Friday, January 14, 2011

Pre-Class Intensive: Day 2 & 3

My fingers. Are so. Cold.

Seriously, they're like pale little popsicles. January is not a good time of year for mask-making. The plaster has to be done outside because it's so messy, but half-way through mixing the plaster -- with your bare hands, mind you -- you're pretty sure your fingers are going to snap off. Icy, icy fingers.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Where did we last leave off? Sculpting! Right.

Thursday. Sculpting of the Horny Man and the Nun: DONE.

Horny Men will each have three horns attached externally;
trying to sculpt horns would not go well.
The weird eyebrows are problematic enough.

Had to take side pictures. Just look at those noses!
The Nun masks will have painted-on eyes, like in Swiss carnivals.
The actual eye-holes will be cut just beneath the painted eyes.
It'll be super cool.

Next? Pour plaster over the sculptures. Between Ellie and I, we remembered all of the steps in preparing and pouring the plaster, and it did indeed take both of us to remember. However, we're both majoring in artistic fields, therefore we can't do math. We nearly filled my entire bucket before we managed to fix our initial mistake of pouring the wrong ratio of plaster to water (which is 2:1, by the way -- good to put that in writing). And it still wasn't quite enough to cover both of our full-face masks. It takes a lot of plaster to do full-face masks. And we froze. FROZE. It's so cold outside.

While waiting for the plaster to dry, what comes next? That's what is crazy about doing this pre-classes, intensive session. We do a step, and don't have classes and homework to run off to (yet). We do a step, and then go on to the next step. CRAZY.

Since we're going to use a few of the plaster molds from last semester's class for some of the ensemble masks, we decided to pour some neoprene in those preexisting molds: Ellie's fish mask and Francesca's Columbina mask. Outside. Freezing. (Have I mentioned that it was cold outside?)

After the neoprene pour, Ellie and I broke to divide and conquer. She's working on paper-mache gargoyle masks. Originally we planned on making two duplicates of Nick's gargoyle mask from class (we kept his mold, along with a few others), but Ellie's enthusiastic about designing new gargoyles for that interlude. But since we hadn't figured new gargoyles into the budget, we're doing those with paper-mache.

Speaking of the budget, that's one of the things I did when we divided: walked over to the Charles Center to turn in our undergraduate research proposal so we can get funding for this project. Cross your fingers! We could really use this money. ...Like, really. Plaster and neoprene is expensive.


And try doing it with frozen fingers.

Have an aneurysm, trying to pull the face-positive-plus-clay-sculpture out of the plaster mold. Why is it always SO HARD? God, that was the hardest part of the process in class, and it's the hardest part even now. What did I learn from pulling these positives? MORE SOAP. (Soap. Yes, liquid soap to pour over the sculpture before pouring on the plaster. It's lubricant and it's VITAL.) I need to remember to use more soap.

The battlefield.

Plaster molds for two masks done, neoprene for two other masks poured. PRODUCTIVITY. Cold, icy productivity.

Actually, the weather was going to be a problem for the neoprene, since the liquid neoprene is freezable, and 20-degree temperatures were forecast for Thursday night. And drying the neoprene has such a specific timetable that it was going to have to be overnight. (Pour, wait 2-4 hours, pour out the excess, wait 8-12 hours, peel the dried mask. It's specific.) So, after pouring out the excess, the plaster molds with the drying neoprene had to be taken inside.

But where inside? There is nowhere inside. Room 222 (where we've been sculpting out of the cold) is upstairs, plaster molds are heavy, and we can't make too much of a mess up there. The design lab is freezing and usually locked. That leaves...

Super high-tech... hallway... facility for drying neoprene.

That's right. The mini hallway outside the Studio Theatre, just outside the entrance to the scene shop, by the cabinets where we've been storing our materials. That's how we roll. Put down some butcher paper, instant work space.

Despite FREEZING, it was a productive day. Finished sculpting, poured plaster, pulled clay out of plaster, poured neoprene, poured MORE neoprene-- it was productive.

That was Thursday. How about Friday?

Friday began with pulling the raw masks from the plaster mold.

Raw masks. Creepy plastic goiter-fringe and all.

Franny's Columbina and Ellie's Fish! Love it. Pouring, scheduling, and peeling the neoprene is probably my favorite part of the process because, after that (fairly simple, if not lengthy) step, you get the beginnings of the actual mask. It's the first time that you have the mask itself in your hands.

After pulling the neoprene and pouring the next batch (because Columbinas and Fish only travel in groups), I inadvertently stabbed myself several times with an xacto knife as I tried to trim the edges of the raw masks. Ow. But after that comes the Dremel, which is a magical, magical tool. All those ragged edges left by one's bloody xacto knife? Miraculously made smooth by the glorious of the Dremel.

Fish Mask looks even more alien from the back.

Paint the back of the mask black, and... next?

Waiting to peel the next round of Columbinas and Fish, I prodded Prof. Liz with a question she was probably not expecting: NEXT? "Go forth and sculpt!" she said. I'm paraphrasing that. So I began my next sculpture:

Yes, it's simple and small,
but the dimensions were carefully measured

and the paint-job/decorations will Make It

It's specifically sized to look like a playing card. There will be four, one for each suit. It'll be lots of fun to paint and decorate. And then, because I was STILL waiting for neoprene to dry, I poured plaster over the mask -- though less plaster, since it's a half-mask.

Saved plaster,
but still trying to figure out how
to pour neoprene without spilling

Of course I forgot the soap. HOW DID I FORGET THE SOAP? (Because Ellie wasn't there to remind me, obviously.) Wasn't too bad. Fingernails, wooden sculpting tools, and dental tools -- eventually got all the clay out, or at least as much as I was willing to scrape out with my bloody, xacto'd fingers. But I had time to scrape clay, because I was waiting for neoprene to dry.

Around 9pm, the neoprene was finally dry enough to peel, so I could peel, clean up, and go home. (Didn't pour any neoprene for an overnight drying tonight, though. It can wait 'til tomorrow.)

The Horny Man and Nun plaster molds might be dry enough to pour tomorrow, so maybe that's the next, next step. It takes about two days for plaster to be ready.

Well, there's still more Fish Masks to pour too. (Seriously, we need six of those. SIX.)

Time to put some ointment on my fingers, go to bed, and dream of more masks.

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