restoman: (Winter house)
[personal profile] restoman
Last August, my niece, Alida, and her husband, Pat, drove to Syracuse to spend a few days visiting me. They stayed at my house and we did tourist things like visiting Taughannock Falls, near Ithaca and stopping at one of the Finger Lakes wineries to sample the wines. While they were at my house they admired the plaster medallion on my dining room ceiling. I told them I had made it myself. They eagerly asked if I could make one for their house too, ~maybe for Christmas~, and I agreed.

The Art Deco chandelier came with the house when I bought it, but I added the plaster medallion when I put new drywall on the ceiling about 24 years ago. The medallion is gold-leafed and glazed, a typical way of decorating them in the 19th century.

Fortunately, I still have the rubber molds that I made many years ago for one of my customers. I retrieved the molds from a box in the basement, bought a 25 pound bag of plaster of Paris (way too much), a can of cooking spray, and made some space on the kitchen table.

I lightly spray PAM cooking spray on the mold as a release agent. Using a rubber mold, I don't absolutely need the PAM, but it makes the casting easier to remove and causes less wear and tear on the rubber mold.

The mold is in 2 parts: top and bottom. The top piece has 3 holes in it for pouring in the liquid plaster, and to allow air inside the mold to escape.

I mixed up some plaster, 2 parts plaster to 1+ part water, in a bowl, and poured it into the mold using a plastic funnel.

Once the mold is filled and plaster starts coming out of the air vent holes, I tap the mold gently to get any air bubbles out and then let it harden for about half an hour.

After the plaster has hardened, I carefully remove the top half of the rubber mold. The plaster has hardened in the 3 holes, called sprues, and will have to be trimmed off later.

Next, I remove the plaster casting from the bottom half of the mold and clean the mold off to make another casting. I will need a total of 8 castings of this leaf to make the medallion.

The left leaf is just as it looks after coming out of the mold. The right leaf has been trimmed up with an Exacto Knife (above). The sprues have to be trimmed off as well as the line where the top and bottom halves of the mold meet. I also clean up any other imperfections.

All 8 cast leaves, plus a center piece, assembled on a piece of brown paper.

I gave Pat instructions on how to lay out and attach the parts to his ceiling. If he doesn't feel sure about how to do it I may drive down to Flushing to install it for them once the weather improves. Alida and Pat were very excited that I was able to get the medallion made for them as a Christmas present. It feels good to give something that you know is wanted.

Date: 2017-01-10 10:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That is the coolest thing! Thanks for sharing the process. It's fascinating.

Date: 2017-01-10 11:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks, Susan! :-)

Making the plaster castings is enjoyable, but a little messy. I'm glad you enjoyed my post!

Date: 2017-01-10 10:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I love seeing the one in your house, and I love that you've made another that will be displayed with the pride it deserves. Ornamental plaster will always make me think of all the beautiful classic theatres I've seen. And since meeting you, it makes me think of you too!

Date: 2017-01-11 05:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you, Chris! :-)

I think I have made about 6 medallions of this design over the years, and another 8 or 10 of other designs.

The ornamental plasterwork in classic theaters blows me away! Having done repair work on the Landmark Theater here in Syracuse, and the Stanley Theater in Utica, I am very familiar with some of the spectacular plasterwork. Some of the molds they used must have been enormous! ...and I believe they used molds made of plaster, not rubber, which would have been far more difficult to work with. I wish I could have gotten you into the Landmark Theater when you were here. You would have loved the place!

Lily and I miss you! *Hug*

Date: 2017-01-11 12:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Beautiful work! Where did you get/make the molds? Did you make them from an existing example?

I love working with plaster. It's so versatile!

Date: 2017-01-11 05:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks, Larry! Yeah, plaster is great to work with! There are so many ways to use it. I have never worked in stagecraft, but I know that entire movie sets are built out of plaster over a framework.

I was a restoration contractor for many years. About 35 years ago an Architect/friend came to me with a box full of broken pieces of a plaster ceiling medallion. The medallion had been on the hallway ceiling in an 1870 house in my neighborhood. The house had a bad fire and the plaster ceiling got saturated with water and came crashing down. Only one of the 8 plaster leaves had survived intact. Only part of the center piece of the medallion was there, but there was enough for me to identify it as the same element that had been used in a medallion I had already made for another customer. I made a temporary mold using an inexpensive product called 'mix-a-mold', and made enough castings, plus one to recreate the damaged medallion. Later on I used the extra leaf to make a new, relatively permanent mold out of plaster. I liked the flowing, rich design of this medallion a lot, it was nicer than many I had seen so I made one for my own house and several for other customers. Eventually, after about 20 castings, that mold cracked, and I bought a two-part rubber mold mix to make the current mold. The mix was quite expensive, and I don't think that company is still in business. Making the molds is a LOT of work and much more challenging than making castings from a mold.
Edited Date: 2017-01-11 06:00 am (UTC)

Date: 2017-01-11 12:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
thank you for sharing this process, glenn; that was fascinating reading!

Date: 2017-01-11 06:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm glad you enjoyed it, Mike! Thanks!

Date: 2017-01-11 01:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Splendid job!

I know the medallion you made for them will be beautiful when completed!

Date: 2017-01-11 06:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you, Jerry!

I hope that Pat can complete it, so that I don't have to make another trip to Flushing.

Date: 2017-01-11 06:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

Fascinating. Beautiful too. We call them ceiling roses - and we need one for our living room. Just sayin'! ;o)

Date: 2017-01-12 04:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you, Mark! They are sometimes called roses or rosettes here too. I sometimes get frustrated with the poor selection of decorative plasterwork that can be ordered through American companies like Fischer & Jirouche or Colonial. There are a number of European companies that offer some beautiful roses, like Wheatley in the UK:

Date: 2017-01-11 03:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
WOW, that is so cool. :)
Too bad something like that would be so out of place in our house. lol...
Hugs, Jon

Date: 2017-01-12 03:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you, Jon. :-)

Ceiling medallions look best on a relatively high ceiling. Of course they can be made in a wide variety of styles, but should compliment the architecture of the house or the furnishings.
I know little of what your house looks like inside or out*, but the bottom line is we all make our living spaces into something that works for us and pleases us. :-)


*all I remember is photos of newly refinished oak floors and some handsome draperies.

Date: 2017-01-12 06:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, we have fairly short ceilings. lol...

Date: 2017-01-12 03:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Very neat!

Does your local library have a 3D printer? That might be a way to make lighter-weight ones.

Date: 2017-01-12 03:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks, Troy!

I don't know if the library has a 3D printer, but that is an intriguing idea! I will have to ask.

Date: 2017-01-13 04:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Glenn, that's absolutely gorgeous! And an extremely cool gift, too ... you'll be a part of that house, now, for the rest of the building's days.

So much nicer than the popcorn ceilings I'm stuck with. :)

Date: 2017-01-14 10:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you, Mark! :-)

I suppose that I am a part of the history of a lot of houses around here.

A century from now I wonder if people will be saying: "He's so lucky, his house has the original popcorn ceilings from 1975."

LOL & *shudders*

Date: 2017-01-17 03:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh wow, what a great gift! You are really talented :)

Date: 2017-01-17 06:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks, Nessa! :-)

It is nice to see you here again! :-)


Date: 2017-03-12 09:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Holy shit that looks amazing!

Re: Wow

Date: 2017-03-13 01:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks, JC! It was a fun project.
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