Plaster Carving Non Objective Form: Abstraction Morphing/Transformation

Wheatly_MMission: (Project Description)

Using two forms build one, morphing the forms together to become a non-objective or abstract formal composition. The original forms are to be used as inspiration to assist in guiding the form. Use elements from each, yet develop your sculpture as a unique entity with an elegant form and a clean aesthetic. Original chosen objects may be mechanical (man-made) or natural.

  • Bring a wire cloth hanger and nylon stocking. This will be used to build a non objective form to base your carving to. The wire will be an armature for the nylon which will become a surface and skin.
  • Bring two interesting objects from home, which are approximately the size of your hand. Objects may be mechanical or organic.
  • Bring a container to build a blank. (1 gal. container.)
  • Create a blank from plaster.
  • Brain storm and Sketch ideas.
  • Plaster Carving: Create an abstract form from objects and sketches.

Sketchbook Assignments: (Five pages)

  • Assignment 1: Sketch original objects in your sketchbook. (3 views of each, 2 pgs)
  • Assignment 2: Preliminary and in process sketches of plaster form. (3 pages)

Additional Criteria: Strategies, Technique and Composition: (Project Description)

  • Clay may be used as a modeling/sketching tool: Sketches do not always start in the sketch book. Model, in clay an abstract form, drawing characteristics from your two objects. This will assist you in developing the composition. Images of these moquettes may be placed in your sketchbook and are valid sketches.
  • This project relies on the elements of light and shadow. Carve so that light and shadow create the dynamics of the form. No paint, pigments or inks should be used for this project.
  • Use repetition, directional curves and form to create a since of movement.
  • Develop a composition with movement that will draw the viewer around and into the form.
  • Use models, sketches and your own intuitive inspirations to create. Process will play a great part in your exploration as you learn the material, developing carving techniques and sensibilities.
  • Think about how these objects work together to create one form or how one may seem to dominate over the other, seeming to swallow or assimilate.
  • Craftsmanship: Elegant form and a clean aesthetic should be a goal.
  • Pay attention to building a form that has interior definition as well as exterior. Carving and modeling in the interior of the object will challenge your abilities, as always you are encouraged to push beyond the average.
  • Do not leave any indication of the container of your original form. Work the whole form.
  • Remember its okay to go back to sketches drawn or sculpted to alter and redesign your composition as you work through the project. This is a part of the process.

Tools and Materials:

  • Clay for sketching (Plasticine)
  • Plastic or wax Container- Bring your own. Plastic or wax coated.
  • Pottery Plaster No. 1
  • Sanding Screen (Drywall Sanding Screen or sand paper)
  • Sketchbook
  • Plaster Drywall wrasp
  • 8” Rasp- Purchase at art, wood or craft stores
  • Other Scraping Tools: Spoons forks, Files, Knives, Drill
  • Clay trimming tools, spoons, knives, forks, old saw blades (be inventive)
  • Dust Mask

Project Critique:

  • Project should be finished before the beginning of class critique session.
  • Projects will be discussed during the critique.

Think About:

  • The Elements of Design: line, texture, shape, light, form, space, time,
  • The Principles of Design: balance, proportion, rhythm, emphasis, and unity
  • Exterior vs. Interior, Primary and  Secondary Contours, Positive & Negative Forms, Static and Dynamic Forms

Photographing your work:

Photograph your work: A minimum of two types of images of your object should be made and emailed to the instructor of this course.

As an artist, a good portfolio will always set you apart from the rest of the crowd. When it comes to artist portfolios, pictures of your artwork are usually the first time a person may be introduced to your work. The images you provide are usually what make the biggest first impression. There for, it makes sense to practice photographing your art at the beginning and throughout your art career.

Image 1: 3-D portfolio image:

Neutral Setting Studio Shot: Should have no visual relationship to other objects. One should not be able to determine the size of your finished form. Good composition, good lighting and the best representation of your object is the goal. Minimize unnecessary shadows and highlights. A grey screen and lighting is available in room FAC 183. Take many shots of several sides of the piece. View them all on a computer screen before editing to the best.

Image 2: Creative Monumental Composition Using Forced Perspective:

Create the illusion that your sculpture is monumental by using forced perspective. Forced perspective techniques manipulates our human perception with the use of optical illusions to make objects appear larger, smaller, farther, or closer than they actually are. Movie makers sometimes use forced perspective to turn plastic toys and other objects into gigantic forms and characters we see on screen. The use of digital effects today still incorporates this popular way of portraying scenes or objects. A search on the web should gain several hits on strategies for creating a forced perspective image.

Before Critique:

Write a short paragraph about the form.

  • Descriptive, poetic, narrative…..What is or can the piece be about?

During Critique:

Reactions to work done by peers.

  • Use your own dialogue and the following:
  • Reactions to form: Positive reactions-Negative reactions
  • Sensibility to form:
  • Elements of Design:
  • Principles of Design:
  • Concepts: What ideas come to mind when you look at the object?
  • Relax: Keep an open mind.



Project Gallery

Cardboard: Mechanical Objects to Cardboard Objects

11MarquezStudent_2013In this project you are to use reclaimed cardboard to render everyday objects. The cardboard structures emphasize the importance of reusing and recycling materials and should provide an inspiring example of creative thought and innovation through repurposing materials.

Mission: (Project Description)

Your mission is to build a mechanical object from the structural and aesthetic qualities of cardboard. Using cardboard, adhesives and possibly some fasteners (such as string, nails and screws) you will be building a 3 dimensional duplication of a mechanical object/device. The finished form should be at least 18 inches in one dimension. Glues are allowed on this project. Tapes or fasteners may be used as well. Hide them and use them strategically, to develop a consistently crafted object. Think: craftsmanship!. Folding, cutting, de-lamination, lamination methods and strategically placing cardboard in a consistent structural method should be a goal. Conservation of materials should be considered as well. Size and weight of the final object is a usual obstacle for sculptors.

Project Description:

Find and choose a mechanical object to model

Begin by planning and drawing: Experiment with cardboard, illustration board, foam core, or thick papers to learn how structures can be built.

Sketchbook Assignment:

Five pages of notes and drawings for this project is required: Draw at least 5 views; a top, a side, a front, a back, a bottom, and perspective views. Details should be considered, as well. One drawing per page. Printed photos can be added as well. You should consider on each of these drawings, details on how you plan to structure or put your piece together. Measuring and recording your dimensions here will also assists in your mission.


Drawing and measuring is good research and development. The object you chose will be scaled to at least 18 inches in one dimension. Use “Multiplication” to Scale your object. Example: If your original object is six inches in its longest dimension. You will need to scale the object up three times its original size to achieve the 18 inch finished dimension. Ergo each component part’s measurement will be multiplied by three.


Small maquettes with paper or illustration board as a starting point will allow you to work out a lot of unforeseen issues when you get to the building stage of your project.


If you chose to make your form modular, assembles and disassembles for transport and storage, consider the following. While cutting openings for interlocking card board pieces make the openings large enough so that assemblage and break down are easily done without any damage to your piece.


The cutting room floor: Your task is to develop a 3-dimensional solution to this problem, with a clean approach to aesthetics (Good Design), good to excellent craftsmanship and a conservative use of materials. THe finished piece must be 18 inches or greater in one of its dimensions. A major goal is to construct the form entirely of cardboard and glue.

NOTE: Please refrain from cutting on the table surfaces. Use a matt of cardboard or other material if you use the table. The floor works well to give one space to work and cut without damaging the table surfaces.

Tools and Materials:

  • Utility Knife/ Exacto knife
  • Tape
  • Wood glue
  • Cardboard
  • Cardboard paper
  • Pencils
  • Rulers and Measuring tapes
  • The Wood shop


  • Material Characteristics:
  • Cardboard: Structural and Aesthetic qualities
  • Method: Planning, Cutting Safely, Building techniques and strategies
  • Sensibility to form: Good design, clean aesthetics
  • Integrity of the artist to their craft



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Scratch Block Molds – Casting Forms in High Relief

Sheen Square72In this project the student will learn the process of developing a “Relief” metal casting using a Scratch Block, a sand block bonded with resin, to create a the negative or inverse of a final relief sculpture. Metal will be poured in the scratch block to create the finished form. The metal relief sculpture will be finished, chased using metal working tools. Then a dioxide and wax will be applied to the surface. And finally a strategy must be developed to display the relief form.

  1. Carve a relief form/composition into the scratch block. Your composition is open to your imagination. Develop a composition of your own design or from observation. Stay away from trite or cliche logos. Sketch your composition in your sketchbook in advance so that the image will fit the format.
  2. The forms should be developed off the back panel so that the objects are sculptural, three dimensional. This sculptural quality should utilize undercuts to create shadows as well as subtle transitions from dark to light foreground and background. Basically the forms should protrude off the panel or frame creating contrasting values, strong and subtle highlights and shadow.
  3. The relief form/composition in the scratch block is now considered a “Mold”. Metal will be used to fill the mold to create a “Casting”.
  4. Group Engagement: The form will be cast in metal using the foundry. A pour crew will be developed from the class to execute the metal pour.
  5. Chasing the form: Finish the form in its metal state in preparation for surface treatment. You will be using metal finishing tools: electric and pneumatic grinders, files, sand paper, steel wool, and other polishing tools.
  6. Apply a patina to the form by adding a Dye-oxide to color the form. Steel wool can be used to polish highlights on the form. Wax may be used to seal the form from further oxidation.
  7. Develop a mounting strategy to present the piece on the wall or other form of presentation for critique. Try to develop a system that is un-obtrusive or does not overwhelm your composition. Keep It Simple, Less is more.

Note: This process uses chemicals and materials that might be dangerous for some people. Read the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for questionable materials. Please use rubber gloves and a dust mask while using chemicals and chemically treated sand.

This project will incorporate the use of the foundry and “Extremely Hot Metal”. Safety and a disciplined studio etiquette should be followed during metal pours. Wear proper clothing if you intend to assist in the pour. No poly or poly blend clothing. 100 % Cotton clothing, leather covered shoes, safety glasses, Leathers and safety shields are required for this process.

Materials needed for this project:

  • Sand resin scratch block
  • Tools for scratching into sand mold, Metal tools work well.
    Steel wool
  • Foundry gear
  • Metal: Aluminum will be used for this project.
  • Two part adhesive (Epoxy)
  • Materials for mounting or presentation strategy.


If you wish to keep your sculpture, You are required to pay for the metal. Your aluminum piece will cost $4.00, if you wish to keep it.

Note: It is important to remember that to get a right reading image you should create any text and your image in a mirror image format on/in your mold. Be conscious in developing your relief sculpture, forms that you wish to fall back in the finished image area should project forward in your mold. Areas that you desire to protrude forward should fall back in your mold. It might fair you well to build a simple model (clay) of the desired forms to assist in developing these concepts and to have something to work from.

Student Gallery

Wood Transformation



In this project the student is asked to create a sculptural form from wood material. The form does not necessarily need to look like a specific thing. It may be non-objective if desired. If the goal is to create a representation of a real object, a model should be made available. As a basis 2×4 material may be purchased. Students are expected to acquire their own materials for the project.


A composition of two feet in one direction is expected.

Sketchbook Assignment:

Sketches of your chosen object should be rendered before and during sculpting. A minimum of four pages should be dedicated to this sketching component. In addition, find four wooden sculptures that inspire you. Printed images of these sculpture or objects should be placed in your sketch book. Your sketch book will be graded along with your project.

Wood Shop:

Before cutting any materials in the wood shop, Make sure all staples and metals are removed from the wood material. Make an extra effort to affirm that no screws or nails remain in purchased or reclaimed wood.

Using the table saw, trim the rounded corners from each 2×4 and other milled wood. This will assist in hiding seems when wood is laminated together.

Each students must use the band saw, reciprocating saw/jig saw, table saw, drill press and compound miter saw in the forms construction. Hand tools should be used as well, files rasp, grinders etc.


The forms may be painted. Remember, paint does not necessarily make wood look like something else. If one can see wood grain through the paint then, the form still looks like it’s made from wood. Other surface treatment method may be used with instructor approval.

Glue, nails, screws, or any other means may be used to attach the wood forms together if needed. Challenge the norm, what other material can be used to fasten this material together. Remember, make an extra effort to affirm that no screws or nails remain in wood before sawing the material.

Challenge yourself in how you might subvert the inherent qualities of the material.

What does it take to push something visually beyond what it initially begins as?

Note: Do not use other material to sculpt the object or its components. Focus on utilizing wood as the main source of material for the construction of the form.


Project Examples:

Body Art: Plaster Casting and Mixed Media



The human body and its components allow us to understand facets of identity such as gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity. Slight gestures can represent emotion, mood, and intent. Subtle and extreme alterations of the body, such as hair, skin, and clothing can suggest alignment with or rebellion against social conventions and to express ideas to others. Many artists explore visual expression through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative process. The poetry of bringing objects together to suggest or make strong statements can sometimes be elusive. Not only does one need the right objects to build a dialogue, a keen observation of craft is important in developing a poetic voice that does not distract the artist intent.

Mission: (Project Description)

Create a sculptural form using elements from the human body and at minimum one other form. A cast component, plaster or other material, of the body will be a basis for their research. Other materials are not only encouraged but expected in the final solution. The project should meet the following criteria:

  • Must use cast body element in final composition.
  • Cast body element may be intentionally altered.
  • Must use other materials (Mixed media).
  • Develop a poetic intent.
  • What is the work about?
  • Develop an artist statement.

Challenge yourself and the project.

Project grades gain much from the thought and “Effort” put into them, not to mention pushing the envelope. Common references include hands and feet, this is the norm. Challenge this project by developing another component or area of the body.

This project should include a concept that incorporates the body or a component of the body along with other materials. The design and fabrication should be built in a manner that illustrates your concept, experimentation, craftsmanship, and a cohesive aesthetic.

Sketchbook Assignment:

Sketches of your ideas should be rendered before and during sculpting. A minimum of five pages should be dedicated to this sketching component. In addition, find a minimum of four sculptures or objects, referencing the body, that inspire you. Printed images of these sculptures or objects should be placed in your sketch book. Your sketch book will be graded along with your project.

Strategies and Techniques:

  • Research: Contemporary and historical “Body art”, across cultures.
  • Collect: Print and collect imagery and text for your research. (Place images in your sketchbook.)
  • Brainstorm the possibilities. Make a list in your skeet book!
  • With what body part will you develop your concept.
  • Explore the idea of multiples.
  • Sketch ideas in you Sketchbook. 5 pages of various ideas required.
  • Mold Making: Mold material: Flexwax 120. Team effort. (3 per team works well)
  • Casting: Plaster casting of your body component or cast in another material.
  • Experiment: Plaster carving, cutting, fitting and affixing materials.
  • Mining materials: Find materials and components to add to your castings.
  • Other techniques: welding, wood, sewing and other fabrication methods should be considered
  • Research and observe fabrication aesthetics and methods.
  • Learn how things work and how connections are made.
  • Dreaming, concocting, drawing developing: (Sketches)
  • Experimentation, Experimentation, Experimentation
  • Connections to the body: How do components attach, from the inside/on the outside?
  • Making Sense: Make it believable.
  • Finish: Less is more: Student should consider allowing the material to show off its austere-simple aesthetics. If paint is used, it should be used strategically to enhance the concept/aesthetic. KIS, Keep it simple.


Functional Aesthetics: Goals: Engineering and concept, clean form, well crafted fabrication and technique, uniform aesthetic, a command over the material: Excellent Craftsmanship should be a major goal. Bad craftsmanship can weigh heavily on the success of a project. Focus on a refined form. Bad craftsmanship will easily distinguish A/B work to a C or below. Make your fabrication skills count, projects should not fall apart during critique or grading.

Tools and Materials:

• Sketchbook
• Plaster
• Scraping, carving tools
• Dust Mask/Particulate Respirator
• Safety Glasses
• Objects for pattern, Body
• Mold materials
• Wood (optional)
• Wood Shop
• Metal (optional)
• Adhesives, fastening devices
• Rubber or Latex gloves (optional)
• Welding Eye Protection
• Welding Gloves
• Angel Grinder
• Grinding disc
• Cut off disc
• Flap Disc

Create a label for your project with these specifics:

• Name:
• Dimensions: HWD
• Materials:
• Year Complete:
• Course:

Tape your label to your project. Use masking tape so that it will not harm your project.


  • Method: Planning, Cutting Safely, Building techniques and strategies
  • Material Characteristics:
  • Three-Dimensional form using the human body
  • Mold Making Process: Wax (Flex wax)
  • Casting Plaster
  • Fabrication techniques: Pre and Post Casting fabrication, Object Installation
  • Structural and Aesthetic qualities
  • Finishing Techniques
  • Sensibility to form: Good design, clean aesthetics
  • Integrity of the artist to their craft


This process uses chemicals and materials that might be dangerous for some people. Read the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for questionable materials. Please use a respirator while using chemicals such as plaster. A dust mask may be used rather than a respirator. The respirator will provide better protection.

Artist Inspiration:

Project Examples:

Mold Making: Encapsulated Rubber Molds


Mission: (Project Description)

In this project the student will be introduced to the process of encapsulated mold making. Rubber will be used as an interior jacket to collect surface and surface detail. A plaster exterior mother mold will be used to establish structure for the flexible mold. Rubber is an elastic material that can pick up very minute detail. Its flexible quality allows it to be pulled and stretched to cast challenging objects that can not be cast from a more rigid material. The mold material can be used numerous times with many different materials, respectively.

Objective Guidelines:

In this project the student will be asked to create one encapsulated mold of an object that are student found or instructor determined difficulty and scale. A well crafted mold and it’s ability to function (creates clean multiples) will be the main objectives.


Objects that fit in the palm are fair game for this assignment. See the instructor approval of larger forms. Rubber materials may be purchased by the student if forms require more rubber material.

Collecting and inventory:

Bring in objects to choose from. Complex forms, miniatures, toy parts, jewelry, small machine parts, containers, etc.

Pour Spout:

MUST BE IN PLACE for usability: This has to be a functional mold for plastic and wax. A pour hole must be planned and in place before rubber processes and materials are in motion.


The objective here is to create well crafted-functional mold. Pay attention to the aesthetics involved in this process.

Sketchbook Assignment:

Draw your objects, develop plan view drawings that will assist in creating the mold. Plan pour hole, with flanges. Plan for mold keys in rubber jacket and mother mold.


Rubber and plaster components should work well together, So that they do not damage one another while in process.

Encapsulated Rubber: Process Steps:

Two part Mother Mold/Two part Rubber Jacket:

  • Find horizon line of pattern object
  • If pattern is porous, apply sealing agent
  • Pour spout (funnel) must be planned and added in the next steps
  • Venting for casting material must be planned and added in the next steps
  • Note undercuts, voids and trouble spots in pattern, “clay_up” to accommodate
  • Build “clay-up” to object horizon line on work board
  • Manage undercuts, voids and trouble spots in pattern, “clay_up” to accommodate
  • Leave margin for rubber flange/keys, plaster mother mold and keys
  • Keys may be placed/cut in clay up at this point (for Rubber and Plaster)
  • Cover object with plastic and clay blanket (1/4 inch thickness)
  • Build “Flange” at top of Pour spout (funnel)
  • Build “Jacket” keys on clay blanket if needed
  • Release agent may be applied to clay (Petroleum jelly, Oil soap)
  • Clamp coddle boards around clay up and pattern
  • Seal potential leeks, seams
  • Mix plaster to ready
  • A flick coat of plaster should be applied if detail is compromised
  • Pour plaster over pattern blanket area
  • Level to one inch over highest part of pattern
  • Tap sides of coddle boards to evacuate air in plaster
  • Allow to harden
  • Remove coddle boards
  • Remove plaster mother mold half
  • Determine deepest area of mother mold
  • Establish a pour hole (Funnel for rubber)
  • In other deep areas of mother mold, venting will need to be established (Straw vents)
  • Apply release agent to plaster (Petroleum jelly, Oil soap)
  • Add venting and funnel
  • Remove clay blanket and plastic
  • Note clay weight for future reference (Rubber material may be determined by this)
  • Note clay volume for future reference (Rubber material may be determined by this)
  • Keys for rubber should be placed/cut in “clay up” at this point
  • A trench around the pattern works well (loop tool)
  • Clean any debris from pattern and clay areas
  • Apply release agent to pattern
  • Replace plaster mother mold half with venting and funnel
  • Replace coddle boards
  • Secure mold (Straps)
  • Seal potential leeks, seams
  • Determine amount of rubber material needed
  • Prepare rubber by product direction
  • Pour into funnel until vents and funnel are level
  • Allow to settle, add more if needed,
  • Allow to cure
  • Flip first half of mold with pattern and clay up
  • Remove clay up
  • Do not separate pattern and rubber from mother mold
  • The first mother mold half will preside as the basis for the second half
  • Keys should be placed/cut into plaster at this point if not previously placed/cut
  • Follow steps from above for second half


  • Apply release agent to pattern
  • Seal potential leeks, seams
  • Review, Review, Review: Review that processes have been completed
  • Gently separate mold halves at seam line
  • Remove pattern and prep for use

Tools and Materials:

• Eye Protection/Safety Glasses
• Sketch Book
• Clay Tools
• Fettling knife
• Trimming Tools (Various sizes)
• Loop, wire and ribbon tools
• Wooden modeling tools
• Needle Tool
• Calipers
• Canvas (approximately 2ft x 2ft)
• Plasticine (Oil Based clay)
• Clay -Water Based clay (Optional)
• Wax tools
• Dust Mask/Particulate Respirator
• Pattern
• Mold materials: Plaster and Two part Rubber compound (Pourable)
• Release agent: Petroleum jelly
• Release agent: Silicone spray
• Release agent: Oil soap (Optional)
• Drinking straws for vents
• Clamps (4)
• Materials for coddle boards)
• Wood Shop
• Measuring Tape
• Meal Ruler
• Rubber or Latex gloves (optional)
• Ratchet Straps, rubber straps

Create a label for your project with these specifics:

• Name:
• Dimensions: HWD
• Materials:
• Year Complete:
• Course:

Tape your label to your project. Use masking tape so that it will not harm your project.


  • Method: Planning,  techniques and strategies
  • Material Characteristics: Plaster and tin-cured silicone rubber compounds
  • Mold Making Process: Encapsulated Rubber Molds
  • Volume: HWD
  • Mold Gating/Sprue Methods
  • Wax Casting Process
  • Successful Casting
  • Fabrication techniques: Mold fabrication, Object duplication
  • Functional and Aesthetic qualities
  • Sensibility to form and craft: Good design and Clean aesthetics
  • Integrity of the artist to their craft


  • Work ethic: Participation in and out of class
  • Scheduling: Students stay on task, project finished by deadline, critique.
  • Well Engineered and Functional mold for long term use.
  • Craftsmanship and aesthetics: Well crafted mold with well crafted “Clean”castings.


Some materials used in this project are toxic. Please observe the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) of materials that you will be exposed to. Be aware, if you notice an allergic reaction such as skin or eye irritation as a result of use of these materials, please inform the instructor and seek health services. Eye protection and rubber gloves are mandatory during the use of these materials. Some materials have MSDS information online. Work in a well ventilated area.


  • Wax patterns: Wax castings in preparation for lost wax casting.
  • Plastic casting: Prototypes or finished castings.
  • Resin casting: Prototypes or finished castings.
  • Ceramic: May have some ceramic applications.

Supplemental Videos: YouTube Demos:

For a quick preview or review of this process please visit the YouTube channel

This series of supplemental videos are time lapsed to give an overview of the four part encapsulated rubber mold making process. They serve to assist in learning the process as a component of demonstrations in a tutorial setting. Some simple mold making experience is suggested before taking on this challenge. There is much to learn from experience.

Actual mold making time for a four part encapsulated rubber mold will vary with the pattern and mold maker experience. This particular mold took approximately four days once you consider waiting times for materials to cure.

Project Gallery