Mold Making: An Easy Way to Replicate Favorite Found Objects

14 Jan 2013

Buttons are a weakness of mine. I buy vintage buttons by the card and by the jar. I have hordes of them. I like to play with them, sort them, and of course use them in art.

Jen Cushman created the frozen Charlotte
figure on this assemblage from a mold.

Aesthetically, I prefer carved mother-of-pearl buttons and clear buttons with an unusual edge (squared off, scalloped). Functionally, I prefer flat, rather than shank, buttons: they can be glued to a substrate such as a collage and if sewn to fiber, they don't flop around.

So when I find a button that's flat and has an interesting edge, that's gold. I buy up as many as I can find. Trouble is, often I can't find many of the same shape and size.

Imagine my delight, then, in discovering that I can replicate my favorite button shapes (or most any other small object) by making a mold and casting it with resin.

Mold-making is easier than you might think. You just need two-part silicone mold putty (available at craft and art supply stores), a small found object, and a few minutes of your time (plus patience while the mold dries).

Artist Jen Cushman is an expert at mold making and casting. She has written about the process for Cloth Paper Scissors magazine and now has a Cloth Paper Scissors WorkshopTM video, Mold Making, where she demonstrates the techniques for making molds and replicating found objects with resin.

Here are Jen's basic steps for how to make a mold.

Roll an equal-sized ball from
each part of the molding
putty, then mix them together.

Place the object in the mold.

When the mold is dry, remove
the object with your thumbs.
1. Pull equal parts of Part A and Part B molding putty from the separate containers and roll the parts into 2 separate balls.

2. Fold the balls into each other. Work quickly as the set-up time for a mold is usually less than 5 minutes.

3. Continue to mix the 2 balls together until all the color striations are gone and the ball is one solid color.

4. Use your hands to slightly flatten the ball so it mimics the shape of your object. For example, make the flattened ball round if you are casting a button, or elongated if you are casting a key.

5. Firmly but gently press the object into the putty, and then gently pull up the sides of the putty to create a well around the object. This is to prevent leaking when you pour the resin into the mold.

6. Use your fingers to gently smooth out the bottom of the mold. It's important to have the mold as level as possible.

7. Wait at least 30 minutes for the mold to set up. You can use your mold as soon as it's dry to the touch, but the silicone will continue to air cure for the next 24 hours. (Jen says she gets the best results with a drier mold.)

8. Use your thumbs to gently remove the object from the mold.

Jenn Mason helped me make this duplicate button from one of my favorites, using Jen's techniques.
From here, you can use resin, two-part resin clay, or paper clay to fill the mold and make your new found objects. In her video, Jen shows how to make the molds, cast them, and add color. You can use your custom-made mold castings in assemblage, mixed-media jewelry, or anywhere you would use found objects in art.

Replicating your favorite found objects will never replace the thrill of hunting for them, but it is a relief to know that you can create a new supply anytime you like with mold making and casting.

Since it's a new year, why not try something new? Get all of Jen's instructions and insider tips for success in Mold Making.


P.S. What is your favorite found object? Do you relish the ability to make your own versions, or do you prefer to have one of a kind? Leave your comment below.


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Comments

on 14 Jan 2013 11:06 AM

Why do you keep showing me all these cool new things I NOW must try!  ;)  This looks like a fun thing to do.

Cate Prato wrote
on 14 Jan 2013 2:56 PM

It IS fun!

Artistiam wrote
on 19 Jan 2013 10:10 AM

I am presuming the original object - see above - is face down in the clay and if so - how do you get the back of the object to be flat?

nwteri wrote
on 19 Jan 2013 1:41 PM

@Artistiam: When you finish your mold and pour in the resin or casting agent, it fills your  mold cavity.....the top of the resin will be flat, and the top of the resin is your "back". It is the "filled" part of the mold that will have features of whatever is placed into it. Hope this helps explain-- :-)

Caelidhmg wrote
on 2 Apr 2013 1:51 PM

this is a cool techique

I was thinking about this process when I rememberd about a heirloom watch fob "seal" that was my GGGG? grandfathers.  

our family wants to try and reproduce it (in such a way that it can actually be used) but it seems to be very very expensive to have a Jeweler to do it.

I have sort of investigated metal clays but you have to have an expensive special kiln.

Is there anything that you could recommend to reproduce objects like that affordably ?