you are here [x]: Scarlet Star Studios > the Scarlet Letters > new project: cold foam puppet
<< before ars gratia artis
after >> house adoption party

May 3, 2006

new project: cold foam puppet

by sven at 10:21 pm

After what seems like forever, I finally got back into the studio tonight. I'm starting a new project: making a stopmo puppet with "flexible expanding urethane foam" (cold foam) and a latex skin.

armature for the sculpt

The first step is to make a sculpt out of oil-based clay. Then I'll make a mold out of ultracal 30. Then I'll paint in liquid latex and let it dry. Then I'll put the puppet's armature into the mold, and fill it with the expanding foam.

In making the sculpt, you need an armature to help support the clay. This is NOT the same armature that will be inside the finished puppet. For supporting the sculpt, I used 1/8" thick aluminum armature wire. The base is a piece of wood that I've drilled several holes in, so I can weave the wire through.

first layer of clay

I've been experimenting with different types of oil-based clay. From what I've read, the two most popular brands are Roma Plastilina Clay and Chavant Plastiline. Plastilina often has sulfur in it, which interacts badly with latex. Chavant produces an oil-clay called "NSP" (Non Sulphurated Plastine) that's safe; I don't think Roma has a similar product.

According to the Chavant website, there are only two distributors of NSP in Portland: Stephenson Pattern Supply and Lash Quality Molds. These aren't your typical art supply stores; you're only going to know that they exist if you're doing pretty specialized work...

bulking it out

Stephenson Pattern Supply is a wholesaler in the industrial district that has a sign saying they don't accept orders for less than $150 of materials... They mean to scare off browsers; I was fortunate, and they deigned to sell me four pounds of NSP and a bag of ultracal 30 -- despite what the sign said. They're the only place in Portland that sells ultracal 30. [Interesting note to those in the know: This must be where Ralph Cordero shops -- there was a Toxic Mom's Studio sculpture in the lobby!]

Lash Quality Molds is a one-woman operation in an unmarked building way out by the airport. You have to call for an appointment. The owner (whose name I forget at the moment) was a neat person; she gave myself and another fellow a tour of the premises. I saw silicone molds being assembled -- and a monumental sculpture in the back room that was being prepped for casting. The owner recommended that I try J-MAC Classic Clay. It's non-sulphur, and she says the "brown firm" outsells everything else she carries by 80%. Well... I had to give it a try!

Comparing the NSP to the J-MAC, the NSP is more oily. The J-MAC feels more like water-based clay. ...I think I like the J-MAC a lot!!

beginning to sculpt volumes

In all honesy, I've hardly worked with clay at all previously. This is very new to me -- but it's feeling really right.

I do know that I generally like to work reductively -- so I began the sculpt by building up way more clay than I'm going to need. I don't have a drawing that I'm working from; I'm improvising... Happily shaving the lumpy mass into smooth volumes with my one trusty loop tool. I find myself starting with the ribcage, and then everything else evolves from there. The front of the ribcage arcs around to the small of the back; the spine is S-shaped; there's a line that swoops around from the butt to the knee... And so on.

I'm charmed. It's like learning constellations: From the Big Dipper, you arc to Arcturus -- and from Arcturus, spy Spica. :-)

posted by sven | May 3, 2006 10:21 PM | categories: sculpture, stopmo