Tuesday, 22 May 2018

How To Make A Latex Mould and Plaster Support Jacket

Materials used:
Glass louvre window sheet
Spray on acrylic sealer
Old paintbrush for latex
Banjo and Milo, the Jack Russell dogs
A camera to take a photo of the bloody hole that the dog dug to demonstrate his mice hunting skills
Gypsum/plaster powder + tool for mixing, bucket, latex glove, smoothing tool
PVA glue, plastilene/plasticene (same thing really)
Silicone pastry brush (doesn't shed hair) & vaseline

I have made a latex mould featuring multiple two dimensional, flat back positive objects. 

First, my positive objects are glued on a sheet of louvre glass window, with glass smooth side up. Leave enough room for a latex 'collar' around each object. 

Then, I backfill any undercuts and gaps underneath the positive object, with plastilene or PVA glue...this is because a silicone filler will bond to the latex and we don't want the mould to be stuck permanently to the glass. With the clown and buddha above - gaps were filled in with PVA glue and trimmed. Acrylic sealer is applied to the top surface of all positives, so that the latex doesn't absorb any paint particles (which will affect any soap etc that is poured into the finished mould). You could also use clear nail varnish or a weatherproof paver sealer which is water based.

And now for some entertainment...  

Here's Milo the Jack Russell x Foxy, digging for mice....he's 12 yo now and his older buddy Banjo the Jack Russell is now 14 and has just retired from digging tunnels looking for mice. Milo is so proud of the hole that he has dug, he is barking in the photo below. What little champions at keeping the mice and rats at bay in my bird aviaries and around the house. Back in the day, Banjo caught hundreds during a mice plague, snapping their spinal cord, spitting them out, then onto the next one.  Milo, however was just starting out as a wee pup and he tried to eat all of the mice as he caught them, bless him...he got a bit tired from eating soooo many.

Ok, back to the moulding. 

Latex is white when wet and yellow once dry. Recoating with the next latex layer is necessary before the previous layer completely hardens, when it is no longer white. Re-coating wet latex with more wet latex just wipes off the previous layer...In between coats, I just leave my brush in the latex. When it clumps I wipe it off. Leaving brushes in white spirit or soapy water does nothing to preserve the life of the paintbrush...just buy a pack of cheap brushes from anywhere and toss them out if they get too clumpy in between layers.

A very smooth latex coat on the first layer of the original positive object is most important...the supporting 'collars' or any area outside of the detail of the positive object doesn't need to be smooth...lumps/bumps are pretty normal on the outside area /collar area of the positive.


Latex mould finished! After 15 layers, the mould is ready for a plaster support jacket. A silicone brush is used to brush petroleum jelly all over the mould, into every crevice.


A perfect plaster smoothing tool...a cake icing smoother. Not that I ever make icing for cakes any more, so I'll put it to better use.    

Wet plaster poured over the top side of the finished latex mould. Once it is dry, it is flipped over and becomes the bottom support in which the latex moulds sits inside of.  

It is easier to make a cardboard or vinyl support around the latex mould base, to pour the plaster into. In my previous blog, I talked about using short pieces of timber dowel as registration points for the mould, as a guide to the finished height of the wet plaster. The bottom of the plaster just has to be level enough for the latex mould to sit in...you can always file it down a bit with a rasp when dry. (As you can see, I don't practice what I preach...my plaster moulds are poured arty hippy freestyle without any structure to support the plaster). The plaster is quite soft but firm enough to be smoothed once over the top. It gives me enough time to tweak the plaster support a bit more if I need to, rather than pouring plaster which is too thick to manipulate/move around and has set up too quickly. 

I hope that you are now inspired to start making some moulds! 

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Another chapter ends...Owning A Licensed Post Office

I took over a small rural post office in the town of Blyth SA 5462 in 2014, in an effort to rehabilitate myself and engage in an external work environment again. The post office was closing down and doomed...did that matter? Not really. It was an interesting experience and I learnt a lot about people and myself.

Firstly, it was closing due to failing and nobody wanted to take it over because it wasn't profitable. Secondly, I think I forgot that driving 30 mins each way, whilst not far at all for me now, at that time was hell for my back pain. Thirdly, I must have also forgotten about constantly bending and lifting all day not hurting my back, with my spinal injury. But...I perservered and I met some really kind people.

Unfortunately it was also a period of having to take more pain medication to cope with the daily travel and the constant bending and lifting, which at the time I didn't really care about because I just had to keep working. In the beginning I drove to work, closed shop then came home and sometimes went straight to sleep. I was getting better and my energy levels were slowly improving, but having a spinal injury means one step forward, two steps backwards sometimes...you think you're getting better, but it's the calm before the storm and just when you think you're getting back to 'normal',  the 'low pain' period of time turns into chronic pain which hits you more intensely as you experience another acute episode of pain - aaagghhh so frustrating. But, bit by bit I slowly improved.

The universe was trying to tell me something...like, you need to work from home again doing something that you like. What would that be? I thought long and hard about what makes me happy, and what makes me miserable. Did I still like selling soap making materials? Yes and no. Can't really deal with the heavy lifting of the heavy, bulk oils and powders. So the heavy bulk stuff had to go. If I had no energy to cook tea at  night because I'd been cranking glycerine out of my drums all day to pack orders, then those drums needed to go. So they did.

Fast forward three years later to early 2017 and I had enough of being alone in a small post office and decided to sell it. It sold within a week to a local person. I made very little money from the sale, but I didn't care. It sold as a viable business (not a failure any more as it was previously) and I was finally free! Just before it sold though, a really intense thought process started...I realised that I needed to identify what things that I would like to do for a hobby or career, now that I had a relatively 'normal' level of functioning physically. The obvious question was returning to Occupational Therapy. I studied bloody hard to get that degree. I don't know what happened there, but given the cost of self insurance, professional development courses in the city and the drain of being self employed, working independently and having to worry about paying PAYG tax and super, wasn't that exciting to me any more. I just didn't have my mojo for this career any more. I just had no motivation to resume it.

What I realised that, after working away from home for three years, that being at home made me happy and working from home is something I actually enjoyed before, even though I obviously didn't realise it. Why didn't I realise it? I'm pretty sure that I didn't even function properly cognitively to think about what I enjoyed doing any more. I lost interest in any hobbies that I once did with such passion. Soooo..that brings me to....the topic of medication consumption. Endep 100mg per day, Panadol Osteo up to 6 per day and Naproxen, up to four per day. Phew. I didn't even like taking a panadol before my accident. Once I was at home again in early 2018, I missed a few days of taking my night time medication, Endep. I had never been brave enough to attempt three whole days and nights before without that medication, as on day two of missed medication the intense nerve pain would seep in and cause me to become very irritable. Day four went by, day five, day six. Where's the pain? Not gone, but very manageable. No stress of running a post office every day. Day seven, eight...then I took one Endep. I couldn't even function the next day and felt so groggy, fatigued and tired that I suddenly had a light bulb moment and stopped feeling guilty about my lethargy and lack of energy for the past seven years...it was a lot to do with the medication. So I stopped taking Endep altogether. I still have anti inflammatories in the form of Naproxen daily, but just one a day, instead of four.  BIG difference to my energy levels and quality of life.

Sooo...I found that I became 'cognitively better' too, as well as physically more functional after stopping the medication. But...I slipped into a brief period of analysing 'where have I been for the past 8 years' and felt really guilty about all the missed time with the kids, including running off to take over a failing post office. Instead of taking over a post office, I felt that I could have improved and healed at home, without leaving them. But hopefully it reinforced to them that working for the community is a worthwhile thing to try, to improve your quality of life.

So now the kids equate working for the community as being shit arsed poor. Work for yourself and the community, and you're double factor shit arse poor. That's ok, they probably won't do that for a career when they're older anyway.

Still in deep thinking mode, I identified something that I once enjoyed doing - creating soap and making soap and concrete moulds. And I realised a big thing about myself, that I didn't allow to develop before I took over the post office - that I'm actually extremely creative and have a very 'basal' desire to paint and mould. Now, I want to do is mould and paint. Dunno why, I just do.

Just when I think I need to work outside the home, I have the busiest week ever of packing soap orders - it's really very strange the way this happens!! So I never quite get back there to work in the outside world, and I've realised now that it's just not meant to be this way. I'm fortunate to be able to sit here and say that, but bugger it. I've worked hard my whole life and one thing I've learnt is that you need to create your own happiness in this world - ain't nobody else gonna do it for you. I now feel satisfied and content. Yeh, I've failed, made many mistakes, but I'm proud of them. They're my mistakes and I own them 100%. I have failed and that means that I have really lived. A perfectly, ordered existence is not a realistic outlook for me and I don't want it to be - I want to remain being a brave but introverted artist and experience all life has to offer. And that's exactly what I teach my children to do.

btw...don't know about you, but just setting a goal of 'doing one thing at a time' is a big challenge for me. I just need to do many, many things at once to feel that I am 'working hard'. The most frustrating thing for me is having the brain activity of a super-juiced turbo car, whilst feeling like the running gear is lagging a bit behind. Big learning curve. Again, one step at a time. One small project at a time, finishing off one thing completely before moving onto another. Geez, it's so much harder than what it sounds!

Anyway, my next goal (I'm already foaming at the mouth at the thought of it) is to study Art Therapy in Melbourne in a few years' time. Painting, sculpting, moulding? When can I start?

What's your life's destiny...what's your dream, can you make it happen? Like me, have you been stuck in a work place that you didn't want to be in any more? I'm pretty sure that you can start making yourself a plan to fulfil your destiny, right now. Have a crack and go for it.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

How To Make a Plaster Support Mould For Latex Moulds

Materials required:

Gypsum plaster, clean bucket, water, spirit level, Vaseline/petroleum jelly, 12 mm thickness wooden dowel, PVA glue (or similar strong water based craft glue), two slim glass louvre window panes (2 or 4, I used two for this project) or smooth melamine wood cut to size, duct tape/packaging tape and you obviously need a finished latex mould with positive objects still contained inside the mould :) 
Old louvre window panes, smooth side up, are ideal to use as latex mould bases.
To make my latex mould, I secured my positive objects first on a recycled window louvre, flat side up. Fifteen layers of latex later, the mould is ready for a plaster 'mother' mould or backing mould. Applying fifteen layers of latex means that your latex mould will last longer and your mould will be the strongest it can possibly be. 

Fifteen layers of latex is recommended to ensure strength and durability of your mould.
Please note that I have left all of my positive objects still enclosed within my finished latex mould, just as they were when I was making the latex mould. Do not remove them, or your plaster mould will not be effective!!! 


1. I applied petroleum jelly/Vaseline, to the dry latex mould above, with the positive objects still enclosed within the latex mould :)

2. I measured the highest point of my latex mould and cut six identical pieces of wooden dowel to act as levellers for my finished plaster mould. I left a gap of 2 cm above the height of the highest latex mould so that the finished plaster mould will support it well.

Ensure your glass pane and wooden dowel pieces are level. Glue the dowel pieces down with the loose top glass pane acting as a weight on top. 

3. I glued down the wooden dowel pieces to the latex mould and waited around 30 minutes for glue to dry. Do not glue the glass pane down!!! Keep the glass pane on top to help set the wooden dowel pieces to the latex. Once the dowels are glued down, remove the louvre pane. 

I then made a supporting frame around the latex mould, but I only used glass louvres on the two longest sides of the mould to shape the rectangular plaster mould, because I just needed a flat bottom to support the latex mould, with the dowels used as a guide to finished height level of the plaster. If you wanted to, you could build a wooden, or a cardboard or linoleum or metal frame around the outside edges of the louvre to support the plaster mould as it is poured. I just used two louvres to make a frame, butting two glass window panes opposite each other, on the longer sides of the latex mould. At this point you can tape around them using duct tape or ordinary packaging tape. The tape will enclose the two shortest open ends of the mould. 

5. Apply petroleum jelly/Vaseline to the glass louvre panes (optional but a good idea).

6. Prepare your plaster. Fill your container with water. Add dry plaster mix at a ratio of roughly equal parts water to powder. Once the plaster is visible over the water line, start to mix with a spoon or I use my hand/s so I can squish out any lumps and feel the thickness and temperature of the plaster. The plaster will feel warm once it is thickening and the texture should be as thick as a soft 'butter' type consistency. Leave it a bit on the soft side, as once it starts to harden quickly if it is too thick, will not leave any room for smoothing it down once it is applied to the mould.  

 7. Pour your plaster onto your latex mould and fill completely up to the top of the wooden dowels. Once your mould is filled over by plaster, place your glass louvre pane firmly on top of the plaster and press down firmly on top of the dowels, to ensure it is level (This is optional but good for producing a very flat plaster surface). Try to keep the shortest sides of the mould covered with plaster too. What we want to end up with is a rectangular plaster box shape with a perfectly flat bottom to support our latex mould, once turned over right side up.

7. Once finished, you can remove the glass pane once the plaster has set. The glass should not stick to the plaster. Your plaster mould underneath the glass window pane is the finished bottom side of our mould. Once dry, flip the finished mould over and leave the latex mould enclosed in the plaster until it is completely set.

Warning: Mixing plaster with your hands, squishing it between your fingers then sculpting with it can be seriously fun. 

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Making A Multi Cavity Silicone Soap Mould

Project: Making a multiple cavity (Egyptian) silicone soap mould.


RTV Silicone/catalyst -  or you could use a Latex rubber moulding compound which I do in my next post.

Bathroom heat lamp globe (sold in supermarkets for under $15) which is used to soften modelling compounds and to provide even heating for the silicone mould once it is finished.

Modelling compounds - Plasticene, heated with the heat lamp for a couple of minutes;
Fimo oven bake clay - the Chinese variety, commonly found on Ebay under 'oven bake clay' or 'polymer clay' (The cheaper the better because the cheaper ones are harder and less pliable).

Cheap thin paintbrush, from a child's set or similar.

Cheap pourable craft glue, from discount stores.

Offcut of a tile, glass sheet or perspex, or anything else with a smooth, flat finish.

Egyptian positive object/s, with flat bottoms. You can use anything else you like to make an embed, as long as the underside is flat. Jewellery pendants, charms and buttons are examples.


First, I secured my Egyptian positive objects to a long piece of perspex offcut using craft grade glue (found in discount stores). I used the cheap paintbrush to brush the glue all over the back of the positive object, with the glue being thicker in the middle. The sheet of perspex then went under the heat lamp for 30 minutes, to set the glue.

Once the objects were glued onto the perspex firmly, I then backfilled any protruding undercuts underneath each positive, using warmed plasticene and poked the warm plasticene around using the non paintbrush end of the paintbrush. The perspex was then placed onto a piece of wood which was levelled using a spirit level. Although it looks like the positive objects are sitting on a wooden base, they are sitting on the clear acrylic perspex. 

Next, I built the mould walls and borders around the perspex base. I used the cheap and nasty 'oven bake clay/polymer clay' which I cut in long strips about 1 cm high. 
 I then used softened plasticene to build a softer wall on top of the polymer clay and filled in any gaps along the bottoms and made sure there were no gaps on the inside or the outside of the mould. I did not bake the 'polymer' clay in the oven for the bottom layer...it still needs to be soft enough to adhere to the perspex and plasticene. Using the other end of the paintbrush, I poked and prodded the warm plasticene around until I was happy there were no gaps. Now it is ready for pouring silicone into, to make the mould. 

The positive Egyptian objects adhered to perspex, with the wall of modelling clay and plasticene now complete.

Now with the mould walls secured around the perspex, I poured the silicone into the mould and turned the heat lamp towards the mould once it was finished.

One polymer clay strip on the bottom layer, with softer plasticene moulded onto the upper layer.
Finished silicone multi cavity embed mould
As it is a mild summer evening, I will leave the heat lamp on overnight to ensure the temperature of the silicone constantly stays at around 23 degrees. I can soon smell the familiar smell of the catalyst warming the silicone, which is a good sign. Within 48 hours my mould should be cured and ready to demould.

Thank you for reading my blog about my serious silicone moulding addiction :) 

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Recovery from spinal injury...whilst running a business

My looong journey of physical recovery has concluded..I think.

Seven long years in the making since my spinal injury occurred in 2009 as a result of a drunken driver with two children in the car, smashing into my car's rear end whilst I was stationary. Chronic fatigue, chronic pain, financial stress, situational depression...I experienced this for a looong time.  Wrong medication, inadequate medication...finally after some years tolerating chronic pain that I assumed the GP prescribed the correct dose of medication for, I discovered different medication and a stronger dose of existing medication was needed. I was a practising Occupational Therapist then in the public service, so I guess I just 'toughed it out' because of my occupation too.
Bottom line: Get another medical opinion and/or a medication review urgently, and don't suffer ongoing, chronic pain unnecessarily.

It's now 2016/17 and I feel almost physically 'normal' now. Almost. I'm not superhuman any more but I'm happy with that. I just don't clean the house as thoroughly any more...Pre accident I dusted weekly, mopped twice weekly, vacuumed weekly and cleaned the house windows every month, inside and out. Not any more. The 4 kids tell me they didn't really appreciate being yelled at for not cleaning their rooms every week. They like the new 'lived in messy look' of our house. It's an 'Artists' Den', aka very messy house. Now when I call myself an artist, husband Daz calls me a bullshit type of artist, but that's ok too. Basic things are cleaned such as beds, clothes, people and things we eat from. If I have time I mop the kitchen/toilet weekly and vacuum, but I don't clean all the bedrooms weekly. I now work full time again, so I'm doing well. I now run a small, humble post office.

Once I started to physically and emotionally recover, I could see the world with open eyes again. I realised that the simple things that started this business - with me spending my spare time carving soap and wax positives, making silicone moulds and selling soap base that helped my son's eczema - were the things that gave me satisfaction. I posted pictures of all my new moulds that I made, shared messages from my friends in China and shared photos of my family history with the world. People wanted 'reality based' online interaction, and soon the little original Southern Skies Soap Supplies' 'Moonfruit' hosted mini website became very, very busy with online visitors. I made mistakes though. When I first started this business, I had soooo many followers and daily emails with requests for new products and I became too obsessive with selling online, tried to sell everything to everyone, started to sell goods in larger sizes and then learnt that I could not do that effectively with spinal injury. I had decided to dive head first into online selling full time, since working from home was easier than working for an employer, with 4 young children. Selling soap supplies became my livelihood and it meant that I survived for quite a few years financially - all thanks to soap.

In the meantime, I had lost any motivation to participate in any hobby, due to pain. I started to wonder where the 'real me' had disappeared to, for the last seven years. I did a lot of soul searching. I questioned every decision I had ever made, throughout my whole life. I looked for answers in deep, dark, faraway places. I questioned my spirituality - am I a Pagan, a Buddhist or a Christian? (I'm just a 'non conforming Christian' actually, with 'multi dimensional' spiritual beliefs omg). I had to make a conscious, very determined effort to find myself again, and recover my hidden hobbies and umm artistic 'talents', if you could call them that! It's actually a LOT harder than you may think. Did I still want to be an Occupational Therapist? Did I want to be a full time online soap seller or was that a stupid idea? Why did I go to Uni if all I do is sell soap online? The truth is, as long as I'm around people and helping them, then I'm pretty happy. My life is a big learning curve on an enormous, unpredictable ride - and I've learnt now that I like it that way. I valued my 'old life' which was secure and predictable as an Occupational Therapist...but have now realised that personal growth and new experiences, (as bad as they are!) is what makes us develop and progress as individuals, on many different levels. Oh and I discovered in 2015 that I love selling soap at local markets. I will try to participate in some more markets in the future - people like to engage with other like minded people (instead of an online only interface) and I like to talk, so that works well.

During this journey, I have also learnt that I would like to 'recover' my original focus for my business - soap base and soap moulds. So whilst some of you may look at my website for the first time and not notice anything new, others have been shopping with me since the beginning...and there have been many, many changes on the website lately, due to me refocusing my motivation and business ideas.

Yay, it's summer time, which means wax carving and moulding time. Oooh the beeswax is melting outside on the stove top and the scouts are buzzing around looking for a new camp for their Queen. Hello bee friends! you really wouldn't believe just how glad I am to see you guys again...for this year anyway, I am very, very relieved to see bees buzzing around the wax pot.
Ooohh nooooo,  don't nose dive into the pot again, you did that 7 years ago and we both know how that ended...I have to dig your body parts out when my wax cools. Welcome to my world.