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.