Dança dos Ursos - Evolução

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Manufacture techniques for developing sculptures and statuettes.

Stage 1.     Developing the original model

a)  Main idea, doing a first sketch, a drawing and then perhaps a simple model.

b)  A Support tray is required where all work will be done. We will start by making an armature, called a “skeleton”, which is made of steel or hard wire and is going to serve as a support for the whole statuette. It is important that this skeleton stays still on the support tray but at the same time can be easily removed from the tray when necessary.

c)  Making the original model. Obviously it is up to the sculptor which material and what technique will be used to get the job done. From our experience it is advisable to use solid, rigid or fast hardening materials so as to reduce the manufacturing time and to achieve the desired quality results. It also simplifies the maintenance of all the shapes of an original model (statuette) until the work is finished. An exception would be a sculpture with a lot of detail. In this case it is advisable to work with the traditional sculpturing material: Clay!

Stage 2.     Preparation for the mould

a)  You cover the entire surface of the original model with a liquid substance that won’t allow any other material used in the mould making process to get stuck to the original statuette. Soapy water, Vaseline, etc. can be used for this purpose. If this step is not executed with care it is possible to ruin the sculpture.

b)  You divide the original model into sections with a marker. If done properly, all marked (divided) sections of the model will get easily attached back or vice versa. This is technically the most difficult part in doing a mould. If not done properly it will later not be possible to separate the mould from the original model. A general rule which proved to be very helpful is: one has to be able to see all marked sections. If only the slightest bit is invisible you know you will have a problem. The only way to avoid this kind of problem is to subdivide into more sections.

Stage 3.     Mould making

You start off by making clay separation strips (1.5-2.0 cm. high) which copy the dividing lines marked on the original model. That will give us one separated model section. On the edges of the section’s case we will place keyholes and key edges. These keyholes and key edges allow us during the assembly process to find the exact positions where the moulds should be connected.

Now the mould making material (silicone or plaster - we are using mainly silicon as it proved to give much better results) can be poured into the separated section. To improve durability we reinforce it with several layers of fabric, mash tape or fiber.

All remaining sections can be done in the same way. But before proceeding with the next section, the previous one should be taken off in order to avoid damages and to allow good visibility of the work.

If the mould is made of flexible material (like silicone resin) it will require some reinforcement, such as hard wire to support the top and side edges of the form (mould).

When the mould is finished and properly dried out, we can start preparing the final pouring process. The first step will be to build a casing to support the flexible silicone mould. For this we apply several layers of plaster reinforced with plastic nets onto the single mould pieces. The pieces of casing which have already hardened plus the relevant moulds will then be fixed together until the casings support the total mould.

Stage 4.     Manufacturing statuettes (copying)

We then create a hole in the bottom through which we pour the formatting liquid (in our case Ceramics) into the mould. This process requires patience and care. The formatting liquid needs to reach each part of the inner mould and to have at the end the same thickness everywhere. There should be no noise disturbance as the artist needs to hear the liquid pouring and covering the inside of the mould. When he can not hear anything anymore, he is sure that the material has almost hardened. This timing is crucial as now the second and/or the third layers of formatting liquid need to be applied until the envisaged thickness of the final sculpture has been achieved.

If all preparation work has been done properly, we will only have little excess material to remove from the sculpture after we open the mould. If it has not been done carefully it might be worthwhile to start all over again, as a sculpture which comes out imperfect might take 2-3 days polishing in order to remove scratches or damages.