I had planned to formally update my journal weekly but time has once again collapsed in on itself. I took on an extra teaching load this semester with the result that I lost focus on my research. During the semester break, I tried to compensate by investing in all sorts of set design material and embarking on mould making experiments without any clear production plan. It wasn’t until I submitted a claim to HDR for $900 on building materials that I realised my stupidity.

My research examines the shape of narrative in the interactive media space so I suppose I could argue making a set design and experimenting with different materials and finishes before I even have the story locked off is the way storytelling works in the tablet platform. Maybe developing interface design, user interaction, visuals, sound and narrative occurs simultaneously?

I feel this could be a misguided strategy, much like shooting a film before the script and storyboards have been locked off.

Andi and Sally want me to spend about a month immersed in the 1984 era. They said it would give my story and the visuals an authentic voice and feel.  This part of the process has been really enjoyable. I’ve been collecting and reading magazine articles published in 1984 from Communication Arts (advertising journal), Graphis, Rolling Stones, Time, Vogue and Home and Garden. I’ve made a scrapbook of my findings. This will be my bible when I write my story and design the apartment. I was very young in the early eighties so I missed a lot of the popular culture, political mood and the state of the economy of this time. Reading the articles and even analysing the advertisements has highlighted issues such as the fear of the AIDS epidemic, the tension between Russia and US, the rise of the music video and MTV and the ethical dilemma over IVF.

I’d like my story app to embody the zeitgeist of the eighties. In a way, it’s not a real representation. It’s a hyper-realistic, fantasy eighties – much like the film The Wedding Singer.

Here are some photos from my scrapbook – I had a lot of fun making it. I remember when I was young, I use to cut out photos of hot guys from Smash Hits and other magazines and collage it in a scrapbook.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 9.04.29 AM Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 9.07.35 AM

In terms of my set design, things have not been progressing well. I feel like I should have completed my prototype about a month ago but I’m still struggling with a developing a silicone mould using caulk silicone. I have succumbed and purchased Pinkysil but it cost around $90 for 500mL. I will have to use it conservatively for fine detailed work.

My main issues with using cheap caulk silicone are:

  1. It takes a long time to cure. I’m able to remove the master from the mould within 24 hours BUT it will continue to harden for a week after that.
  2. There is still a certain amount of ‘sticking’ between the master and the silicone. This is frustrating because all the forums I’ve been on claim silicone rarely sticks to anything except itself (which can’t be true because we use silicone to seal up showers so clearly it sticks to some things). If I use Vaseline on the master, the silicone will pick up the streak marks no matter how carefully I apply the Vaseline.
  3. There’s a certain amount of bubbling which doesn’t occur with the Pinkysil

To test whether I should give up on this home made silicone mould idea once and for all, I made a super-careful accurate attempt using the formula

500g silicone: 500g cornflour: 700mL turpentine

I mixed the silicone in the turpentine first to thin it down (I also added a dab of oil paint again so I could check that I was mixing consistently). I sifted the cornflour and added it to the silicone-turps mixture. This was my result:

superaccuratesiliconeformular2First I dabbed on a thin coat of silicone using a spatula. I’ve also developed a wall method using different lengths of wood and grips. Much faster than building up a clay wall.

IMG_20140610_211653 cutting away the silicone


Here is the end product. The consistency of the silicone is good but it still stuck to the plastic paint bottle master (I did not coat Vaseline on the master because everything I read suggested silicone would not stick to a plastic tub. Pinkysil does not stick to this material). I could also easily cut a seam into it and it would seal up for casting if I wanted to make it as a one piece mould.


A second failed experiment: I tried to make a new mould of my eighties-style pappasan (otherwise known as the ass-chair). I wanted to test whether the master mould could be made of bisque fired clay and then sealed with a gloss paint to give it a shiny surface when I cast in resin. This is not ideal because it is very time poor to wait for clay to dry enough to be bisque fired. The alternative would be to use Supersculpey, which can be fired in a domestic oven immediately but there’s a significant cost difference.

This test was an absolutely failure. The paint came off inside the mould. Retrieving the master from the moist, tight, sticky silicone was a little like animal husbandry. I dislocated the index finger on my left hand getting the master out. (It came out with a loud schluuuurping sound). I should stop dyeing the silicone pink as it’s starting to look like I have a collection of rubber female parts in my studio

bottles and glasses version 1 IMG_20140609_153702


Above is my first attempt at shaping bottles and glasses for the bar as well as a basic semi-dome lamp cover using Supersculpey. It was a lot harder than anticipated working in miniature. I made a one-piece mould for the glasses and bottles with Pinkysil. For the lamp I tried a one piece and a two-piece mould.

cast lampcast bottles


The bottles and the glasses don’t work well in a one-piece mould. Will need to re-make in two pieces. None of the wine glasses came out at all – not surprisingly really given the complexity of the shape. The lamp works as a two piece mould – my next practice one will need to be a lot cleaner.

second bottles with toolsseoncd bottle casting2


Second attempt at bottles using a two piece mould. Much cleaner result. It also helped that I invested in some tiny tools (which I picked up as part of an ear wax cleaning kit from a Chinese grocery shop).I’ve also attached a wire up the middle of each bottle and stuck the sculpey into plasticine as I was shaping it to minimised warpage.

second attempt at glasses

As I was getting frustrated with my home made silicone attempts, I took a break for a couple of weeks and moved on to other parts of the prototype room which I knew were easy to achieve.

mosaic bar

I purchased a mosaic tile cutter and made the mosaic mirrors smaller. This fits better with the proportion of the room. The ass-chair is also in place but I do need to make the pink cushions for it.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 9.39.53 AM

I also had an idea while I was moulding the lamp that I could achieve a similar result cutting a pingpong ball in half! Here is my test pingpong ball. I’ve tested it with some LED lights – even with the silver spray paint it retains its translucency. I’ll need to work out a wiring system for the apartment. I can individually power each LED by attaching it to a small lithium battery but the battery always shows up under the dome when it is illuminated.

I had a wonderful chat with my friend David Renn, a master, innovative sculptor. He immediately questioned why I’m obsessed with creating silicone moulds in the first place because he can think of lots of other solutions to fake building materials such as Perspex, plastics, stones or metal without casting in resins. This is a reasonable question. I suspect I’m obsessed with it now because I want to find a solution.

David suggested the following alternatives.

  1. Experiment with High Density Polystyrene Foam covered in Spakfill to create furniture shapes. It can be coloured in a variety of paints to mimic different building materials
  2. If I want to pursue the caulk silicone mould method, forget the cornflour. Use caulk silicone (make sure its 100%) mixed with shellite to thin it. The trick is to apply a super thin layer with a disposable paintbrush to make a skin. This will dry in 24 hours and then cradle the skin with a shell either made of fibreglass or plaster. Ingenious!
  3.  Consider latex moulds as I do not need to reproduce the furniture pieces.
  4. Consider spray paint and powdered graphite (Hordern graphite powder) covering bits of straw to create metal rods and piping

So this is my plan for the next three weeks (in terms of furthering the set design prototype)

  1. Work out the camera rig to move camera around the room
  2. Work out the lighting system in the room
  3. Play with HD polystyrene foam as the main sculpting material for furniture
  4. Do one more small-scale silicone mould test!

This time I’m being strategic about my tests. I want to test four materials – HD polystyrene foam +/- spakfiller finish. I also want to re-test the bisque fired clay +/- gloss paint.

In terms of the homebrand mix of silicone, I’ve decided to test a new brand of silicone just in cast the one I’ve been using is not 100% or there is some other unknown variable causing my issues.

I’m also testing two types of thinner – the shellite (recommended by David) and a few drops of glycerin which has been used in some of the mould making forums.

I’m also testing two types of releasing agents – soapy water (50:50 mixture of liquid detergent to water. Paint on the master. Blow dry. It should not be tacky or slippery to touch.

The second agent I’m testing is spray oil. (I may also test Vaseline – undecided at this stage). I already know Vaseline works quite well releasing two-part silicone moulds.

After creating these skin moulds, I will also try to create a shell out of plaster of paris to cradle it.


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