Every time I go to the craft store I look at those white plaster figurines that are meant to be painted and displayed. Usually they're seasonally themed, such as Santas or Easter bunnies. They look like they'd be lots of fun to do with kids... but if you have a good-sized class, they're not cheap. Luckily, there is a less expensive way to do this project - a way that also allows you much more freedom in the theme and shapes. These make great gifts!
Decorative soap or candy molds of your choice
Plaster of Paris or Durham's Water Putty
How to Do It
1. Mix up your plaster or putty according the the manufacturer's directions. I prefer Durham's Water Putty, which you can get at any large hardware store. It's a little more expensive than plaster of Paris, and takes longer to set, but it's much more durable.
2. Pour the plaster into the molds. Shake the molds gently from side to side to help remove any bubbles. Place them on a level surface that won't be disturbed. Allow them to set until firm, and then pop each piece out.
Another way to approach this is to pour the plaster into a small disposable bowl. Press small objects into it to make patterns or images. You can also do hand- or footprints if you pour it into a plate. However, I admit I've not had much success with either technique. I find it hard to get the plaster at the right consistency; it tends to be too runny or too stiff and a mistake means lots of waste. For that kind of thing I prefer clay.
3. Paint and embellish your creations. They can also be colored with markers. See below for ideas!
Variations and Tips
• Smaller pieces work well as magnets. Hot glue a strong ceramic magnet to the back of each one.
• You can use these as embellishments for picture frames, boxes, or on greeting cards.
• To make ornaments or pendants, place a loop of wire in each unset piece. You can also use a paper clip.
• To make a pin, let the plaster set just a bit and then gently press in a pin finding.
• For colored plaster, add a few drops of food color to the water you use to mix it up.
• Older kids can make their own molds out of modeling or uncured polymer clay. They can sculpt their own or press the clay around small objects. Be sure there are no holes where plaster could leak out. After the plaster sets, peel away the clay.
• There are also materials on the market specifically for making molds. There is a soft two-part putty that makes a great flexible mold, as well as liquid latex that can be painted over an object in successive layers until a mold is created. These are more expensive but might be the right choice for more advanced students.
• Plaster of Paris and putty powders can be inhaled, so use caution with younger children.