Monday, 6 May 2013

Free Recipe

If you have ever cleaned rice or cereal off a dish several hours after a meal has finished, you will know how hard it gets. I always thought I would do well to make a sculpture out of breakfast cereal or spaghetti because it sets so hard.

I love experimenting with materials and have since I was a little girl making mud pies and mixing the mud with rotten apples and lemons from the backyard tree.  In fact since studying art at teacher’s college I think I learned to love science more than I ever had at school. I am not sure if it was because my painting lecturer tried to shock us by telling us that amongst binders used for pigments, was evidence of egg white and or yolk but also semen. My mind went in all directions! Now I wonder if maybe we can extract DNA of an artist and re create them in a laboratory.

Many household ingredients have been used to create art materials and I think it is the resourcefulness of our early ancestors that keeps me intrigued and experimenting as well as remaining sceptical about every new art material that comes onto the market. We need to keep those old recipes alive. After all we have lost the recipe for the concrete used by the Romans and their buildings have survived centuries , whereas some of our modern buildings have concrete cancer in just a few decades.

There is an aboriginal stone axe in Melbourne Museum with a handle attached to a stone axe head with a powerful  glue made from tree resin and kangaroo poo. It has lasted thousands of years. No modern methods have duplicated the same strength. Who’d have thought?
I read an article recently that the pyramids were not giant rocks dragged miles by slaves but were in fact made of an ancient concrete based on a mixture of lime and calcium silicate. I can’t wait to get out and experiment with that mixture if I can just source the ingredients.
I am going to give a free recipe today which is something I have used in making 3 dimensional work.

My mother told me of a thing called barbola which was used for earrings as well as decorative features on houselhold , ( generally dressing table) items in the pre WW2 years.
I researched and found that it was made of whiting and size .  Then I found that size could be made from anything from gelatine and wallpaper paste to horse glue and rabbit skin. Whiting is not the fish but is derived from limestone, in fact calcium carbonate which just happens to be an ingredient in so many household products from toothpaste to ice cream. Basically it was made from a binder, and a powdery material. Then I found a wonderful recipe which uses modern materials –PVA glue and dried white breadcrumbs. So simple but it makes a long lasting material.

In my opinion it is also the best thing to do with pappy white bread!
Dry out bread and then crumble it into very fine crumbs (don’t include crusts)
 Pour in enough PVA glue to make a  dryish sticky glob.
The next bit is messy but basically you persist with mixing and massaging the ingredients together  until  the gluten in the bread becomes active and the whole thing suddenly becomes smooth and unsticky.
Immediately roll the ball up in some plastic wrap or a recycled plastic bag and keep refrigerated until you are ready to use it (lasts about 1 week to 10 days)
To colour it, flatten out a small amount in your hand and squirt a dot of acrylic colour onto it. Wrap the dough around the colour and once again massage the mixture trying to keep the colour inside so that it doesn’t end up all over your fingers.
You will find yourself fiddling with this lovely material  in no time and will also be surprised at how thin it can be rolled. Colours can be blended as delicately as a watercolour painting. It should be left to air dry. Individual pieces can be glued together  with a dot of PVA.
I decorated a mirror 20 years ago with this material and it is only now showing some signs that something might be eating it. Adding borax to the mix might make it toxic to insects but I don’t know how safe it is to handle.


Enjoy experimenting with this mixture and if you have old recipes for art materials you would like to share , I am sure there are plenty of others who would like to share them too.

oops another angel!

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