So, Robert Ito's NYTimes article continues to turn up miracles here. I get an email from a veteran art/science/animation teacher in California who has been awarded an externship to use over her summer break to expand her techniques and experience in stop motion to make her classes even more valuable for her students. She's asking to spend her hours in Halfland, to shadow what I'm doing, to learn whatever I know, to get her hands onto more puppets, to see how others approach their projects, etc.
I met she and her husband shortly thereafter and saw she was sincere and sane. It just so happened that the days she had for her first trip up from her home, 2 hours away, was the same week that Christine! was on a trip back East and my husband would be away during that same time. Ms. White, actually known as Deborah George, was going to find a little room for rent nearby, but with a whole room here free, I thought we could get more work done if she stayed over. We made it an art intensive stop motion camp for 5 days and nights.
The first job was to create soft red clay beds (I bought a 25# bag so we'd have plenty) under half of the plasticine models, those that were to be molded into 2-part molds. Above, you see the small Yanu moth man sculpt being embedded.
I found that Coroplast, corrugated plastic sheeting, was the absolute best material for creating mold walls. It cut precisely with straight edge and blade, held its shape and structure like a champ, all duct tape and clay of both kinds came away from its surface easily, and the strips were totally reusable! I'm spoiled by using this stuff for mold walls from now on.
Getting the above molds poured and made, pulled apart, cleaned up, etc. took nearly 40 hours of intense work. I can't properly thank Ms. George for her coming to Halfland Camp except to say, COME AGAIN!!!!! For every bit of info I was able to share with Deborah, she gave back a trick and tip that was of equal value. She didn't come here as a blank slate. She came with a rich background of experience in art and art instruction. I learned as much, if not more, from her.
A note regarding safety: You see me looking at you, reader? See how serious I look? Here's why; I LOVE mold making. I love everything about it, the process, the technique, the materials, the results, and what can be done with them. However, it is incredibly important to point out something about the molding compounds used.
While the powders themselves are not "toxic" it must be noted that the dust should never get close to being breathed. That the activated (wet) powder should never come into contact with your eyes, skin, or food, etc. It isn't enough to use it out of doors. You MUST wear a proper respirator, full or halfmask, proper gloves on both hands, I used 2 pair of Nitrile and then a long cuff rubber gloves on top to stir with, you must wear eye protection. And it would be a good idea to also wear a head cover to keep the dust out of your hair for easier washing after the session and long pants and supportive shoes, long sleeves, etc. Next session I plan to also wear a nice paper painters suit on top of my clothes so I can remove it and put it in a plastic storage bag before reentering the house.
Ultracal 30 and Hydrocal White, and other creative powders like them, become as alkaline as drain cleaner when activated. There is the very real danger of giving any tissue in contact with it irreversible chemical burns. (Easy to access MSDS safety info on all products here).
I'd probable take most of these safety steps with simple plaster of paris too, minus the skin protection, because breathing almost any particulate is best avoided. Got it?