Let’s cast my boobs!!!
Although this was a very bold decision it is a decision I am glad I made. Testing my own self-confidence and the comfort of those around me, I feel this stage in my project is massively important. As I am doing a project about breasts and encouraging change on how people view and perceive breasts, having a lifelike representative in the show will help with getting my message across.
How it went down…
After speaking to Amelia I got swiftly got in touch with a ceramic tech dem called Gemma Wilde. Having lots of experience with body casting she had to be the best person to help me. Being more than enthusiastic about filling my tall order she started by writing up risk assessments and talking with her supervisor. The paperwork fell through rather quickly and I was emailed a list of things to purchase in order to make the mould.
List of things to bring:
- Alginate, Alginart (450g x 4)
- Baby oil
- Cotton wool balls
- Wet wipes
Before going through with the process I was advised to do a bit of research on Alginate and see if it would possibly affect my skin. Alginate also is known as Alginart is a powder based material that when mixed with water turns to a thick dark pink liquid then finally thickens to a white solid jelly-like substance. Harmless to the skin (also my own skin) it adders to surfaces with a suction grip rather than a stiff hold like plaster. This allows for easy release of the material from any surface, minus cloth surfaces. The only negative about using alginate is the preservation time of the mould shell. Due to the vast amount of water held in the Alginate, the shell begins to shrink and deform because the water escapes. Below is a few images showing the stages of mixing Alginate.
To help Gemma one of the fine art tech dems also assisted as the job needed to be done rather quickly, four hands made it all easier. As I was making a cast of an intimate part of my body, privacy was also a factor that needed to be assessed. We carried out the procedure in a large secure cupboard during a quiet time during the day. The angle of my body was also thought about. due to the nature of breast hanging, I had to position myself on the chair in a comfy position but also on an angle that altered the hanging direction of my breasts. This resulted in a ‘perkier’ finish. only taking a total of 30 minutes to apply and harden, Gemma and Laura applied one layer of Alginate at a time, let it harden and repeated a following two times. once completely solid they continued to Mod rock. By using the mod rock they created an outer shell to support the Alginate. this was applied and dried in 10 minutes. All complete, I stood up from the chair and gently leant forward to release my chest from the Alginate.
Below is a selection of images that show the mould:
Finally the plaster…
Having only worked with plaster (potter’s plaster) one or twice many years ago Gemma kindly gave me a quick workshop. I thoroughly enjoyed weighing the plaster powder, measuring the water and combining with my hands to form a thick substance. An important part of the mixing I the removing of excess bubbles from the liquid, this allows for a clean finish and completely smooth surface area. Finally, we carefully scooped small amounts onto the surface area of the mould. This guaranteed no bubbles. Building up the sides we strengthened the cast with hessian and played more plaster over the top. it took around 30 minutes to set before we built the courage to take the cast out of the mould. It was beautiful! Overwhelmed with the results I cried with joy.
Below is a selection of images that show the plaster results:
If I were to do it again…
If I were to develop on the process and my results I would allow for more time to plan and prepare. I would also consider making the cast from the mould with other materials to give me different effects and aesthetics.
How I felt…
Having now done something I’ve always wanted to do I feel so proud of myself. I didn’t think I’d experience emotion from something so simple but meant so much to me. I didn’t realise how much I love my breasts until they were facing me in the face. Unlike looking in the mirror naked or at a photograph of myself or looking down, there was something quite overwhelming about what I saw. I didn’t recognise my own breasts but they were also familiar. From the entire experience and how I was left feeling, I would encourage all women and men to have a cast made of their chest area, it made me proud to be me!
I have found a few artists who have explored body casting and body forms. Their investigations of how the skin is manipulated and changes shape and the sheer volume of fat have led them to produce an array of work that challenges how we see the human body. One of my favourite pieces is a very famous piece called ‘Self 1991’ by the artist; Marc Quinn. Through the use of adapting a contained facility, he was able to create a bust of his head using his own blood. In person, this piece is breathtaking. The dedication to keeping the bust looking professional and alive requires the artist to periodically dedicate his blood. this keeps the blood a certain colour and looking fresh. The detailing that is captured in the facial expression and pores of the skin is tummy turning. There is a deathly ora about the piece. It’s challenging to look at but also entices the viewer. Without reading what the bust is made from, the viewer is left oblivious.
Marc Quinn has also approached the aesthetic of a head bust through the use of other materials such as clear plastic shown below. Detracting the detailing of the facial features allows the viewer to fill in the vast amounts of surface area. In the image below you can see that the effects of using the clear perspex invite the viewer to delve into the head. This invitation gives the audience a different angle as to how they view that particular part of the body. The enclosure of an object inside the head encourages the viewer to question why is it inside? What does it represent? And how do you get it out?
Jumping to an alternative aesthetic and material, Marc Quinn has played with yet again minimal detailing and large plain surfaces areas but through using Metalic substances. This time he has evoked reflection and fluidity. In the image below you can see the piece almost has a life of its own. The shiny metallic surface area makes the work come to life. It’s as though the giant bubbles are on the verge of bursting and are challenging the laws of physics.