so busy!

wow, this semester has been so crazy busy. wordpress has implemented an entirely new interface since i last posted, that can’t be a good sign. aside from taking 5 classes, i’ve been busy with two jobs and a hungry hubby.

well, i left my fantastic dream yarn store job in the hopes of finally settling into this new place (it’s been almost a year! oops)… the school year is over (although summer classes aren’t)… and the hubby is still hungry. so now that i have a tiny bit of free time, i want to catch up the past 6 months’ projects and some brainstorming for the future. dunno if i’m still on anyone’s RSS but i sure hope everyone hasn’t forgotten me!

i’ll start with a fun project from mid-semester. i had an assignment for my 3D-printmaking class to somehow integrate a RP (rapid prototyping) machine in a project. if you don’t know what a RP machine is, it’s basically a printer with a big 3D printbed that prints 3D computer files from Maya or similar programs. it prints nearly flat layers of powder until it builds up into your form. the printer uses a light glue solution to get the layers to hold together, and then the forms are extrated sort of like an archeological dig. the final product is a brittle white (or lightly colored, depending on your computer file) powdery object which is usually “infiltrated” (hardened) with superglue or zap-a-gap.

for the class, our final product could be the RP model (it could be a scale model for something, an art piece, or it could be painted or changed in some way) or it could just be somehow related to the model. i remembered some gummi venus de milo replicas and decided i wanted to try my hand at mouldmaking. even better, i wanted to try mouldmaking with gelatin.
disclaimer: if you don’t want to read crazy details, just scroll through the pictures. they’re purrty. the reason for the huge amount of text is that when i was working on it, i could hardly find any information on mouldmaking with gelatin or mouldmaking with an RP model. hopefully this can help someone.

it was a really hard process, especially considering the learning curve with a really complicated computer program and all the issues that the RP machine can have (obviously, every form you complete on a computer screen can’t necessarily exist in real life). this was the first prototype. i printed out a handful of novelty diamond rings with small sprue cylinders at the top, then infiltrated it with plain superglue. the picture is pre-infiltration– you can see how powdery the texture is. i also included the ring i was wearing for size comparison.  i ordered a set of food-grade liquid silicone and a jar of release dit from cuilinart. the first try was a total disaster. i realized that making the whole object and not a half was going to make it really hard to get an exact 2-piece mould. because of the shape, the pieces had to be totally independent so that the ring could pop out at the end. i tried setting the model in modelling clay in a jewelry box but it was awful and lumpy and the mould stuck to the clay. ick.

the second time was a charm– i did all the hard precision work on Maya. i cut the ring down the middle and made it a little box to sit in. i changed it to have two conical sprues instead of the one that definitely turned out too small. and then i flipped the diamond part so, together, i would have one full ring. i infiltrated them, covered them in release dit, and made three moulds using the liquid silicone. the photo shows them infiltrated– you can see how they’re darker and shinier. you can also see the color issues i had– random parts came out white while others printed a gray color. not important for this project, but when you consider the expense of this it really is something they should have worked out. the second picture is the mould with the silicone poured in– perfect precision. i did a shallow coat first with a paintbrush to get the details and then poured the rest.

here are the final moulds. it made it really helpful to have multiples so that the gelatin didn’t cool off while the first ring was setting. i used pieces of balsa wood cut to size and some big rubber bands to hold the two pieces in place. i know i didn’t notch them to fit together but, honestly, that was beyond my 3D programming ability. in the end, i could just tell when they were matched up based off the top and bottom openings.

i didn’t take any photos of the actual process (mostly because i was covered in gelatin) but i used a recipe i found online for gummy bears with a little extra gelatin to make it really stiff (i was afraid the heavy “diamond” on top would sag if it was the consistency of gummy bears). i used only disposable tools that i had bought for the sole purpose of this project. even though it’s all food-based, it really doesn’t come off anything and could really make a big mess if it melted all over your silverware in the dishwasher. in order to get the gelatin into the moulds, i used a ketchup squirter bottle that i found at a hardware store. i put a plastic plate in the fridge and let each ring set in the mould for a few minutes. then i popped them out of the mould and let them set for a bit longer.

here is the final product. there were some rough edges that i had to cut off with an xacto knife. i used two different flavors of jello for coloring and mixed the two together for the third color. i also added powdered lemonade for flavoring, even though the addition of extra unflavored gelatin made the consistency inedible. but they actually did fit! they looked perfect and the diamonds stood up and didn’t sag.

this was how i presented it– each in an individual baggie, inside a vending machine acorn. the glass bowl was supposed to evoke the feeling of the top of a gumball machine, although it was a last minute purchase and i really wasn’t happy with it. turns out they sell plastic half-domes at canal plastics (on canal and mercer)– if only i knew. regardless of the silly pyrex bowl, the presentation went over really well. i gave out the rings and nearly everyone took one. some people even ate them after i warned them otherwise.

whew, that was a long first post back. and kind of dry too. it was just a really technical process and i figured people could probably use parts of it for their own projects. it ended up being a lot of fun and really gratifying.

coming up soon– lots of knit stuff, lots of sewn stuff, and some more printmaking. i promise! happy summer, everyone!


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