An Earth Mother Garden Statue Made from Concrete

Sculpting the Godess Garden  Statue I often bite off more than I can chew.  After my foray into making hypertufa, I decided I should try and make a 4′ tall Earth Mother-y goddess garden statue out of full-on concrete. I quickly realized that it was a big bite.

Now, I’m not going to say that I think this statue is a complete success, because it most definitely isn’t.  But, I also didn’t have a clear-cut design going into it–something I now highly recommend when working on a large-scale project.

Personally, I like how her body maintains a feminine pose and how the bottom of her dress merges with a tree trunk, much like Daphne in Greek mythology meets the Virgin Mary, but her face and hair could’ve been so much better–this was from my lack of a true vision and my lack of knowledge in concrete sculpting.

That said, it turned out okay and adorns the gate area of our vegetable garden.  She is stained with walnut and some other color of wood stain and has been holding out okay, so Mother Nature must not be too offended.

Making the Armature

First thing I knew I would have to do is to build an armature or superstructure for her body.  This is a tall, thin statue, so I decided to make a wood base that would be covered by concrete, and from there add a rebar “spine” and chicken wire sculpture to hold the concrete in place until it cured.

When you’re making your armature for concrete, I’d recommend using hardware cloth over chicken wire.  It holds concrete better.  I had a bunch of chicken wire left over from a chicken coop I built, so I figured I would use it.  It works fine–just not perfectly suited for the task. Add the chicken wire or hardware cloth to the rebar using bailing or picture hanging wire–doesn’t matter, just be careful!  Use a set of needle nose pliers whenever possible for detail bending.  Try to tuck loose wire inside so it doesn’t poke out of the sculpture.

Preparing the Concrete

Next up, I mixed my concrete.  This is a recipe I got from the interwebs.  It consists of roughly one part Portland Cement to two parts landscaping sand.  We had a huge pile of sand from my girlfriend’s gardening and chicken projects, so I grabbed a couple buckets of it before the cats used it as their personal outdoor litter box.

When mixing concrete, you add the dry ingredients together first, and mix them until  it’s completely homogenous. Then, you add enough water to moisten it.  Add a little, mix it up, then add a little more.  Too runny, and you risk making the concrete too brittle (plus, it won’t pack the statue very well.

Sculpting the Statue

Once you can smush it together into a “snowball” and it doesn’t crumble or run through your fingers, it is just right.  Start packing the armature at the base and work your way up.  I made this statue in several steps, slowly working my way to the top over the course of three days.

I was going for an earthy look, and I thought it would be cool to have the lowest edge of her dress be the trunk of a tree, like she was growing directly from the ground.  I sculpted the bark and other details after the concrete had set but was still kind of soft, or “green.”

After the first batch of concrete cured, I added some acrylic fortifier or “bonding agent” on top of it, where the first layer would touch the newer batch of fresh concrete.

***NOTE: It is very important that you wet down and cover all concrete with a plastic tarp or bag for at least a week (or two) do the concrete.  While the concrete is curing, it needs moisture to fully cure, harden, and strengthen through the chemical process of hydration.  This is VERY important and should not be overlooked.  Concrete can even cure UNDERWATER!

I kept adding a batch of concrete at a time.  With this particular goddess statue, the sheer verticality of it could only hold so much wet concrete weight without it “smooging” out and down, so smaller batches were needed.

When it was finally finished and I had wet it down and covered it for a week, I moved it to the garden and then added some exterior oil-based wood stain to it to give it less of the concrete look and more of the natural wood finish of a real tree.  It hasn’t shown any cracks or any problems, but it is HEAVY and we’ll see how it fairs this winter.

Conclusion

Point of this project is: Is this hard?  Not really.  Will it be perfect?  Probably not.  Will you learn anything for your next project?  Absolutely.

I learned so much doing this project.  I learned how to freehand sculpt, and I also learned properties of concrete to use for my next project, my meditating Buddha garden statue.

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Sculpture: Making a Concrete Shakyamuni Buddha Zen Garden Statue

I decided to make a Buddha statue for our backyard garden, but I thought it would be cool if I could make more for other people, so my plan was to sculpt it out of clay, then create a mold for multiple concrete and plaster casts.

I particularly like the meditating Siddhartha Gautama Shakyamuni Buddha poses, seated in a zazen lotus position, because of the serenity and calm he evokes.

First, I began creating a Buddha base head and torso, but I didn’t really like how this one was turning out–plus, I ran out of clay for his arms.

clay Buddha sculpt (1) clay Buddha sculpt (4)

After a bit of a redesign for Buddha’s face and head (and some additional blue colored clay for his arms), I got the shape and form how I wanted it.

Here are a few photos of the sculpt before I added the little “curly hair spikes.”

clay Buddha statue (4) clay Buddha statue (6)

After getting the sculpt the way I liked it, I had to figure out how to make the uniform little spikes in his hair.  For this, I made one spike out of clay, and then created a “push mold” out of plaster by pouring plaster over the clay and letting it set.  Once I had this, all I had to do was take lumps of clay and push them into the mold and out would pop a chocolate kiss-shaped hair spike.

clay Buddha statue (1) clay Buddha statue (9)

Next, I started making a urethane glove mold, much like how I make my mask molds.

After I finished making the mother mold, I poured Ultracal 30 plaster (which is a mixture of plaster and portland cement, into the mold.  Here are two photos of making the mold, then the poured plaster.

Making the mold for the Buddha statue Pouring the concrete cast of the Buddha statue

Once the plaster sets, it will start to steam and turn really hot.  I decided to de-mold when it was still warm, but everything turned out really nicely, as you can see in this photo!

 

buddha    

This one is suitable for indoors, but, for a garden statue, I am going to be using a white concrete mixture. This sculpture is for sale if you’d like to purchase it.

UPDATE:  Okay, so I pulled the concrete out of the mold and it looks WAY more weathered and aged–like it’s 2000 years old.  I really like how different they look.  Here are a couple photos of that one:

Buddha Garden Statue Concrete Buddha Garden Statue

 

 

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How to Make a Silicone Mask Part 3

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silicone masksOnce I got my mold cleaned out (by removing the sculpture and any remnant clay), I mixed up some Smooth-On Dragon Skin platinum cure silicone rubber (I had the medium cure time) and poured it into the nose and chin areas first, to make sure they got the most silicone.

I added a little bit of pigment for each mask I made.  In the photo above, the middle mask was my first (video), and I didn’t mix it correctly, so it didn’t cure correctly (it is still tacky, several weeks later).  Make sure to follow the directions to the ‘T’ when you work with platinum cure silicones!

My second mask (video), on the right in the photo above, didn’t have enough silicone, but it cured and turned out strong.

The last one–the fleshy colored one–turned out nicely, and you can  see how it works in the following video:

silicone mask video

 

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