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Three years ago I participated in my first 10x10Brunswick Art Show, and I am currently getting work ready for this fall's event. The show is a great fundraiser for the Arts Are Elementary Program that benefits the students in the Brunswick elementary schools. All of the artwork is presented in black metal 10x10 inch frames, and I decided early on that I could create plaster reliefs that would be compatible with this format.
The first step I take is to amass as many different objects as I can find that would create interesting textures or marks when pressed into clay. Then I roll out a test slab of clay and experiment with the objects. When I come up with an idea I like, I roll out a half inch thick slab of clay that is just a bit bigger than the final size of the finished relief, and press my design into the surface (keeping in mind that the image will reverse). I avoid making any marks that would create undercuts so the clay can be easily removed from the poured and hardened casting plaster. After cutting the slab to final size, I place it on a board covered with plastic wrap (to keep the clay from sticking) and enclose it with framing boards.
Once the slab is framed, I mix a batch of casting plaster (making sure to tap out all air bubbles) and pour it into the frame to a depth of about 1/2 - 3/4 of an inch. After the plaster hardens, I remove the framing boards and gently peel the clay away from the plaster cast. If done carefully, the clay slab can be used for several casts. I then remove the clay residue form the plaster relief by it rinsing under water and brushing it with a soft bristled brush. After the piece has dried, I seal it with an acrylic paint - usually either a graphite gray or titanium white mixed with titan buff. (Plain gesso is another option.) The piece is then ready to be mounted in foamcore and framed. A relief for a good cause.
* Additional relief images can be viewed in the Sculpture section of this website.
Cynthia Smith, Maine artist, originally from Connecticut. Taught art at secondary level for 35 years, retired in 2004. Sculpts in bronze, wood, stone, clay & plaster. Her work can be seen at several mid-coast Maine galleries and shows.