CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio
CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Pleasure and Pain of Plaster

In an effort to offer students suffering from Spring Fever something to latch onto, I set up a table this morning like so: 
Half papier Mache, half plaster gauze. 
Only one of these faces is cast from a human face, the rest were made from some molds we found in the closet

Vocabulary and concepts were introduced: 
  • Armature - try wire, aluminum foil, wadded paper - let's avoid balloons for now.
  • Mold - try a Styrofoam mask form, a wooden bowl - please protect the mold first with plastic wrap and remember that the mold needs an "exit."
  • Cast - pretty much the same as a mold, only it is done with plaster. Can be poured plaster or plaster-gauze.

 It didn't take long before the "mold" was 7th grade "A," who agreed to have a cast made of his face even though once underway, he remembered that he is claustrophobic.
The plaster heats up a little while it cures. We protected "A's" face with a damp paper towel, and wrapped him up pretty well in some fabric we found in the fiber art center, to keep the drips off his clothing and out of his ears.
Somehow, a student talked me out of a balloon ("to make a piggy bank like I did last year, but smaller. I still have the first one!") And later, a second balloon was issued to make a planetary pinata ("for a social studies project.") I have gotten very reticent about handing out balloons for paper mache, because frequently, nothing comes of them. I hoped my students today would build an armature with other available materials. I let students know that the only reason to use a balloon, really, is if the sculpture needs to be hollow.
Once all the plaster gauze has been smoothed over our volunteer's face, another student volunteers for the best part: reading a story out loud, to sooth and entertain 'A" while the plaster finishes setting up. I knew there would be a good time to pull out my copy of Millions of Cats" (see previous post).

Middle School students thrive on novelty and teamwork. Today's plaster and papier mache set up was just the thing to jump-start some creative thinking and making and to engage students who are well aware that we are nearing the end of another school year.