“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Michelangelo
Plaster of Paris makes it easy to create small blocks of “stone” that little sculptors can carve. It’s also a wonderful way to have children imagine a three dimensional shape inside a block, and bring it to life. As they carve and scratch away at the plaster, they’ll see their idea slowly emerge and evolve.
- Plaster of Paris
- disposable plastic containers to be used as molds eg. small yogurt containers
- mixing bowl eg. large yogurt container
- mixing tool eg. spoon
- sculpting tools to scrape and remove sections of plaster eg. plastic and wooden scrapers, sand paper, spoon; metal tools for older children
- disposable gloves (optional)
- acrylic paints
- acrylic gesso
Important things to remember when working with plaster:
- wear a mask to avoid inhaling the dust, and if possible work outside
- wear goggles to protect your eyes
- sculpting tools should be age appropriate e.g. plastic or wooden scrapers, sand paper and spoons for younger children; metal tools can be added for older children
- always use tools pointed away from you
- keep your free hand behind the tool to avoid injuries
- unused plaster can be thrown in the garbage, but never down the drain
1. Plaster of Paris should be mixed in an old or disposable container, and according to the instructions on the package. I used a large yogurt container for mixing, and small yogurt containers as molds. They are convenient to use, and easy to remove. When the plaster is ready, pour it into the molds and allow to dry for at least a day, before removing the container.
2. To remove, use scissors to make a cut at the top of the container, and pull the edge so it tears away completely from the hardened plaster. If it feels damp, allow to dry for as long as necessary.
3. Sculpting will be messy, so make sure to cover your workspace with newspapers. Many themes can be explored, depending on the age of the children. Inspiration from artists can include Henry Moore who favoured natural forms, and Constantin Brancusi for his many variations of sculpted heads.
4. When sculpting, it’s important to be patient. Plaster should be removed carefully, otherwise you risk chipping off larger bits which may spoil your design.
5. If you choose to paint these sculptures, begin with a coat of acrylic gesso primer. This will prevent any plaster from coming off when you add paint.