Tuesday 16 October 2012

Life Casting with Grotesque FX Studio

Just in time for Halloween, we went down to see Steve Hollins at the spooky Grotesque FX Studio in Camborne, and watched him work his magic on Alex, our very own Technical Advisor. Alex wanted a mould of his head taken, and Steve is just the man for the job. 

Steve's workshop appears very unassuming as you approach, but when you open the door you're greeted by a sea of disembodied heads, hands and feet, as well as some creatures that have never been seen before...

The whole process of life casting is very involved, and Alex went through various stages - from bald cap, right through to mummification!

The first stage of the casting process is to make sure the skin is clean by using an astringent such as witch hazel, and then applying a moisturiser to ensure that the plaster bandage and alginate will not stick to any dry patches. Ears are blocked with cotton wool, then it's time to start the back of the mould, using plaster bandage! The bandage is laid on in thick layers, with supporting strips down the centre of the neck and a ridge along the centre of the head. Once the plaster has gone off completely, it's time to mix the alginate for the front half of the mould.

Alginate is a semi-flexible moulding compound which is often used for taking dental impressions - it's 100% safe to use as it is made from natural materials, and has a very quick de-moulding time. Steve applies a thick layer, allows it to dry, then adds a second layer with some strips of scouring pad in between to help it to grip. It is important at this stage not to let the alginate block the nasal passages! Pieces of hessian are stuck to the alginate just before it sets, which will help the plaster bandage to form a strong bond.

Plaster bandage is applied to the front of the mould in the same way as the back, with supporting strips this time around the nose and mouth. The plaster will warm up as it starts to harden.

Once the plaster has gone off and is cool to the touch, it is safe to remove the mould, separating it into two halves. 

We've got videos on our YouTube channel, showing the full process in three parts. The first part shows the master mould being taken as described here, the second video shows the plaster cast being taken from the mould, and the final part shows how Steve decorated the finished casting to make it extra creepy! If you'd like to see more photos, take a look at our Flickr page!


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