This last weekend whizzed by like a blur, as I spent the entire day Saturday casting out the final copies of Very Little One.
Very Little One (VLO) was released in September 2010, so that’s about 18 months ago. After Little One sold out so quickly, and after speaking with so many people that were disappointed at having missed out on that model I decided to make VLO’s edition big enough that everyone who wanted a copy could have one. So the edition size was for 250 copies, 50 of which were cast in baby blue or baby pink resin and supplied randomly throughout the edition.
I’m glad I went for a larger edition size, 125 copies (about the same as the entire Little One run) sold out very quickly and since then they have provided a steady stream of sales, particularly since I added the PayPal buttons to my website.
This weekend I cast out the final 30 copies, I have to admit this was a happy casting session knowing it was the last – VLO has been a pleasure to cast and has taught me an awful lot about casting and sculpting methods, but 250 models is just too many copies to cast… well I say that, it’s not the casting that is an issue really, that bit is fun, it’s the cleaning that causes the most frustration, fatigue and pain!
So, let’s have some pictures – here are the six molds that I’ve been using since about cast number 75 (I used two-piece molds before then but the ears were a problem):
A few things to note here – each mold is a different colour, this is a pretty obvious tip to ensure the correct mold pieces go together. Each mold consists of two larger pieces and one little “hat” piece that helps with casting the ears properly (the look a bit like little brains if you don’t know what they are!). The four round molds at the front are for the bases – much like a small medallion these were just cast from an open-backed mold and popped out with a bit of a wiggle (one rock was problematic but after I worked out the correct way to wiggle, they came out smoothly).
You might be able to see that each mold is sort of bleached where the resin was poured – resin seems to suck out the oils from the rubber over time, that, combined with the heat generated by the chemical reaction of the resin curing (it can get over 100°c!) gradually degrades the rubber in these places which eventually leads to the mold failing. None of these molds have failed yet, between them they have cast around 200 models (including any seconds that didn’t cast properly and were disposed of), that’s only 33 or so each so I would expect to get more from these if I wanted to, these molds will be destroyed soon now I’ve met the edition limit. I will probably keep one mold for any little metal or clear models if I fancy making any, as these aren’t part of the edition. I don’t make many of these generally, but I like to have the option there for me.
You might be wondering why I made so many molds when I didn’t need to, well, that comes down to time planning. As Sarah Minkiewicz-Breunig has been discussing on her Yahoo Group this year, time is a massive factor in the studio and has to be considered wherever possible. In my case, this was down to my vacuum machine…
The photo above was taken back when I started the VLO edition, before I got my sparkling new “Studio”. You can see my beloved vacuum machine there in the centre of the photo, with a metal cylinder on top. That cylinder measures 16cm in diameter and is 16cm tall. I can just squeeze three VLO molds in there, so to maximise my productivity, having six molds allowed me to cast three at a time, or two at a time if I wanted to allow the resin more time to set, then I would cast one set and demold the other, keeping me busy and productive.
Things have moved on a little bit now, I bought a larger vacuum tank (the cylinder bit), made of acrylic this time to allow me to see what was going on inside more easily:
This, however lead to a new problem – as you can see this tank is MUCH bigger than the metal one, with lots more air inside it – so to vacuum out all that air took much longer than with the smaller metal tank. I needed to cut it down somehow…
Working at a University has it’s advantages, for instance, we have an Engineering department with all sorted of wonderful machinery. However, when I asked one of the guys there about cutting down the tank, he simply used a hacksaw and sanded the end down smooth, and now I have a wonderful short but wide tank that suits me very well indeed:
The photo above shows that if I wished I could cast six copies of Very Little One at once. I chose not to gamble with that and stuck with my trusted three-at-a-time method for the final batch as they MUST be demolded whilst still slightly flexible, as if they are left in the mold too long they become more hard and brittle and are more likely to lose an ear or a tail if I’m not extra-careful.
The photo above shows how I can now see much more easily what is happening in the tank, thanks to it’s clear walls and larger top (this shows what happens when you vacuum the resin, the air is sucked out by the vacuum, causing the resin to “boil”) – in this photo there are three molds and the mixing pot I used for the resin in case I need to top them up – when topping up you must use vacuumed resin otherwise you get bubbles on the surface.
So, that’s them all cast! It took about 5 hours to cast out the thirty models, but then it took a further 4 hours to tidy all the little seams from each one. This was a record time for me, usually they take longer to clean, maybe after 250 copies I’m more streamlined, knowing what to look for and how to smooth it quickly.
On Sunday I took a little time out to work on a mini-project I’m doing for a dear friend as a gift. I also took some time to make some table-confetti for my wedding, using a die cutter and a spare wedding invitation (I’ll have to use a couple more invitations to get enough butterflies I think):
It took a LOT of cutting to get all the butterflies out and I then bent the wings back on every one of them – this took me most of the afternoon and evening, but I’m glad that I’ve managed to hand-make at least one small part of our big day as time constraints have meant we’ve had to employ others to do most things for us.