Make your mark reflection

Some of the biggest challenges I had to overcome were during the casting and mould making process. This is understandable as I was new to the process, what I found that my designs all involved lots of harsh undercuts on detailed areas. To overcome this I learnt learning that by thickening latex each layer you paint you prevent the latex from dribbling in crevices and avoid the cast from becoming trapped. I also learnt that by hammering away large under cuts from the plaster shell you are able to preserve the design and keep elegant shapes without trapping the cast. I also learnt that by painting in thinner layers of jesmonite first into every nook and cranny ensures you capture all the detail. When I did my first jesmonite cast, I found very quickly that my details on my mask were very thin and were breaking. In future, I will remember to always keep my work at least 1cm thick throughout. And must remember to pop as many bubbles in the first layer as possible. As well as to scratch off wet jesmonite over spill before it sets to decrease clean-up time and effort.

If I had more time to develop the project I would continue experimenting with casting materials. Id especially like to continue working with latex as I thought it was a very easy material to work with. I am really pleased with the aesthetic of my final outcomes I feel the represent the character well and look spectacular in pictures. However, as the ask is attached to the horns it really needs to be cast in a lighter material. Jesmonite is still relatively lightweight but for a mask designed to be danced in it is still putting too much tension on the rest of the headpiece and I fear it would fall off during a full performance even if it is suitable and comfortable to wear in a calm setting. Id likes to try creating a latex shell and using expanding foam to create the solid shape whilst still remaining lightweight.

I am really pleased with the overall out come of my work for this project. Feel by exploring my past traditions I have given my work far more validity than it ever had and has solidified my own personal agenda and style. Looking forward my aim is to create a new performance each year to build my portfolio with both intimate performances like this one or large and dramatic performances like my dragon from last year. I want my niche within the field to be performing objects and costume but within that, I want to be able to showcase a wide range of skills and strengths.  Whether that be intricate detail on masks and guise performances or large scale puppetry and mechanics.

The application process for festival performances have taught me a lot about what they are looking for in said performances and any rejection I have I have requested feedback and constructive criticism in order to better tailor my work to industry requirements. However, my success with applying for festival performances with the dragon this summer has filled me with a lot of hope that I can slowly build a name for myself within the industry one performance at a time.  

Final costume

I am so pleased with my final outcome. I think it captures the character I envisioned perfectly. However, if I was going to do this again or had more time id try casting in different more lightweight materials for the mask. I trust the jesmonite is strong enough and therefore durable but as it’s attached to the horned headdress the weight pulls the full headdress downwards and so isn’t as practical as it could be especially as my play involves a lot of dancing.

In future id like to keep experimenting with latex and really push the material to its limits. Id like to try using a lightweight foam filler in a latex shell to create a solid latex mask so it holds its structure but weight next to nothing. Id have to experiment with different mould making processes if I wished to cast in latex rather than make the mould from it. All explorations I am very much looking forward too.

 

Mask Mould Making

The next step was painting the latex onto the clay to capture the detail. As latex dries by water evaporation I had to paint it on in layers. The first layer must be very thin to capture the finest detail. As the layers progressed I added a thickening agent to the latex to speed the process up but also to prevent the latex from trickling under my large undercuts and trapping the cast inside the mould.

This is what it looked like after all the layers were done:

Next, I covered this with plaster bandage shell so during casting it won’t bend or warp under pressure to complete the 2 parts of the mould. I was worried my design had too many large undercuts in it for the plaster shell to release from the cast but I found by hammering out the problem areas from the other side you don’t affect the overall strength but allow wiggle room for removing the cast.

I then did my first jesmonite cast, I found very quickly that my details on my mask were very thin and were breaking. In future, I will remember to always keep my work at least 1cm thick throughout.

Despite the fact, my first cast broke as it came out I was very happy with the level of detail the jesmonite captured and the overall finish. Like latex, I leant the first layer must be thinner to pick up detail.

After a few more attempts layering the jesmonite with fibreglass paper to add strength, I finally got the hang of the technique and managed to get a cast out in one piece.

It wasn’t perfect but it was a great improvement! I learnt to take extra care painting in the jesmonite into all the nooks and crannies, as well as popping as many bubbles in the first layer as possible. TIP – scratch off wet jesmonite over spill before it sets to decrease clean-up time and effort. Also, place fibreglass on wet jesmonite and let layer set before repeating.

I added wire hooks into the layers during the casting process to tie the mask to the horns. and finally turned out a near perfect cast:

I then did paint tests on my dud casts:

I felt the colours on this became tacky and would be too busy for the rest of the outfit so i choose a colour palette of greens and blues. I used acrylic paints and found using very watery paint worked best on the jesmonite. especially on the leaves, by starting with a darker colour you bring out the veins in the leaves and creates a very natural effect. However thicker paint goes on quite patchy as the jesmonite absorbs the moister very quickly.

Whilst filling the edges to tidy them up the lower details of the mask broke off so i stuck them back on with more jezmonite and extra layers of plaster bandage. It is now extremely sturdy but heavier. I considered adding a layer of plaster bandage over the entire back of the mask but felt it would add too much weight.

Once the painting was done I sprayed it with a layer of varnish for a final professional finish.

 

 

Mask Making from clay

I started out by making a paper face form to start sculpting the clay onto.

Once I was happy with my base shape I let it go leather hard so I could remove it from the form and test the size and shape on my face before proceeding.

 

Once I knew I was happy with the shape I started trying to sculpt tiny motifs for the detail on the mask which proved much more difficult than expected. I thought long and hard about how to achieve these details to a higher standard and faster as it was a very long and difficult process trying to sculpt such tiny detail. Finally, I realised I have lots of tiny detailed necklace pendants with designs perfect for this project so I pressed them into plasterscene and used that as a mould to press clay into. It was extremely effective and I’m so happy with the results!

I continued to add details to the mask and build up the detail. I also used real leaves rollered into the clay to create leaves for the mask which was also extremely effective.

Here is the finished clay mask:

ram mask mould marquette

I made a small simple Marquette out of clay to see how the mould worked and to test the stretch and strength of the latex. I thought that the latex would allow for harder undercuts in the detail of the design as I could stretch it over the edges. This taught me that it is possible to have a design with undercuts to create depth but the under cut must still be fairly flat and only partly covered by the latex or it will break off in the mould. it also taught me not to make the latex too thick, enough to hold the shape but not too much so it looses its stretch. I made the solid shell from plaster bandages. I then cast it in jezmonite.

Ram costume

I wanted the rest of the costume for the ram character to be simple enough to not overshadow the horns and mask but tie in well. so I opted for a simple design which allowed me to concentrate my efforts on creating a high-quality detailed headdress.

For the top, I bought plastic flowers and ferns from the pound shop and sewed them to a bralet top as the base. for the trousers, I made a simple 2 piece pattern with an exaggerated hip shape and drop crotch. I sewed these 2 pieces together and attached a toggle on the back to for the clasp ad the tail.

Initial mask experimentation

Started by making a paper form from newspaper to shape the clay around.

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Then stated covering it and building the shape.

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Once this was leather hard I was able to pick it up and test it against my face. I decided it was far too large and wouldn’t be able to be worn with the horns due to the ears. I also felt the mask should maybe show more of the actor’s face to help convey expression during the performance. The beard made the mask seem more like a faun than ram and also male rather than female as I wanted the character to be a personification of mother nature. I also felt a top of the face, half mask would work well as its the opposite of the demon mask which dominates the lower half of the face. I felt it would be a good symbolic juxtaposition of character design.

Contempory mummers play storyboard

Enchanting music starts as a half human half ram mystical creature enters. She dances and frolics around the stage then pulls out her flute. As she plays plants magically grow from the ground.

As she works and continues to serenade the plants, a demonic creature with a huge mouth to consume all in its path enters. whilst she isn’t looking he cuts down the plants she has grown.

She then discovers the dead plants and weeps as the demon laughs and her despair.

She sees the evil-doer and squares up to him. pushing and shoving ensue and the music picks up.

Just as it seems they are about to fight, they break into dance and a dance battle begins!

One after the other they try to one up each other. The demon is clearly loosing so decides to cheat and trips her.

As the demon celebrates his victory she pulls out her flute one more time, and suddenly as if from nowhere a wizard enters to aid the faun. He listens to her heart then comically shakes her in an attempt to fix her ailments. with little success, he quickly dashes of the stage and returns with a bucket labelled ‘Healing potion’. he sets it down and dances around it as part of a healing ritual.

He then throws the potion over and she begins to revive! Seeing this the demon attempts to sneak away but is caught before he can escape.

The demon cowers in fear but rather than continuing to fight she offers him a hand to dance instead.

They proceed to dance, the demon resists at first but finally starts to enjoy the rhythmic dancing. the play finishes with them hugging one another at the end of the dance, exiting as friends.

latex mould making research

 

I think this would be a really effective and easy technique as I can use clay to create the base shape with a lot of detail. I really want a lot of floral detail on my mask and latex is very strong and tear resistant and so is perfect as it can be stretched off of the cast at the end. whereas a different material like silicone would not be able to stretch and there for release the detail as easily.

Polymer-modified plaster (Jesmonite)

Advantages A good ‘alpha’ plaster can be mixed with acrylic polymer liquid in place of (or occasionally in addition to) water which makes casts much stronger and even ‘weatherproof’ for outside sculpture. The resulting mix can also be used in place of resin with glassfibre matting or other reinforcement to build or cast very durable shells. The mix generally has a longer working time than plaster/water (i.e. can be 20-30mins as opposed to 10-15mins) and it can enable finer, more detailed castings. ‘Jesmonite’ is one popular brand, usually sold as a system, but acrylic polymer liquid can also be bought on its own, i.e. from Tiranti, for use with any alpha plaster.

Not so good More expensive than using the plaster on it’s own (i.e. Jesmonite ‘kit’ comprising 2.5kg plaster plus 1kg liquid is c. £28.30 at 4D, the same price as 25kg Crystacal R plaster!). Mixing needs to be very thorough (power-assisted mixing recommended for large amounts). Mix much more prone to air bubbles (leave to stand a little) .. these can be a pain! – tip: used compressed air to blow on the first layer once poured to pop air bubbles.