Monday, August 9, 2010

A small bit of flooding

No, not the weather kind - though Charlotte has had a bit of that recently. Flooding is the process of filling undercuts on an original so a simpler mold can be made. I mentioned flooding in my previous post about preparing the Meows and Minis cat medallion. It has been on my mind as I've worked with Oliver and Elsie.

The biggest lesson I learned from molding Vixen was that I needed to reevaluate my use of flooding. I had fallen into the trap of thinking that flooding was an "easy out" not well suited for highly detailed sculptures. It seemed like a cheat. I also hated the idea of altering an artist's vision for their piece. Flooded areas have to recreated in each casting, so that leaves the door open for mistakes.

What I found with Vixen was that flooding sometimes ensures that the finished casting is actually closer to the original. That's because it's easier to take flashing off from a piece of greenware than it is to build back an area that has been scraped away. On pieces that have minor undercuts, intentionally adding flashing so the mold pulls freely is sometimes the smartest answer. Otherwise the mold will skim off the undercut (if you are lucky), or the entire casting will tear apart. It only took reconstructing a dozen or so Vixen withers to bring that lesson home for me!

Most of the flooding I did on Oliver involved minor flashing on the mane and ears. The one area with a more drastic treatment was his tail. The overall tail shape was pretty simple to mold, but the individual strands formed long "fingers" that lined up one behind the other. By filling them I could ensure that the mold pulled freely without breaking the tail. This would also protect the "points" of his tail while I cleaned the rest of the casting. (The flooding in between the strands will be removed last.)

I used the hardest type of green Chavant clay for my flooding because I wanted something sturdy enough that I could leave it on the original as a reference. The picture here was taken after the original was removed from the completed master mold, so obviously the filled areas are pretty bombproof. Although it isn't visible in the picture, I also added a distinctive texture to the flooded spots to give me a visual cue about what needed to be removed. My hope is that this will result in a less "fiddly" mold - and ultimately more shiny Olivers!

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