Sometimes I get some strange ideas in my head. For instance, I desperately wanted a head statue. I looked in stores and found nada. When I tried to search online I only found images of ancient statues, not of anything to purchase. I began to realize that even if I did, shipping was going to be a bear and a half.
It actually amazes me at how long it took me to come to the conclusion that DIY was the only way to go. Now working out how exactly to DIY this was another bear and a half. But in the end I got ‘er done.
Today we’re going to cover how to cast a plaster of Paris head statue. Tomorrow I’ll go over the deets on how I decorated mine, but first you gotta make it, right?
In my pics I’m photographing my lovely assistant doing the work. This is a very, very messy project so working and snapping pics wasn’t going to happen, but you should be able to work this baby out all by your lonesome if necessary.
First, a few safety guidelines and informative bits about this project, specifically plaster of Paris.
- Never, ever wash your utensils and tools in your sink, the plaster can set up in your pipes. All clean up should be done outside, with a hose if possible.
- You can lose a finger if you allow the plaster to set up around it. No need to worry if you have some on your hands, I’m specifically talking about submerging your fingers into the plaster as it is setting (though I don’t know why you’d do that but just to be safe).
- The plaster gets hot as it sets, don’t be alarmed.
- Your statue is going to be heavy, get assistance if necessary if you have difficulty or should not be lifting heavy things.
- This project takes a decent amount of time so be sure that you have a good several hours free to complete the project.
For this project you will need:
- Alginate (I used Alga-Safe) (this stuff is so freaking awesome)
- Plaster of Paris (I used about 6-7 pounds)
- Plaster Gauze Bandages (I used 2 but 3 would have been better)
- Male Mannequin Styrofoam Head
- Mixing utensils (wood is best)
- Trash bag (to protect work surface)
- Water (either in pitchers or by hose)
- Knife or scissors
- Box to put mold in + items to hold it upright, e.g. newspaper, dropcloths, packing peanuts
Take and mix your alginate and water in a large bowl per the manufacturer’s instructions. You’ll want the thicker recipe as the alginate will need to be firm enough to hold its own shape.
Other applications of the alginate include pouring it into a container and then placing the item to be cast into it. In that instance the alginate must be a thinner consistency.
Mix in small batches as it sets quickly.
This stuff is expensive, but it is also wickedly awesome. Check out the plaster cast hands I made to hang on my wall to hold my necklaces and whatnot over on Mom Spark.
Smear the alginate on, taking care to shove into the cracks and crevices.
Apply several coats, this is 3. Be sure to go around and fill in any gaps or holes present. Doesn’t it look nasty? Allow to dry about 30 minutes after the last coat.
By the by, this was done on my driveway. And I wonder why my neighbors look at me strangely.
Put some warm water into your bowl and bust out your plaster bandages. Dip them in the water, lightly removing the excess. Wrap directly onto the alginate.
It is best to double the bandages over for a stronger hold.
Use at least three layers, alternating direction between each to reinforce the cast.
Allow the cast to set, approximately one hour.
Now we need to hollow out our form by removing the foam head. Using a knife or scissors, carefully snip up the back of the neck to about the middle of the back of the head. Carefully open the cast up.
Now I wish there was a way around this but we couldn’t figure it out. Cut the foam head up in chunks and carefully remove. Take care not to mar the alginate inside. Any cuts you make will appear on your plaster form.
Once you get the inside cleaned out, fill a box with paper, or drop cloths or something to help hold your form straight up. Place the head inside and run the twine around the neck. Tie tightly to cinch the cut you made closed. It won’t be perfect, but it really doesn’t need to be. As long as you don’t have humongous holes, you’re set.
Mix your plaster with water until it has a thick, milkshake-like consistency, carefully pour into the neck hole. Mix up more as needed until you reach an inch or two below the top of your mold. Tap the sides of the head to try and dislodge any air bubbles.
Place someplace warm to cure for about 2 hours.
After your head has set, it’s going to still feel wet and the plaster will be kind of soft. Carefully use your knife to cut away your plaster bandages and alginate. Your knife will easily score the surface of your statue so take care.
When you get to the facial features, work a bit more slowly. Ripping away the alginate could also bust off the nose or or an ear and ruin all of your efforts.
The backside of your head is going to have a weird seam where you tied the back of the mold back together. Take your knife and gently scrap to have a nice smooth surface. Since the plaster is still wet, it will come off very easily.
Anywhere there were seams on the foam head there will be on the plaster. If you look closely, you can even see the distinct pattern of styrofoam on the head’s surface.
Use your knife to carefully clean up any large imprefections, including these seams and the bubbled blemishes you can see in the very first pic.
Place your head someplace safe and warm and allow to dry for a few days, preferably a week before moving on. Tomorrow I’ll take you through the process of finishing this baby up and show you how I decorated mine. See you then!