Sunday, September 29, 2013

Molding a Classical Sculpture

On Saturday August 3rd, I went to the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens (633 Osceola Avenue, Winter Park, FL) to watch sculptor Peter Forester create a mold from the classical portrait bust he had sculpted in clay using a live model in just six hours several weeks prior.

The clay sculpt was transitioned into a “waste mold,”  Plastic shims were shoved into the clay sculpture dividing the bust in half. Peter then mixed plaster in a bowl and he flung it by hand onto half of the sculpture. Plaster spattered everywhere in the process, even onto my boots and sketch pad as I worked, Once a plaster layer had hardened, he then build  re-bar supports around the sculpture to make sure that the plaster mold he was building would not break apart. Then he kept building up the plaster mold gradually with many messy layers of plaster.

Peter said: “The clay model is only a means to an end; it represents the concept that the artist is striving towards. For this purpose I think it is essential to employ an intermediary step that is no longer used, to put the clay into plaster. The plaster will embolden mistakes not seen in clay, which the artist may correct before attempting to complete the master; hence the final product is the 'master piece'."

Once half the sculpture covered in a thick solid mass of plaster, the process was repeated on the opposite side. When dry, the two halves were split apart. Then the gorgeous clay sculpture was destroyed as it was scooped out from the molds. That has to be nerve wracking to destroy a sculpture that had taken six hours to create. The insides and seams of the mold were then coated with a non-stick surface. The halves were then bound together and  a thin layer of plaster was poured inside. Peter kept the mold in motion being sure plaster filled all the negative voids. This hollow plaster piece was the masterpiece which a foundry would use to create a final bronze pour.

What followed was insanely difficult work. The mold couldn't just be pulled apart. Peter had to destroy the mold, chipping down and trying to uncover the plaster master he had just created. Only a thin layer of blue plaster warned him when he was close. This was back breaking work and chips flew everywhere. The model for the sculpture, Byron Walker, is also a sculptor and he happened to have an air powered chisel in his truck. Peter let Byron chisel his way down to his own face. The air chisel was insanely loud like a jack hammer. A small gouge was taken out of the nose but such minor dings could be repaired. It took several hours to chisel away all of the plaster mold.

“The urge to destroy is also a creative urge.”
― Pablo Picasso

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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