File puptcrit/puptcrit.0604, message 340

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Date: Mon, 1 May 2006 01:11:10 -0400
Subject: [Puptcrit] Mold making adventure / Hiring collegues

Hi all.
The following is a bit off-topic, but I thought it might interest some of my fellow puppet-makers on this list.
It is a bit anecdotal, in that it is written much like a diary, were I to have one.
Please feel free to comment, bring suggestions, or anecdotes of your own

I want to share my excitement at getting a new mold soon, which I ordered from a collegue.
There is some "technical advice" hidden in the text, but there are mostly some bits that could raise some curiosity about the process. Some of you might even want to order a mold from a moldmaker. I think we should encourage the work of people who can make our work easier. Moldmaking is useful for puppetmaking as well and something we don't discuss much here, so this might be the start for a new thread on it.

First, a piece of economical advice:
You can get molds done at surprisingly affordable prices, if you know who to ask.
I encourage people to learn techniques, but you got to pick your battles, I now realise. I just can't learn it all, so I leave the high-tech stuff to skilled professionnals.

You can ask: a Fine-Art student, a bronze caster, a prop maker, a prop-making company, basically any professionnal who deals with molds, such as a prostethic technician (they make detailed fake limbs!). I once went to a specialised set-and-prop-making company, and moldmaking was so very simple and quick to them that a professionnal rubber mold from one of my own sculptures (a figurine) would have cost me only 75$ (CAN)!

I have been making a lot of masks these past few months, mostly prototypes to learn how to make better Commedia dell'Arte masks for a Theatre production I'm working on. It's paying off, I learned a whole lot! Especially about paper mache ( I keep refining it and getting lighter yet stronger results) and the sculpture/design aspect itself.
Thankfully, the company and I have an understanding that I could spend all this time on developement. They are my willing guinea pigs, so I gave them a good deal on the price. 

Lately, a few other mask orders are coming on top of my already busy schedule. So I have been dreaming about a practical, very precise permanent mold to reproduce my plaster face at will. This instead of having to do a one-time plaster bandage mold every time I need a copy to work on more masks at one time.
Not having a working mold could eventually force me to refuse maskmaking contracts, when I'm particularly busy.
I have two big orders for schools and one for a TV project coming up soon. Every saved second counts!

I would prefer to make most of my masks "from a cast of your face" but the reality is that most of my non-theatre customers can't afford to pay for such a service. So I use my own face as a "standard". It fits most faces so far, and I can make adjustments when needed. These masks are destined to be sold directly by me, also online and in stores. Some custom-orders, especially the rush orders, also benefit from me using a "standard".

Back to the mold-making part:
I hired a collegue to make it for me. He's much more apt to make complex hard molds than myself, and he's even more obsessed with refined work. He insisted on making a hard plaster mold, which is very complex to make.
I wanted a latex "skin" and a plaster mother mold over that (much simpler and faster to make), but his mind is set on that plaster exercice, so I'll let him. Since I'm his friend as well, he's having a hard time grasping the concept that I'm te paying customer, and that I should have the last word on this. Yet I've been his guinea pig before, and I never regretted it. At the low price he's asking me for such fine work, I can't ever complain. Word of advice, if you can find a friend who is also a moldmaker, keep him/her a close friend!
LoL. Whenever I need a complex mold I'd rather not try to do myself, or if I don't have the time for even a simple job, I can count on him.

Back to the project:
We started from scratch. I shaved my precious little shrub of a beard, which always takes a year to grow to a respectable effect, for better chin definition. Small sacrifice, trust me. The last time I kept my beard and mustache for a face mold, I ended up with a very detailed beard on the full-head cast, but it was just getting in the way of my mask designs. Art is needy.

We protected my eyebrows with lanolin, which is an awesome inexpensive grease which is pure, extracted from wool.

He molded my face with alginate, with a temporary mother mold of plaster bandages. The positive was cast of ultracal, which is a much stronger and harder type of plaster (I highly reccomend it!). the result was a VERY high detail postive. We can see my skin texture!  This positive is now being re-worked to make it even smoother and easier to mold.
  When I went to visit today, I saved him days of work when I realised I did not need so much detail in the final copies. All I need is precise volume definition. Small crevices and undercuts can be eliminated by filling with plastalina.  Areas like nostril definition and the small indentation under the nose are filled. The ears were also reduced to simple bumps. I need those to help with my designs. Because of the clay modifications I made on the cast today, my collegue can make a 3 part mold instead of a 5 part!

  I can't wait to see the results.
  Maybe tomorrow night  (there have been two time extensions already).
  I won't even need to pour a test piece. He's making one to make sure the mold is perfectly functional and easy to use. Which means I'll have TWO new positives (the first positive, and the first cast from the new mold) to make masks on immediately. He delivers. Thankfully he is a small giant, built like a warrior, so carrying all this plaster in a box and travelling by city bus won't be much of a bother to him.
  I am relieved! I was already envisionning a very dangerous (and potentially costly) trip by bicycle. My bicycle's basket setup is strong, but I never carried so much weight at once in it!

  Uh, actually, I did carry a 66Lb (30kg) bag of sand this spring. The weight was so concentrated in one spot that it lifted my front wheel until I actually sat on the seat.  It was almost like a suicide attempt, it coinciding with rush hour. I made it home by rolling VERY slowly and steadily, getting very tired arms,  vowing to get such a weighty item by Taxi next time.
  As I mentionned before, Art is needy. but sometimes you gotta pick what you let it have.

Mathieu René Créaturiste
Marionnettes, Masques, Etcetera...
Puppets, Masks, Etcetera...
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