File puptcrit/puptcrit.0602, message 74

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Date: Fri, 10 Feb 2006 02:41:48 -0500
Subject: [Puptcrit] Maskmaking: face casting alternatives

For the one-time use mold to produce a plaster replica of a face,  here is 
an alternative, non toxic method:

On a paper mache group I belong to, an inventive man uses uncooked pie dough 
(without salt) as a medium to mold the faces of his models, then he covers 
the dough with plaster bandages.
no vaseline needed on the face, just rub some flour.
Of course this is useful only as a one-time use mold.
There is no need for straw in the nostrils. Just before you apply the dough 
over the nose, ask the person to take a deep breath, and when the dough is 
in palce, to blow out through the nose at your signal.
The dough is supposed to have some difficulties to stick to itself in some 
places. I'm told if you are careful, it whould  be a problem for definition. 
The heat of the plaster bandages cooks the dough and makes it stiffer.

Since I'm using plaster bandages anyway, I'd prefer a re-usable mold, to 
save supplies and money.
I don't have the special wax for making such a mold, and cannot get some 
right now, but there are alternatives, I'm sure. Please tell if you know of 
any economical ways.

Once, I had a relatively good plaster cast of my face and wanted copies of 
it. I no longer had the original mold, so I made a liquid latex mold over 
it, and made a mother mold of plaster over that. The latex was thick enough 
to eliminate the subtle undercuts there were. For a more complex shape, such 
as a full plaster head, I would have needed to make a two-part mother mold. 
The latex could be in a single part, provided there was a slit cut in the 

I was inexperienced at mold making when I made the mother mold for my own 
face-cast, so I made it too weak. It is broken now, and I have nothing to 
hold my one-part latex mold.
That's not very dramatic. I do need more faces to work on now, but I am 
looking for more definition and a better angle to the face when it is 
installed on a flat surface. The face should look straight up, not at an 
It makes it easier for when I install it on my carver's bench. It has 
adjustable angles, so I prefer to have a steady centered head when it is at 
zero position.

It is a good idea to ask the "patient" to cut off all nose hair that might 
stick out...

I recently have started using plaster bandages exclusively for making 
"acceptable" one-time use molds for pouring the final plaster cast. It has 
just enough definition, if one is careful and meticulous.
I use very small pieces for the details, and do not over-wet my pieces. The 
nostrils are carefully contoured.

One has to be careful to avoid casting too deep a mold, when it is in a 
single part. It would be hard, if not impossible to remove. I go over the 
ears, but not further behind, and only slightly under the chin, not far over 
the neck. The ears are covered at the same step as covering the hair, with 
plastic bags held tight with masking tape.

After 3-4 layers of bandages, and 10 minute waiting after the last bandage, 
the mold is strong enough to be pulled off. Then I make the sides more even, 
and level by adding more bandages (folded in half), especially under the 
chin. It will provide a better levelled head, and more deepness to work on 
the mask more freely.
I plug the nostrils from the outside with bandages, and push in, to define 
them better.
I apply vaseline inside the mold everywhere, avoiding puddles.
I pour a well mixed plaster into it. First I throw the plaster in small 
drops to definine the deatil, until the inside is covered, I hurry to pour 
the ret in, as deep as possible without reaching the edges, which would 
stick permanently because they are rougher. If I wait too long before 
pouring over the detail plaster, it sets alone and chips of later. I keep 
scooping the plaster up and apply on the sides, until a reasonable thickness 
(about 1.5 to two inches) is reached. I don't make solid face plaster casts 
anymore. Too heavy to manipulate, and store, and carry, and it gets 
expensive too.

When plaster is set, I cut a small slit in the plaster bandages, lift an 
edge with a flat blunt tool, and tear the bandages off the plaster cast. It 
comes in a few pieces, and lots of dust, so don't go "TAZmanian Devil" on 
that step.

I sometimes need to fill some small air bubbles. I do so with more plaster, 
but mixed in smallam ounts and more liquid.  For repairs, I use a 
slow-setting plaster-like compound called Poly Filla. Regular plaster sets 
too fast and does not grab as much.
I do some surface corrections with a knife and sculpting tools.

I'm still looking for ways of scealing the plaster face completely, and 
permanently. Deeper into the surface, so that the clay I work over it does 
not pull the seal off.
My latest attempt is to let some mineral oil (heavy) sit on top and let it 
sink in. I have not tried the clay on this head yet.

There is a way to use moldmaking plaster directly over one's face, as it is 
done by maskmakers in Italy.
One should always test a plaster to see it does not heat up too much for 
applying onto skin.
Hardware store plaster works for me, but I always use the same product from 
the same brand, and mix the same quantities. Plaster heats up even more in 
bigger quantities.

Straws in the nose is a common practice, but I always avoid it. Risks of 
internal bleeding if the straw is knocked inside by mistake are too high for 
my tastes.  Maybe soft flexible tubing? Anybody tried it before?

The definition is very good, but one has to be careful with facial hair 
being grabbed permanently by the plaster when in liquid state. Cover the 
facial hair with vaseline, then cover with something that will not be 
damaged or moved by the plaster. I started using facial tissues after I 
found out that toilet paper was a bit too weak for my tastes.

Experimental: One could also use something to fill beards and mustaches and 
heavy eyebrows, to keep the shape and definition intact. Maybe water-based 
clay that one would let dry before proceeding?  It is a pain to remove 
afterwards, but weak powder white clay, for skin treatment could be used for 
that. With enough water, clay dissolves. I know, I've had facials with my 
beard on...
I wonder how they do it for death masks, when you see the definition of the 

and a bonus...
The following is a fine example of stupid negligence, which we can all learn 
from. I sure did.
I found out how greedy the LIQUID plaster is, even with tons of vaseline on 
the hair, that one time when I had to get someone to bring me to a hospital 
to have the whole thing cut away from my face.
I was younger inexperienced and stupid, and also weakend by a long day's 
work. I should have gone to bed instead of deciding to mold my own face, AT 
NIGHT, in a new neighborhood, with no one to assist me.
Never do that!!!

I was careful, I applied great amonts of vaseline over my face, even more on 
the facial hair and goatee
(I did not know about adding a layer of paper towel back then).

The mold was easily removed from everywhere, including eyebrows and 
eyelashes, but then the goatee was the problem. The mold was 2 inches thick 
in most places, therefore pretty heavy, and was holding on to the goatee! I 
couldn't pull it off, no matter how hard I tried. We have very strong hair 
and beard in the family. My skin would have come off too! (I have an uncle 
who used to get his friends to lift him up completely by pulling on his 
hair). So I held the mold with my left hand, while my right was guiding me 
through the appartment to get my wallet and keys. I was VERY lucky. I 
realised at that moment that I dont' panick in cases of personal danger. I 
was calm and clear-minded, but I was totally on my own case, sermoning 
myself for doing such a stupid thing. The mold was letting me speak, but I 
could not hold it to my ears. There was no free-hand speaker on that phone.

I went out and got some help from a neighbor I did not even know (I had just 
moved), and she brought me to the hospital,after we were told that the 
ambulances don't have the special plaster saw in their kit.
Fortunately, I had not used the straw in the nose method for breathing. I 
had made a straw with a large plastic tube, and put it in my mouth. I did 
not ned the mouth to be prefect for that mold, but the nose was crucial. 
This was easily turned around and broken off, freeing my mouth for talking.

Overall, it was a hilarious experience. Laughter must be a defense mecanism 
against panic. I was making jokes and comments on ,my sitaution, and the 
people driving me were surprised to see me so "serene".
Let's just say I had that or panic to choose from.

The reaction I got from people during the trip still makes me smile.
Except for the time at the hospital when two army muscle-men were working on 
the mask. They were there for some kind of mandatory medic training, I 
think. One was holding me still to the table, while the other was operating 
the saw, which was not designed to cut hard plaster. It was meant for 
plaster bandages, so he had to work carefully, in small bits. The first big 
chunk out of the mold, I grabbed and pocketed, and have kept preciously to 
this day. You can see the pores of my skin in the definition. I sealed it 
and someday I might find the time to frame it in a shadow box with the 
legend: OUCH! Just a little reminder for me and my entusiasm for trying new 
things at bad moments. The pain increased as the pies fell off. The man was 
pulling real hard at some point, drawing blood by pulling out some goatee 
hairs to make way for the small surgical cissors to cut the rest of them. 
Sadistic they seemed: "You did this to yourself, buddy!"
Like I said, I was very lucky.

Nowadays I am almost a model of safety with art methods. I barely get small 
scrtches from time to time.
The experience was wortwhile after all...
But please learn from my mistakes. Believe me, it's not worth it to risk it 
on yourself.
Then again, it would have a made a funny video...

Mathieu René Créaturiste
Marionnettes, Masques, Etcetera...
Puppets, Masks, Etcetera...
(514) 274-8027 

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