Art Biz with Liz: Sculpting a Block “M”

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time in East Quad’s art studios. For my sculpture class, our first assignment was to make a plaster object with some sort of negative space. The guidelines were fairly open-ended and our envisioned projects were left up to our imaginations, but they were to be achieved by cutting foam boards and attaching them together to make a mold that plaster would be poured into.

I made a simple square tile with a block “M” shape, which took longer than I had anticipated given the need to convert measurements and make sharp cuts into foam with an exacto knife. I cut out several duplicate block M shapes and layered them to create a deeper “M.” After hot gluing the Ms together, I wrapped the sides in clear tape for a smoother edge.

This first image shows the mold I made out of foam, hot glue, and tape. Plaster was poured into the mold in liquid form, so I had to ensure that all corners and edges were sealed properly. I brushed the inside of the mold with Vaseline to make it easier to remove from the plaster.

This point of view is actually from the bottom of the original mold. The sides and bottom of the mold were removed, and despite hot gluing the M to the bottom, it pulled apart from being stuck inside the plaster. In the above image, you can see textured lines where the plaster picked up on the Vaseline brush strokes. The inner corners of the M aren’t quite as sharp as the mold was due to yours truly being too generous with the Vaseline (my professor and I were nervous about this part in particular sticking to the mold and breaking off).

It was surprisingly difficult to remove the remaining part of the mold. Carefully using a chisel as a wedge, I was able to pull out the M. In the process, I ended up breaking the foam and separating the layers that made up the mold. In retrospective, I should’ve cut the sides of the foam M on a slight angle to make it easier to pull out of the plaster. This was something I learned from my professor, who had previously expressed concern over how deep my M was and how small the inner corners were. The inside of the M wasn’t as nice as I would’ve hoped, but I’m relieved it didn’t break off completely.

Based on the color, you can tell that the plaster in the previous image is still a little wet. Conversely, it’s notably paler in the picture above. My water to plaster ratio wasn’t perfect (this was my first time trying, after all), so it took a bit longer than it usually would for my piece to dry. Although the texture left by the Vaseline was interesting, I wanted a smoother finish, so I set to work cleaning up the piece by sanding it down once it was dry. I also used a chisel and several other smaller tools to clean up the corners and edges.

Ta-da! I still have some more work to do to clean up the inside of the M, but it turned out okay. I’m not sure what happened with the strip of discoloration in the middle, but that’s okay.

While the finished product isn’t perfect, it was a fun process to create it. I had never worked with plaster prior to this project and am looking forward to doing so again. What do you think? Should I leave my block M as is, or should I paint it? Would you be interested in seeing another one of my art projects?

Elizabeth S

Hello! My name is Elizabeth, and I'm a senior who enjoys writing about the presence of art in everyday life. Through this blog series, I'll be documenting my experience with creative writing, music, and more on campus. Enjoy!

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