Two days ago, I had to scan back through the blog. It was just like when I must go back through the photo folder to look for a specific pic, and I get lost in all the other fun photos. Soon I was stepping through old blog entries trying to resist the urge to read all of them again to see what they were about. The thoughts and moments recorded in the old posts were so great to remember.
When I started this blog many moons ago, it was intended to be a digital journal or sketchbook. It was a way for me to keep thoughts and process ideas as I moved quickly through several different physical locations throughout each week. My personal Instagram has taken the place of that in many ways mostly because it’s quick and easy to throw something up on IG and move on with my life. Sometimes I forget how important it still is to record and share these things on the blog with anyone interested enough to still read it. And since it looks like you’re here reading, it’s important to get back to that so I can share some things with you. So, let’s bring back “Great Moments In Sculpture”!
This last week was plaster pouring week, also known as “the most wonderful time of the year”. You should definitely search “plaster” in the search bar on the web version of this blog. Relive the old photos and words from plaster pouring days passed. It’s a very important part of our Foundations courses at Lander, and one of my favorite days of the year.
When I started teaching at Lander 10 years ago, I taught the freshman-level 3D Design course to every single art major. No one could escape my grasp. Alas, I am but one teacher with many more students these days, so I’ve had to give up some of those freshmen students to other teachers. This semester I’m teaching only one class of freshmen while the other three sections of students are being taught by adjunct faculty. This is not easy on an old-fashioned control freak like me. Luckily, the adjunct faculty see the importance of continuity in our courses. They’ve played along with my ridiculous plaster project so that all our students will suffer the same. I was around for all the plaster disasters this week, but sadly I only have photos of a couple of the sections.
Things began as usual with a bit of pre-plaster hype. This was carried out in person and through Instagram. When my class arrived to the be first victims of the semester, they were properly anxious. One of the fun things to observe is how plaster survivors from previous years help to spread the hype. Some will offer helpful advice to the freshmen. “Use lots of duct tape.” “You can never have enough duct tape!” “You’re going to fail” “It’s going to be so fun!” “Your project is definitely going to explode”. Perhaps all of that is not so helpful, but it serves the purpose of building excitement. Many of these survivors who are still on campus were lined up around the perimeter of the splash zone to watch the fun when we started. Their perspective changed by time and experience in other classes with me; they get to look through a portal to their own past and see things in a new way. As I chose between filling a bucket with cold or warm water, I met eyes with a student from last year. Without words, their eyes indicated they knew what I was doing and why. One student took photos and videos to share with me and stayed a step ahead of me anticipating what was going to happen next. Another former student burst into laughter as I poured the heavy plaster quickly into a mold just seconds before a whole side erupted and gushed plaster across the plastic sheeting. Students who have graduated traveled back to campus just to see the fun.
The freshmen were sprawled out on the plastic in what looked like an intensely competitive version of Twister. Students who never speak up were talking and laughing. Students who rarely interact with one another became fast friends as they helped each other’s projects stay together. Students on the fringes were drawn directly into the fray and everyone was laughing, smiling, and perhaps dying a little on the inside. In the classes with other professors, students who I’ve never met were talking to me and calling me by name by the end of the dramatic three hours. Quiet students stepped into roles of leadership. Professors saw some students through a different lens. It was nothing short of amazing.
When the dust settled (or as their cleaning efforts were causing more dust to rise) the students were visibly relieved. They had completed a difficult task. They may not yet have known how their casts turned out, but they had survived plaster pouring day. They had stepped into the category of plaster pour survivors. This was an important rite of passage, and a day that my former students tell me they will never be able to forget.
And now, here are the photos…
The "before" photo. That's Kephira, Poltorak, Jessica, Cheyenne, Mad, Samantha, KiKi, Hope, Abbie, Google, Zaria, and Victoria in the front.
Very quickly it was all hands on deck to help out.
This is the exact moment when Victoria thought it would be a good idea to put her hand over the opening in her mold to stop me from pouring more plaster in. Mistake.
Scooping the plaster back inside the mold.
Scooping more plaster back inside the mold.
Scooping even more plaster back inside the mold.
A McSelfie with Poltorak, Jessica, Asia hiding behind Jessica, Mad (I swear she looks at me like that all the time!) and Kephira.
Google's real name is Brooke. That's her mixing a bucket of plaster.
This is the exact moment Jessica gave up on life and just sat down in the plaster puddle. Abbie gave up long before.
KiKi didn't want to take a bath in plaster so she disappeared for a while and came back in this glorious layered evening gown with yellow Crocs as statement accessories.
See? Mad looks at me with that look every single time. Still wondering why I call her Mad? Here she and Poltorak are generously helping another student not fail the project. By the way, Asia, (there in the background) she's not even in my class. She came to help just because she's a good person.
Abbie had a good time. I don't care what she tells you.
In one of those plaster pouring day moments, after Mad and Poltorak helped save another student's project, this entire group of students jumped in to help hold the project up in the air while plaster was poured in just so it wouldn't collapse.
Art students are the best.
That's Syd Vicious and Seth. Both graduated and blew off their teaching jobs to come by and harass the freshmen. That's cool, right?
And here's the "after" photo. Not visible in the photo, but still present is the strength, courage, determination, pride, and sense of accomplishment that goes along with plaster pouring day.
So this is Jessica. You remember her from up there, right? I met Jessica a couple of years ago when I visited a local high school for recruiting. She's talented, fun, and she laughs a lot so we get along well. As we poured the last mold we had a bucket of plaster left over that we kept for spare parts. Jessica had seen plaster casts of hands in the past and she stuck her hand inside the bucket of wet plaster asking me if she could make a mold of her hand. I asked her how she planned to get her hand out of the plaster once it hardened. She said she was just going to pull it right out. I told her that wouldn't work but she was welcome to try it (knowing this would be a teachable moment and she'd learn a lot about the material).
Ten minutes later she had struggled long enough to know she was now trapped inside a bucket of solid plaster. As I carefully cut the bucket off of the plaster block, she shouted instructions to a friend about how to log into her computer and upload a paper that was due by a fast approaching deadline.
This is when she asked, "So how DO you get your hand out of solid plaster?" You should have seen her face when I grabbed the hand saw out of the tool room.
I made cuts into both sides to weaken the block and stayed far away from fingers. Remember that she was trapped in this block while a crazy man sawed near her hand and look at the smile on her face. You may argue that's a nervous laugh, but I choose to see it as genuine joy. Tomato, to-mah-to.
There was a brief period of using a plaster cast saw donated from a doctor's office to make some cuts closer to where her hand might be but then we moved to a hammer to start to crack the weakened plaster.
Soon Jessica was freed from her plaster prison and she got this very cool mold of her hand as a result. Her paper was turned in on time and now she has an interesting story to tell at parties for the rest of her life. Long live plaster pouring day!