The first day started with introductions to several key plaster professionals within the shop, which included shop manager Nathan Frey, jobsite manager Scott Aldrich and of course owner/president Foster Reeve. These professionals are on top of their game and I’m sure I will learn from their expertise.
After meeting several other plasterers in the shop, I was instructed to start flattening the clay that would be used by one of the sculptors, Kathleen. These large, floor-to-ceiling panels will eventually be cast in plaster and used to line the walls of a client’s dining room. The device used to flatten the clay was a large press consisting of rollers that diminished the height of the clay with every pass. I wish Kathleen all of the luck in completing this project for it looked like a daunting task.
Several clay slabs were rolled out and I was then instructed to cast an eight-foot cornice from a reverse mould running. We did something similar to this in school, but this piece was much more complicated. Due to the projecting cove of the running and its flanking undercuts, I encountered some difficulty with the burlap pushing through. Unlike the single layer of burlap we use in school to support our plaster runnings and castings, they use two sheets, which actually makes more sense and provides better support; however, the increased weight of the extra burlap layer also tends to push the burlap through the first coat of plaster, called the “gel coat,” if you are not patient enough. I learned from this mistake and I look forward to attempting this piece again.
The rest of the day was spent making casts of existing moulds and preparing new sculpted pieces for the silicone rubber which will form the moulds. The material used for their moulds was created by several former employees of a company that produced the material we used in our mould at school. Apparently, this stuff is cheaper, easier to use and performs similar, if not better, in maintaining the shape of the original sculpture, as well as in releasing the plaster casts. I received many pointers from a fellow plasterer, Garret, who has made countless moulds and casts.
The whole crew at Foster Reeve is very professional and extremely helpful. They seem to recognize my previous experience, but they also realize that I have a lot to learn and are willing to help me along. I thank them for their assistance and for not giving me a hard time for being a little rusty in certain areas.