So, Thursday was a write off. Or was it? As usual, I multi-task to the extreme.  A trait that was valued in my career as a lab-tech, but frowned on by organization gurus.  Guess what I’m not.

I jump from task to task. Scanning photo albums for a photo book, hyper varnishing a set of reprints out in the garage,  and mucking about with plaster in the kitchen.  Probably not the best combination.

But I have an excuse. I am not a patient person. Once I get a notion in my head I either have to run with it immediately, or give up on the idea forever.

What I’m really looking forward to is the plaster. I bought a new 50 pound bag of industrial plaster  Wednesday when I made my bi-weekly foray into the city. I needed to replace one stored in my over humid basement.  My recent purchase of a dehumidifier brought the humidity down from a dripping 75 to a much more normal 48. But I’d lost a number of supplies to warping and moisture first. Lesson learned.

So even though plaster casting wasn’t supposed to be on the agenda, I was anxious to see if my recent episodes of plaster not setting was indeed because the plaster had absorbed too much moisture.

Brilliant idea number 1, make a mold of several varieties of leaves. I want to cast them in paper for my Seriously Whimsical project. I love the irony of using paper to reconstruct trees. I know. I know, it’s rag paper, but the thought persists.

I wander around my yard plucking leaf specimens that have not yet started to turn yellow.  See, my impatience is justified again. Soon it will be too late to get non-crispy leaves.  Then I roll out some Play Doh smooth enough to leave a leaf impression. Best use of a rolling pin I ever came up with. I must be hungry because the Play Doh smells like cookie dough.  Then I place the impressions into plastic  containers that can hold the liquid plaster.

Brilliant idea number 2. Cast pea-stones so I can eventually cast paper as stone walls. Would that make great castles or what? I pour a layer of pea-stones in the bottom of another plastic  container.

Now I’m ready for plaster. Immediately I can tell the difference from the old plaster. This feels silky. I’m confident it will work.  I mix an ice cream pail to perfect consistency and pour it into the waiting containers. One of my best batches. The plaster heats up as the chemical reaction begins.

I return to my other tasks of varnishing and scanning, going back to the plaster once the plaster cools a little. I tip the containers over and push the plaster out. Yuck! The heat of the plaster softened the Play Doh to the consistency of chewing gum on hot pavement. The impression of the leaves, tentative at best, will be gone even if I could ever remove the Play Doh from the plaster. Awwwww.

Next I work at removing the stones from the plaster. Funny how it looks like conglomerate. Oh ya, I forgot to coat the stones with any kind of release. But I don’t think it would have made any difference. The small stones have allowed too much liquid plaster to flow between them. I pry out about a third of the stones before giving up.  Time to toss it all out and clean up my mess.

Thank you Carolyn Roberts  for  the Carl Jung wisdom , “Knowledge rests not upon truth alone, but upon error also.”  My Facebook friends agree if Carl Jung says mistakes are ok, then we’ll go ahead and make more.

Let’s see. Maybe next try I could use very soft clay to take the impression of the leaves? Ya, that’ll work. Next.

On a whim I run hot water over the pea stones I pulled out of the plaster. Presto. The stones release immediately.  Something to store in the “good things to know” part of my brain. Was it just the water, or does the water have to be hot?  Maybe I can dip the conglomerate into a bucket of water and all the stones will release?  Maybe I can make a mold of the conglomerate, and then mold that before making my final mold.

Oh I have more investigations to make, but later, because now I have to go for my run.

Work and Play

I’ve reached the point in my Seriously Whimsical art project where I’ve become impatient to get started. I can’t shove less exciting tasks out of the way fast enough. I mean, really. You have to go out and buy groceries, clean the house, work in the office and tie up the loose ends from the last project. Ugh.

What I do get while I wait though, is the fun of  to plotting and scheming and planning! My mind races with things to try and ways to do them:

  • Use a cake decorator to draw with paper pulp ◊ then I should borrow books on cake decorating ◊ maybe even watch “Ultimate Cake Off”!
  • Pour plaster onto tree branches to pick up texture, then carve the plaster.
  • What would be a good system for pressure treating and desiccating the pulp in  latex without destroying the mold? Oven? Buy a desiccator?
  • Hey! beads and glitter!

Then I start thinking about possible alternatives if one method doesn’t work! I so want to get started before I get overwhelmed with the possibilities and they become a spiderweb of what ifs.

Everything I see and think becomes fodder for my whimsical gristmill. Excessive rain caused mushrooms to sprout all over the tree stump in my son’s back yard.

stump with shelf mushrooms

Cool!! Any idea how many varieties of mushrooms you can find in Google? Wow! Artists wood-burn onto ” shelf mushrooms”, which these may be!! More possibilities! Fun! Or shelves .

While my grandchildren run and jump around me in the back yard I pull out my travel sketchbook and draw the stump with mushrooms for future reference. “You’re a good drawer, Grandma!” “Thanks Georgie, you’re a good climber”

“Do you want to play Play-Doh, Grandma?”  “Do I?!” Ya!

What a gold mine of possibilities. Textures and tools. And impermanence. Just playing and fooling around. No pressure. What fun!! The ideas are endless.

“Let’s go to the park, Grandma.” Oh Ya!

"Green man & Moon" - by Knotty Inks. The Green Man is related to nature deities in many cultures, and is a symbol of rebirth.

Maple leaves. Perfect for the Green Man I want to make.  What a great place for the kids to climb in and play and use their imagination.  Oh ya, and Grandma too. Climbing structures, boulders, a gazebo, a creeklet, tree bark, pea stones.

“I’m the farmer and you’re the dog, grandma.” “Huh!”


“You’re fun, Grandma.” You too, Georgie and Joe. What a great day!

P. S. Ooooh. I love Google. I’ve since discovered that Drain Cleaner is a desiccant, maybe I can make my own desiccator. Now, for pressure treating….

Seriously Whimsical or Whimsically Serious

I’m excited. My “Phenomenal Reality” project has grown up and moved out of the house. It’s living it’s own life; seeing new people and places. It doesn’t really need me any more.

But that’s not why I’m excited. I have a new baby, and I can’t wait to raise it.

Secret Squirrel & Morocco Mole

Secret Squirrel (Patrick Owlsey)

Shhhhh. This is secret squirrel stuff. We don’t want to give away too many inside secrets.

I’m going to work with paper. Not on paper, with paper. Lumps and piles of soggy paper stuck to 2′ x 2′ ceiling tiles as a 3D relief carving.

The pieces will be modular, each tile can stand alone or attach above, below, or beside another tile to build  larger pieces.

The process involves kitchen blenders, rag paper, fabric scraps, liquid latex, plaster, plastilina , fabric dye, watercolours, & ceiling tiles. Fun stuff, right?

Here’s the surprize. Each piece will incorporate works of fantasy. Surprized? I know, I’m so stepping out of my normal genre!

Here is what I’m thinking. Forest dwellers and abodes. Green men, sprites & elves. You know, all the things normally seen in a forest.

Some elements might repeat or wander through several tiles; leaves, vines, staircases.

I gotta get to the drawing board and get this show started. This is serious stuff (and secret).