Monday, September 28, 2009

Gingko Leaves and Making Molds

I love gingko leaves. Other than having a very cool shape in my opinion, they are super cool because the trees are considered a living fossil and have no known living relatives in the plant world. Modern gingkos date back to the Permian, 270 million years. In Japan, it was often planted north of Buddhist temples as a symbol of immortality because of its longevity. There is even a gingko tree there that is estimated to be 800 years old and I’ve read that one gingko was the first tree to grow back after the bombing of Hiroshima. The gingko is one amazing tree, a true survivor.

A gingko leaf was among the first of the stamps I carved years ago for use with my pottery many years ago. I’ve updated the design a bit for use at a smaller scale with bronze and copper clay. Beth, over at Hint, showed us how she uses her art work made into stamps for molding her silver clay charms. You can see the video she made here. Actually, if you haven’t, you should check out her “behind the scenes” series which gives a lot of great detail on her process.

I use a similar process to Beth for molds, except that I don’t use the stamp itself as a mold. I use it to make a model and then make a mold from that. There are a lot of reasons why I work this way. But in fact it boils down to, yes I will admit it, I am a control freak and bronze and copper clay seem to be very particular in how they get handled. And for me, this method works pretty well.

So here’s a little 8 step instructional (is that a word?)

1) Tools. My tools for making the mold are simple. I’ve got a cookie cutter, a stamp made from my little sketch, a lump of conditioned polymer clay, and a rolling thingy with a thickness gauge on the ends.

2) I roll out a thin thickness of polymer clay and press that into the rubber stamp.

3) This picks up a raised pattern of the gingko leaves. I like bas relief. I almost never use impressed designs. That’s just me.

4) For this particular design, I used the burnishing tool to add detail to the gingko leaves. I like the burnishing tool because it’s got a very fine round tip and I can get quite a smooth line out of it without undercuts. Once, I’m satisfied with the piece I bake the model in the oven according to the directions. This, by the way, is the only thing I know how to do with polymer clay. I do love this stuff for how it picks up detail.

5) Once the model is cool, I use 2 part RTV compound to make a flexible silicon mold. This time I used the compound from Hobby Lobby. It is not my favourite, but what I had available. Cool Tools has a very good RTV compound but I didn’t have any and I wanted to do this right now.

6) This stuff uses equal parts of the yellow and white, and equal for me is what looks sort of equal. That seems to work. It gets kneaded together until there are no swirls of white in it. That is important. I know from experience that you can not skimp on this step.

7) My little clay model is stuck down on my work surface with a dab of polymer clay. Then the RTV compound is pressed over the model. The directions say to let it set up for 20 minutes. I usually let it set up for an hour, even overnight.

8) Once the RTV compound is cured, I pop out the model and voila! There is the mold that I can now use with the bronze and copper clays. This mold is just a wee bit over an inch in size.

A little note on rubber stamps. I’ve used a number of different companies to have them made. But this time, I used, as suggested by Beth. Now I’ve usually been statisfied with the stamps I’ve had made. But hands down, these are the best stamps ever. The detail is incredible and the cuts are sharp. My koi was made by a different company and if you look closely it just does not have the same level of crispness as the gingko stamp. The secret? They laser cut their stamps. They cost a little more but I think it’s worth it and it saves me a lot of time in the modeling process. Thanks Beth! This is a huge improvement in my studio practice.

But the very best part of this whole process is I get to wear these very attactive, very stylish glasses from the Dollar Store. Tres chic, no?


Katie said...

Very cool! I might just have to try this out on my own...I definitely think it's something I could have fun playing with :o)

Thanks for sharing your process - and your spiffy Dollar Store glasses :o)

anna maria said...

Oui, oui, tres chic!. Thank you for the links and the instructional. Lovely little ginko leaves piece.

Cindy said...

Wow. LeAnn, what an incredible behind the scenes tour of what goes on from the very beginning of your pieces. This really helps us to appreciate your art...Thank you for the tutorial. It was fascinating to learn how you make your molds from start to finish. And love that picture of you!! :-)

sharon said...

Love hearing about your the ginko, and looooove your dollar store glasses, BUT, love you the best! Thank you for the glimpse into your soul!

stregata said...

This was splendid, LeAnn!! Thank you for sharing, especially your cute glasses!

Leslie @ Bei Mondi said...

Lovin the glasses! So cool! Thanks for the tutorial but I'll leave the bead making to the experts like yourself. :)

SueBeads said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing!!!!

Esther said...

wooooow what a great tutorial!! thanks for sharing!! very nice pendant!!!

Adventures with Millie Making Jewelry said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing. Beautiful pendent!

mairedodd said...

love it! i also love your saying 'i had to do it now' - that's how i operate! :0) i have got a 3 pack of cheaters from costco - without them we wouldn't be able to work, i am so grateful... and thank you for the background on the gingko... i had no idea... somehow the symbolism & facts got lost on me in my art history days... now i can appreciate them for the unique trees they are...

Anonymous said...

great post, thanks for sharing!

SummersStudio said...

Thanks everyone for stopping in and for all of your sweet comments!

lunedreams said...

ok, now i'm going to have to go shopping again at your store...I love gingko too!! i get my glasses at the hardware store. and the grocery store.

The Joy of Nesting said...

What a great tutorial LeAnn!!!

It has already been squirled away in my little tutorial folder!! :)

Oh those glasses are sooooo you!!!! Gosh and at the dollar store prices you could have a pair that matched each of your new outfits!! :)

Pattie ;)
Mazatlan Mx.