Molded Papier-Mâché Form
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by David Coffin
from Threads #75, p.40
The best thing about the poured-foam form that you make from a surgical-plaster cast or mold is that the mold makes a very accurate copy of your body contours, complete with distinct collarbones and shoulder blades. It’s more accurate in this regard than the other methods (duct-tape dress form #1, duct-tape dress form #2, paper-tape dress form). Plaster is also better at molding to and preserving concavities, so this is a good approach if your body has distinct hollows that tape might simply fill over. But the downside of the poured-foam process is the foam itself, which is expensive, somewhat toxic, and hard to find.
Gail Gosser, an artist and art teacher from Schwenksville, Pennsylvania, likes the accuracy of the plaster mold. Her method solves the foam problem by replacing it with ordinary papier-mâché. Use paper-pulp insulation mixed with wallpaper paste (both from a building-supply store) to make the mâché, and cut the plaster mold from the body along the sides instead of in front and back as is usual when pouring in foam. Don’t miss other Threads techniques like this one by purchasing a print subscription which comes with FREE access to our tablet editions.
1. Use paper-pulp insulation mixed with wallpaper paste to make the mâché, and cut the plaster mold from the body along the sides, not in front and back.
2. Line each half of the mold with paper towels to keep the papier mâché from sticking to the plaster.
3. Then build up a 1/2-in. layer of mâché, forming a smooth, wider edge along the mold’s edge where the two mâché halves will be glued together.
4. When both halves are filled (above), let them dry (helping with fans and hair dryers if the weather is damp).
5. Then smooth the surface texture by spreading more thin mâché over the cracks (right).
6. Join the mâché halves with white glue spread thickly along the widened edges, and tie them together firmly,
7. Slide shims under the cords to tighten them as the glue dries.
Here’s a swiveling stand you can make for any dress form from easily purchased materials.
When the glue is dry (and at any point in the future, if needed), reinforce the join and edges with more mâché in pulp or traditional strip form. Finally, cover the form with knit fabric (the mâché is too hard to pin into directly) and mount it on the clever dress-form stand shown at left.
This method is time-consuming (drying time can add days) but very accurate, and it suits Gail’s training as a sculptor. One further advantage: you can make neck-and-shoulder-only molds to create anatomically correct coat hangers for finished tailored jackets and works in progress.
More dress forms:
Illustration: Jeffrey Mayer