Help me find the right sculpting material.
January 23, 2010 10:00 AM   Subscribe

A question for all of the artists (and a bonus question for the doll makers): what type of clay (or other sculpting material) should I use for this project? More information inside.

I am following the instructions I linked to make myself the models described so that I can better learn how to assess cervical dilation/effacement. I will be practicing on real women in a few months and I want to learn as best as I can first.

The project I linked to suggests using Van Aken (Plastalina?) clay. I am not sure about this because this clay is "never hardening" clay that stays soft and can always be resculpted. While having my models be soft is good (to simulate tissue better), having them always be pliable to resculpting is not. I want to make these models, and then use them over and over (which will involve lots of clumsy poking and feeling with my fingers) without needing to resculpt them into the correct shape over and over again.

Ideally, I could find a material to sculpt that would be soft to the touch, and yet retain it's structure once it has been made into something. Also, hopefully that material wouldn't be too expensive.

Bonus: the instructions suggest using a standard softball in place of a fetal head. I would prefer to use a doll head that was a replica of a newborn's head for added realism. If anyone knows where I could get these for cheap, that would be great. Otherwise, I don't really mind using the softballs.

posted by long haired child to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sil putty?

I use it to make molds of carvings etc for missing pieces of carved wood on furniture and frames, etc.

It hardens to a bendable, somewhat manipulable state ( to better pry off intricate carvings).

It feels like rubber when its done hardening. Doesn't crack etc.
posted by Max Power at 10:19 AM on January 23, 2010

These foetal models are pretty expensive. If you stand it, you may want to ask local pro-life organisations if they have models you can borrow. I worked in a Catholic School that had the models.
posted by saucysault at 10:25 AM on January 23, 2010

Super Elasticlay looks like it might work well for you. A 1-lb block is about $11, and it is supposed to remain flexible after baking.

I'm not sure how well your doll heads/softballs will hold up to being baked, however. For the thicker models, it should be pretty easy to cover your mold with some plastic wrap, mold the clay, and then peel it off carefully to bake separately. Then you can glue back on with the adhesive of your choice.
posted by athenasbanquet at 10:29 AM on January 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

the plastilina is fine. it's pretty hard, actually, and warms up while you're working on it. it's oil based. then you are going to have to make some molds of what you've done, like out of plaster or even hydrostone, which will pretty much be permanent.

you could also check out polymer clays that you can then bake, but they come in teeny packages and i hate that stuff.

from my experience, FWIW, you should make it out of something that you can really "work" (even regular pottery clay) and then make a negative, then another positive....with care, you can maintain all of your details, etc, and have a nice pro-looking piece that is permanent.

also, there is such thing as "self-hardening clay", which is natural clay (pottery clay, therefore water-based) that is mixed with a binder. this stuff is awesome, but some types can be thixotropic, which basically means that it springs back if you pull at it. this effect is slight. the other caution is that once it starts to dry out, you can't bring it back to softness, which could be a problem if you are not watching and spritzing your piece. sheffield pottery sells it and so does amaco. this way, you don't even have to mess with the molds. but i think either way is a good option. it really depends on the function of the final piece.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 10:49 AM on January 23, 2010

ebay has some dolls and doll heads for cheap....
posted by lakersfan1222 at 10:52 AM on January 23, 2010

Kid robot sells vinyl dolls that cut like butter and would still be soft. Also, Crayola makes a packaged puffy clay polymer in white that is very spongy, air dries, and remains flexible. Both are plastic based media you could check out in small quantities to see if you can get the results you want.

I work in the oil based clay to make figures and it's pretty great.
posted by effluvia at 12:34 PM on January 23, 2010

I looked at your links briefly but I don't have time to watch the entire video. If I've missed something perhaps you can use words to describe it.

I would use the modeling clay that you linked to to make a model, and use that as a positive to make a plaster mold. Cast in latex from that mold to get pliable models that will stand up to handling.
posted by yohko at 10:42 PM on January 23, 2010

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