N.C.A.D. Diploma in Art & Design

Sculptural Processes - Alginate



During the Diploma in Art & Design we looked at Alginate casting and moulding and experimented with plaster and mixed media - such as balloons, wires, fibres, mesh, fabric etc.  Alginate can be expensive to buy (especially when you are only using it for experimental purposes as is the case for a beginner!), however, it provides great definition for sculptural work. 




1.  Mix alginate with water to the correct ratio (this ratio will be stated on your alginate package).  You will need a container to match the size of the mould that you wish to create - for example, you could use a bucket, a plastic container etc. 


NOTE: the alginate/water mix dries quickly so you need to work quick once you have created this mixture.  I bought slow setting alginate to first practice with. 


2.  Dip the object that you wish to create a mould of (eg. your hand) into the alginate within the container.  Make sure that no air holes gather when dipping your hand in - you should tap the side of the container to assist in raising any air bubbles up from the mixture.  

If you are creating a face mould then you will obviously not be dipping your face into a bucket!  To create a mould of the face you first need to ensure that you have protected the hair (eg use something like clingfilm over your hair and then use cream, such as nivea, to cover your eyelashes and eyebrows.  After creating the mix of alginate with water (see step 1) you will now cover the persons face with this alginate/water mix (make sure to keep their nostril area clear so that they can breathe.  You will then apply damp bandages (plaster of paris bandage) in order to assist in keeping the mixture in place over the face while it sets.



3.  Once the alginate has set around your hand then carefully wiggle your hand out.  If you are creating a face mould, you very gently wiggle the face and remove it.  You have now created the mould.



4.  In order to create the actual sculptural piece (using the mould that you have just made in the above steps) you will now mix plaster with water in order to use it within the mould.  You could also use wax to create the sculptural piece.



5.  Slowly and carefully fill the mould with the plaster mix.



6.  Give the container a gentle few taps to ensure the plaster fills throughout the mould space and to avoid air bubbles.



7.  Once set, remove the alginate to reveal the cast.




Here is a helpful link to the steps involved when casting a hand.

Here is a helpful link to the steps involved when casting a face.