Gypsum plaster, or how the professionals call it "Plaster of Paris" is a great material to use for basic sculptures and craft projects because it is easy to prepare and sets in a few minutes.
Mixing Plaster of Paris is easy but there are important steps to keep in mind to come up with a solid and sturdy sculpture.
Plaster of Paris does not generally shrink or crack when dry, making it an excellent medium for casting molds. It is commonly used to precast and hold parts of ornamental plasterwork placed on ceilings and cornices. It is also used in medicine to make plaster casts to immobilize broken bones while they heal, though some orthopedic casts are made of fiberglass or thermoplastics. Some sculptors work directly in plaster of Paris, as the speed at which the plaster sets gives the work a sense of immediacy and enables the sculptor to achieve the original idea quickly. In medieval and Renaissance times, gesso (usually made of plaster of Paris mixed with glue) was applied to wood panels, plaster, stone, or canvas to provide the ground for tempera and oil painting.
1. Cover your work area with a plastic mat or with newspapers.
Find a mixing container (preferably a disposable one) that could accommodate the amount of mixture intended.
The ideal ratio for a Plaster of Paris mixture is 2 parts Plaster of Paris powder to 1 part water.
Measure out the water and pour it into your mixing container.
2. Measure out the Plaster of Paris in another container.
Break up any lumps of powder with a spoon.
Remember that the ratio should be 2 parts powder to 1 part water.
If you measured out 1 cup of water in Step 1, then you would need 2 cups Plaster of Paris powder.
3. Start adding the Plaster of Paris powder to the water in your mixing container by sprinkling or sifting the powder over the water.
Do not add the powder in one spot, instead, try to cover as much area as you can.
4. Do not mix yet.
Instead, tap the side of your mixing container with a spoon to disperse the powder into the water and remove any air bubbles.
5. Continue adding the Plaster of Paris powder, tapping the sides of the container from time to time.
The cue to stop is when you notice that the powder is almost covering the surface of the water and is not as easily absorbed by the water.
Normally this point would be around the 2:1 ratio but could vary slightly depending on several factors, including your brand of Plaster of Paris and water temperature.
6. Gently mix the Plaster of Paris mixture until it reaches a uniform and smooth consistency.
Do not stir vigorously to avoid any air bubbles from forming.
7. Allow the mixture to stand for a minute before pouring it into your mold.
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