the head to put back in the freezer. Of course I used up my last bag of Potters’ Plaster and need to get more tomorrow. I’ll try and cast it again after I figure out how to keep a fish from floating… 


Linda Starr said...

Hi Cindy, do you think you can put some lead (fishing) weights inside the fish head cavity and seal them in with the wet clay to get the fish to stay under the plaster till it hardens?

Will this be a one piece mold? Will you pour slip in the plaster mold once it is made to make more fish heads?

This is really intriguing to me - the making of the mold - I have seen it done but have only made one mold of a frog and lizard which were plastic that I got at the dollar store (he he).

Good luck with the second try. Can't wait to see how he turns out.

cookingwithgas said...

I use to love the first day of school. Getting the kids back and getting the time to work back as well!
The fish- too funny!
I love how you have frozen this fish head and prepared it for the plaster. I think Linda is right- maybe some weight would help.
The frozen head might not be sticky to the clay long enough.
On another note I once had a fish JUMP out of the fridge at me and flop around on the kitchen floor.
My son was about 2 and thought it was great fun- I did not.
I had to tell Mark- do not put them in the fridge unless they are dead!

Judy Shreve said...

Cindy - I love your 'fish-tale!' I wasn't expecting that either. YIKES! Too funny.

I've not worked much with plaster or molds -- but I do agree you need some sort of weights until the plaster sets up.

Christine--RHP said...

omg--I would have had a heart attack--
I am dying to make some molds of a few pieces (not fish heads tho....) and now you've got me a little more inspired!

cindy shake said...

Hi Linda- yes, the mold will be a one piece mold. The shape of the head hopefully will make it come out nicely -but that's why I had to do a lot of prep work before it came flying back up! I'm thinking of actually using a wire inside of the head and anchoring it to the mold base with an eye hook.. I don't do any slip cast work, I have been doing press-in mold type of casts using flattened clay from my slab roller to make the casts. It's really fun and there is a lot of information out there -like the link to the video I included plus tons of books at the library. For me it was also trial and error but tons of fun!

cindy shake said...

Hi Meredith- That is too funny about the fish jumping out!!! YIKES I would have fainted (even hearty fisher woman that I am!) Bill Sabo taught me the importance of good prep work for the mold. We also found that the slightly frozen fish makes for better details to hold. The only other gross thing to be prepared for is when the plaster heats up to set, it can really make for a STINKY pull-out of the fish... I swear the worst was when I made some casts of dried star fish -HOLY COW when I pulled the boards off, turned over the mold and had to pluck and pinch those "rubbery" stinky ol starfish out it smelled like a slew at low tide! The warmth and moisture had re-hydrated those silly things! PEW!

cindy shake said...

Hi Judy-Yeah it was such a shocker! I was totally in an artful bliss, music playing, mixing, pouring, pouring, leveling etc. then that silly head shot up!! It was like the salmon spirit re-incarnated to get back at me for all my fishing this summer and said AH-HA GOTCHA!

Hi Christine-It has been really fun. A bit messy and I have needed uninterrupted time to do it... which is why yesterday was perfect. I read on Whitney Smiths' Blog about some two-piece mold making she did as well. She also has professional molds made. Here is the link to that post:


Fish heads, fish heads, roly poly fish heads...(courtesy of Dr. Demento) LOL

What a great idea to cast fish. I've tried this same thing with large bugs such as long-horned wood beetles, and they also unfortunately float. It can be startling (understatement)! I've found that filling the insects with resin makes them heavy enough they don't float, but you lose some of the details. I don't know how that would work with fish.

Good luck with round 2!

cindy shake said...

Hi Julia! What a GREAT idea to be able to cast wood beetles and other cool bugs... unfortunately we don't have any huge bugs up here (excluding the mosquitoes!) I'm working on wiring the fish head down to my base... but now you have me thinking about bugs -I love bugs, my customers don't but I DO! When I made that huge steel grasshopper people freaked a bit -the huge steel Praying Mantis was OK, maybe because she was holding a pot of flowers :o)


Cindy, I'm scared to even write this - but if you ever need any dead bugs or bees for mold making I'd be glad to send you some. We have more than our fair share of a lovely and diverse load of insects here. Your giant grasshopper is one of my very favorite pieces of art of all time, for the record! I have some of the coolest clay bugs made from molds. I doubt they'd ever sell, but it's ok - I just figure they are part of my "private collection" LOL

ang said...

ahhhhh hahahahaha, maybe a fish hook!! a great read...thanks