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…