Monthly Archives: August 2017

Casting from Plaxtin

In an earlier post you will have seen the results of me experimenting with silicone bath sealant, cornflour, and paraffin oil as a flexible mould material [Walnuts & coffee, March 2017] and this time I chose to use the silicone straight from the tube onto Plaxtin and then make a casing.

I expected the bead lines of sealant to merge [they did not] and my stuff from B&Q to be better at making a casing [it was only a bit better].  The result is here – I have put the plaster cast on a brick which I think serves nicely as a pedestal, or is it an allusion to the man’s background, or is it representing the torso; the “triple heater” [San Jiao] of Chinese medicine which derives from the three cavities of the torso [chest, abdomen, pelvis].

It’s a bit of a mixed bag – i’ve lost some of the detail of the Plaxtin original but gained a textured surface which I think makes it more rugged.

The Plaxtin does have the advantage that it doesn’t dry out so I need to try taking it into town and “sketch” people.  I think that I probably prefer water-based clay for the finishes available and ease of cleaning up after use – and it’s a lot cheaper too!

Modelling with Plaxtin

Not so long back I put up a post of my modelling with plasticine – the old school stuff.  Smelly, very stiff to work initially then rapidly goes soft and smears on one’s fingers, so not surprisingly there are other oil based [and polymer based] clays.  I wanted to have a clay that I could try sketching in – Medardo Rosso used to travel on the bus with a box of clay in his lap and sketch passengers – would that I could model like him but won’t know unless I try.


Out of all the possible oil and polymer clays and considering price I went for Plaxtin [guided also by the knowledge that the late Sally Arnup used to use it.  I bought two kilos of medium hardness and pottered for about two to two & a half hours with one kilo of it – very small bird, barely the size of the end of my thumb got squashed] and this chap who is about 12cm tall.

Works well with both wood and metal tools, nice with hands [but it was too small for for detailing with fingers], goes a bit softer with working [but not as much as the plastercine did], good colour for showing off shadows and surfaces.  A really big plus point over the plastercine is my hands washed clean of the oily residue with no fuss.

I think that I shall make a silicon mould and, if successful, several plaster copies to hand out or perhaps sell.

Losing momentum

I went on another Society of Portrait Sculptors class on the late May bank holiday weekend.  It was down in Sussex near Plumpton, so we stayed near Lewes and checked out some old haunts  before and after the course.

Silvia, the tutor, was very keen for us to make sketches of what we saw, what parts needed more consideration, how parts related to each other, etc., as she see that approach as vital to the process of modelling a portrait.  She also suggested making a maquette too.

The model, Liz, was very accommodating about showing us her tresses were wrapped up together to give the structure you see below [with my efforts for day 1].


After day 2, there was a bit more structure but no eyes as I was concentrating on the relationship of the bony parts, the nose and the mouth.  Clearly I had someway to go in mastering the brownie into the forehead.

Day 3 came and Silvia was keen that some effort should be made to place the eyes; she said that it was not uncommon to place them and replace them many time to get the position right: they each have to the right width and shape, set the right distance to either side of the nose and the right depth back in the face.  It’s easy to spot the difference at the end of the three days!

I brought the many kilos of clay home with the expectation of working on it further, hollowing out and getting it fired next academic year at college.  I kept it wrapped in the hall while we were away in Budapest for a week and then put it in the conservatory to encourage me to get on with remodelling.  However, as you’ve seen on the earlier post about casting hands, I was getting on with other things [+ stuff at college].  I realised that the eyes needed to be deeper set and higher in the face so I took off the ones from the course.

It is remarkable how how and humid our conservatory can get – the clay had dried out considerably and beyond my abilities to revive it for further remodelling.  It was too solid to consider for firing so I broke it up and have put most of it to slake down for re-use. What remains is the mask and I shall ask if it might cope with firing.

The losing momentum is in not getting this piece to a state for firing; I’m still on for more sculpting and modelling and more art.