Lifecasting and Moldmaking
to main index page

Lifecasting is a craft skill, used by doctors as well as sculptors and special-effects people. When your dentist makes an impression cast of your teeth, he is doing a lifecast.
We are concerned with lifecasting from an aesthetic point of view. A sculptor works toward fulfilling a vision -- completing a self-assigned project-- and whether he carves stone or casts in a mold, he is moving toward producing a physical object which shows his audience what he is thinking about. Lifecasting may be thought of as a three-dimensional form of photography. You can only cast what exists before you. Later, the artist can alter the cast image, but he starts with a lifecast.
"Man is the measure of all things," said Pythagoras, and we are all fascinated with real people. Some lifecasters follow their vision all the way to hyperrealism, with correct skin pliability, hair, glass eyes and perfect skintone. Others sand off the skin texture and polish the form, toward the beauty of a marble statue or the bright colors or slick finish of cars. Others cast in glass or metal, clay or plaster. George Segal only wanted the rough molds he made. So the mold of the human form is the one gathering-point defining the artform. Afterward, artists spread wide in how to use that mold to realize their vision.
Lifecasters use several moldmaking media: direct plaster (what I do), plaster gauze, alginate, or moulage. 
Each has advantages as well as problems. Plaster gauze is costly and has become hard to find. Pouring heavy plaster into it often collapses it. Alginate, the most popular technique nowadays, takes a team, is costly, and you need a plaster backup mold, adding to model's time in a pose. It requires good technique. Moulage - almost forgotten. A thichened gelatin, heated to melting and cooled to just-bearable, is smeared on the skin. Also requires a backup mold. Moulage at least is endlessly reusable.
Here is an excellent mold I haven't cast yet. Molds must be thought out so the models can be freed as soon as possible. Here, the mold was pulled out and up, away from the model. The flat plane of the table is an important feature of the mold, so that by placing the mold on another flat surface it is easy to replicate the flat bottom, which will serve as a stable base of the statue. The model Kathy just before she was cast (mold at left.) She assured me she could stay in this pose without her legs cramping.

Sometimes I leave molds unused, maybe waiting 
for a new material to try. This model was a big
girl and the mold is impressive.
Be sure to read the 
Technical Explanation
Also see the Desiree page.

Torso casting process:Casting the belly moving in and out from breathing is tricky.  Read explanation here.
 
3 prog views of plaster casting on slender torso
1) Sturdy frame, gauze bandage over pubic hair, shroud over ankles 2) Lacy first layer of plaster on greased skin

3) Mold complete on model, almost ready to remove. See finished piece: "Torso"

return to AITP page 2
return to the main page
 to 2nd index page