Monday, March 21, 2016

Making Molds

I'm prepping for "Make Your Mark - Developing a Textural Vocabulary", which is a new workshop I'm offering here at my little Studiolo in Richmond Va. One of the techniques I'll be demonstrating is how to use silicone molding material to create 'micro molds' - little elements that can embellish and enhance metal clay designs. So last week I ordered some brass stampings from Etsy to give my students an idea of what kinds of things they could mold.

Pendant made with micro molds of decorative head pins (Sorry for the blurry photo)

I don't promote the idea of molding an entire design and simply replicating it in metal clay. In my opinion that's the same as copying. But reimagining pieces of an element to include in a new design, especially if the element is a classic motif, may be acceptable. Brass stampings are usually derived from antique, Victorian, medieval, Greek/Roman, or other classical imagery. 

Although there are some artists who can sculpt an original leaf shape (as an example), others (like myself) are less competent with graphic design or simply like to use available objects.

Today I thought I'd share my method of making a successful metal clay mold. I use a silicone material originally meant to mold the inner ear for hearing aids, but two part silicone molding material is pretty much the same wherever you get it. You might even be able to find some in a local craft store.

You'll need:

The bird was placed inside the lid, this photo
it's seen through the bottom.
• Two part silicone molding material
• A container/lid slightly larger than the item to be molded
• A small scoop, spoon, or other implement
• Something to mold

1. Start by scooping some of color A  out of it's container and roll it into a ball. Scoop the same amount of color B, roll into a ball and compare to make sure that the two are of equal sizes/amounts. Blend both into one cohesive color. The colors of the silicone I use are blue and white - so I tell my students to blend until there are no more 'clouds in the sky'.
2. Place the item in the center of the molding lid and press the mixture over it. Try to develop a level surface.
3. In about 15 minutes, use a blunt wooden object like a popsicle stick or toothpick to lift the cured mold out of the container. You'll know the material has cured when a fingernail pressed into the mold compound does not leave an indentation.
4. When you're ready to make a replica with metal clay, roll a small ball of clay and press it into the mold. You might need some trial and error to find the correct amount of clay to use. I try not to overfill the mold.
5. Let the clay dry in the mold, or gently bend the silicone to allow the freshly molded component to drop onto the table top.
6. Sand, refine, and attach to the base metal clay piece with slip.
** You won't need to use any release/lubrication with the silicone molding material

Stamping, the lid it was molded in, and the finished mold.