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ADVENTURES IN PINK MINTY RUBBERY STUFF
This is where I start seeing the lines between convention art-show and cosplay blurring again
(as with Worship the Cat part 2 - was it a costume or wearable art?)

If you've not played with dental alginate it's great stuff. It's pink, it smells of peppermint and it sets in about 30 seconds.

I made a latex glove puppet of Lefty from the manga Parasyte for Friday night of AyaCon 2003.
Hereís roughly how I did it, as I couldnít find any instructions on the net at the time to help me.

Make a mould of your hand in the alginate. Use a strong cardboard box or a large plastic carton with a hole cut in the side or corner for your wrist.

Use micropore to tape any fingers together (glove puppets are usually three fingers in the head and little finger and thumb for each arm - Lefty was index and middle finger taped for the head, plus three fingers for arms.

Make sure you have enough room to spread your fingers right out.

Casting the alginate
Pack kitchen roll around your wrist to pad it out so you don't get too many leaks.

Finally get a friend to mix the alginate and pour it around then over your hand and spread it up and over your wrist.

When the alginate sets, wriggle your fingers until they loosen then gently slide your hand out. Apparently a wet hand makes this easier but I kept forgetting to put mine under the tap first.

Next, make a cast of your hand using stone powder (a kind of hard plaster)

Btw - alginate sweats and plaster gets hot as it hardens so don't panic if it's all a bit warm and wet at this stage!

My hand in plaster
I used air-dry clay to model the shape of the puppet - this is why you need plenty of room between your fingers as you'll need to build it up quite a lot.

I gave it a day to dry completely and in the meantime I went back to the shop to ask their advice on the best way to make the final mould.

They said to use Plaster of Paris again as a re-meltable rubber or silicon mould would stick to latex.

Put the master into another strong container, propped underneath so that it's level, then fill the box halfway with plastercine.

This is so that when the first half is set you can turn the whole thing over, remove the plastercine and props and cast the other side.

If you are pleased with your work, a photo is worth 1000 words.
(I think it's possible to use melted wax which might be easier to get flat, but I don't know how hot plaster gets inside when it's hardening and whether that would be enough to melt the wax again.)

Set marbles into the plastercine / wax as locators.(A and B)

Put plenty of vaseline on your model, pour on the plaster and wait for it to set. Then turn the whole thing over, remove the plastercine and marbles, put more vasline on the other side of the model and the plaster mould and pour the second lot of plaster on.

Once that has set, prise the two halves of the mould apart. A blob of plastercine near the edge (C) helps get a knife or other lever in. (A strong friend is very useful as well!)

This is where you will probably kiss goodbye to your master, so if you were proud of your work take lots of photos first.

Removing the plastercine to cast the other side.
Because I was using air-dry clay it absorbed the water and came apart as we were getting it out of the mould. I suppose you could try sealing it with matt varnish beforehand but you could equally lose some of the finer details as well.

Clean out the mould and let it dry thoroughly.

Then hold it together with rubber bands and strong elastic and plug all the joins and any other gaps with plastercine.

The latex may still leak through so putting the mould in a plastic bag (use something like a freezer bag that doesn't have holes!) is a good idea as well. Latex is murder to get out of the carpet.

Prop it upright with bricks as well so youíre not left holding it for ages.

The first glove puppet was paper-thin and tore, although it was still quite a good failure.

One side of the mould with most of Lefty...
Iíd been advised against using latex thickener, but I tried it for the second attempt and got much better results.

Pour some latex into a plastic container and mix in a few drops of latex thickener until it's the consistency of emulsion paint.

Then pour it into the mould and move it around inside, making sure you get it into all the corners, and then pour out the excess.

Do this several times until the glove puppet is getting on for half a centimetre - I was able to judge just by looking when it was thick enough to withstand being pulled on and off my hand.

Latex thickener will help the latex cling to the mould and set quicker, plus you'll only need to pour it 5 - 10 times rather than 20 - 30 times!

and the other side with the rest of him.
When you're sure your puppet is thick enough undo the bands and ease it gently from the mould.

It's a good idea to begin freeing the wrist end of the puppet before you pull the mould apart completely.

However good your mould is, there are likely to be flaws and holes in the finished piece.

Bye Bye to my lovely model (sniff).
Mix small amounts of latex and thickener until it's like cottage cheese and use this as filler.

When it's completely dry - leave it overnight - trim any flash carefully with very sharp scissors and then a craft knife and make sure you leave plenty to hang on to while you do, so you can pull it taut to see where you need to cut.

Painting.

You can buy colour to add to the latex before you cast it, or the nice man in the shop advised me to mix acrylic paint with latex for the details. This is cheaper and works quite well for the main body colour too.

However it goes sticky very quickly. Don't touch the paint until you're totally sure it's dry, as it will fuse the brush, sponge or your fingers to the puppet and will pull away in lumps.

"Today's Experiment..."
Mix just a few drops of acrylic with quite a lot of latex and apply with a washing up sponge or cheap paintbrush.

Too much acrylic and the paint will crack rather than stretch.

Mixing paint with PVA glue was suggested as well, but that cracks and flakes even worse.

I used safety eyes for teddy bears and glued them in using epoxy resin.

"... Failed."
A Few Last Tips.

Expect to have to do everything at least twice. I cast the alginate twice and made two puppets before I got it right and I still think that was pretty good going for my first attempt.

Latex smells really bad. Makes sure you have adequate ventilation.

Keep your mistakes. I hung onto the failed puppet so I could test the different mixes of paint and PVA glue/latex before starting work on the good one.

You could say we're pretty close...
Keep your finished puppet wrapped up in cloth or tissue, dusted with talcum powder, and in the dark. Prolonged exposure to sunlight will cause it to discolour; I discovered Lefty had acquired a "tan" the day before the convention and I had to repaint him in a rush!

If you want to use your mould again, make sure it is completely dry before you store it and that you put it in a dry place. Plaster can grow a completely different kind of mould if itís stored damp!

Finally, use plenty of talc inside when you wear the puppet as it will help you get it on and off more comfortably. But not so much that you leave a small trail of "snow" on the floor!

Like with most things it's trial and error, but itís less tricky than it sounds, so experiment and have fun. Good luck. ^_^

Bedtime Story for Lefty!
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