I have heard of sledging before and am sad to say that I've never tried it. Sledging is essentially extruding plaster to create finished objects or molds. Plaster is one of those things where you either love it or you hate it. I love it, but don't have a space in my studio to use it, and this technique is making me want to make a dedicated plaster area! I'll add that to my ever expanding list of things to do and techniques to try.
In today's post, Anthony Quinn shares what sledging is and how to easily profile plaster to create unique forms. If you love plaster, this could be a new process to add to your practice. If you don't, well, maybe this technique might change your mind! Happy mold-making! – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.
Sledging Made Easy
by Anthony Quinn
Sledging, or profiling, is a modeling technique with huge potential. Sledging describes the act of dragging a profile through wet plaster and is, essentially, extruding with plaster. Success lies in the simplicity of sledging, which relies on the preparation of templates and tools that allow you to form the plaster with comparative ease. An understanding of the properties of the plaster is vital for this technique.
Molds are a simple way to create simple or complex forms and make multiple copies of them with little effort. With the construction process simplified, the individual forms lose their preciousness, which allows you the freedom to creatively experiment. In Fundamentals of Mold Making and Slipcasting, Guy Michael Davis leads you step-by-step through the entire mold making and slip casting process.
The template acts as a guide for the profile. Clay is used as a wall (or cottle) around the template into which plaster is poured. The trick with the plaster is to catch it at the right point in tis setting time. Pull the clay wall down when the plaster is cheese soft and will support its own weight. Working with urgency, as you do not want the plaster to get too hard, first use a scraper to trim the plaster back to the template. Then pull the profile through the plaster; repeat this until the profile touches the template.
As you develop your skills and confidence in this area then the potential of sledging will really come alive. Once mastered there really is nothing that can't be made using this process.
Sledging is a very old technique; it was used for the extruding of long lengths of architectural detailing, such as cornicing. It is said to be called sledging because in the workshops where these pieces of cornicing were made they would pour a great quantity of plaster in front of the huge profile. Two or three men were needed to push the tool, and the youngest apprentice would be required to sit on top of it to weigh it down, looking like he was riding on a sledge through the snow.
For more interesting mold making techniques, download your free copy of Ceramic Mold Making Techniques: Tips for Making Plaster, Bisque, and Styrofoam Molds, Making and Using Casting Slip, and Decorating Ceramic Surfaces.