How To: Plaster Strips

Daniel Arsham (click image to see more of his work)

Using Plaster Bandages

The plaster-coated bandage is simply dipped in water and then used either as a covering, as a reinforcing layer, or to make a casing – which can be more or less rigid according to how much material is used. Dry rolls can be cut with scissors. The bandage should be kept dry until use – any unused lengths should be kept in a sealed plastic bag. Once dipped in water, the plaster residue becomes pasty and workable and the bandage can be wrapped around.

Preparation
Get your mold or armature ready. Cover your surface with plastic. Work with 2 buckets of water, one for dipping and one for keeping your hands clean. Have ready a towel to dry your hands, scissors, a soft paint brush, and a sponge. Please note: when you are finished, the water should not be put down the sink, as it will clog. Please take it outside and dump into the grassy area behind the building. Any hard pieces can be thrown into the garbage.

Method
If you are using a mold, prepare it by applying a release agent. Simply rub a thin layer of Vasoline or dish detergent onto the surface of the mold. Cut a few strips to get started. Working with one strip at a time immerse the bandage for about 4 seconds being careful not to fold it over against itself. Wait for a few seconds for the water to soak in then apply it to your armature or mold. Working with wet hands, gently press and smooth the surface, drawing the wet plaster across the fabric until the texture disappears. The strips will begin to set in 3 to 5 minutes depending on the room temperature, humidity and the number of layers.

Finishing
Having finished the bandaging, with wet fingers or a soft paint brush, maneuver surplus plaster paste across the surface of the mold. Avoid rubbing across the edges of strips. The mold can usually be separated from the piece a few minutes after the smoothing work has finished. Be careful and gently ease the separation. Trim the edges of your pieces and if they are thin, add a few more strips to strengthen. Avoid sanding the finished surface as it will cause the gauze fibers to become more noticeable.

Painting
If you intend to paint the finished piece, let it dry for at least 24 hours then seal the surface with a PVA adhesive diluted about 1:5 with clean water. (White glue or other acrylic seal will work.) Don’t brush over the same area repeatedly, because the plaster will become pasty. Seal the back also for extra strength. Leave the piece another 24 – 48 hours in a well-ventilated area before painting.

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