Luke Jerram Day 5

Luke Jerram watching the flag dry
Flying the Flag
We are back at The Hub for our fifth session, and Luke arrived in the sunshine of a crisp, cold morning to a warm fire, with a Union Jack flag in his hand. This time there was no squashing or flattening to be done, as with his trumpet on Day 3, but we did need to find a way to ‘rigidise’ the flag so that we could make a mould from it. If you didn’t read our previous blog posts, the idea is to make a flag in glass, with the effect that the material that is hanging and showing movement by loosely curving and folding.

flag cloth hardener tests
In order to make a glass replica of the flag, we would first have to make the hanging flag solid, so as we could take a decent cast in plaster. We had already worked on some samples of cloth, applying variety of solutions to them by dipping painting and spraying, in an attempt to harden up the material. The test materials were 8” squares of a cotton school shirt, (to include stitching) and the solutions were:
• Colloidal hardener
• Sodium silicate
• Elmers fusing glue
• Pva glue
• Spray mount
• Resin

Each piece of fabric was treated with the solutions, scrumpled into fabric folds and allowed to dry for 24 hrs. Next day the samples were covered in plaster mix, each one having a particular “stiffness”; left again to dry then flipped over to reveal the reverse image, ready to slump over. The plaster had picked up the imprint of the stitching and the material texture or weave along with each tuck and fold …looked promising!

Luke Jerram ironing his flag
Now to Luke’s flag. We had had a domestic moment ironing some creases from the flag, using an old fashioned technique. Unfortunately while ironing with a lump of hot metal from the woodburning stove in the workshop, the chimney burned a hole in the material. Luke got over it …eventually!

The best result from our ‘rigidising’ samples seemed to be the colloidal hardener so this was then applied the flag in two coats. Up went a washing line and we hung the flag in front of a very hot fire to dry.


More Leg tests
Meanwhile, Helga cleaned up some 6mm glass, and laid it over samples of the heatproof blanket to see if a heavier glass picked up folds and textures differently to the 4 and 5 mm previously tested.

Figure in a blanketfigure-in-a-blanket-plaster-casting-4
Armed with his herbal tea, Luke studied our test samples, and looked through the door into the cold big barn, where the sleeping ‘figure in a blanket’ plaster shape produced in Day 3 lay. We decided to carry the shell through to the warm barn where the weather was better so we could attempt to make a very large plaster cast from it.

messy-business-dress-code figure-in-a-blanket-plaster-casting-2
It was going to be messy, so, on went the overalls (German issue) as we prepared for an army-sized pour of plaster to coat the life size figure. In came bags and buckets of plaster, flint, fibre strands and warm water ready to make a coating of plaster on the inside of the body shell. We knew it would need a fair amount, and Helga did a perfect job guestimating and got it just right as we mixed up a total of 40 litres of mix and covered the inside of the shell. Later on after inserting a layer of chicken wire, we covered this with a second lining of thicker plaster.

The shed of erosions…
While we were getting all covered in plaster, Luke was out in the sandblasting shed, eating away at his ready-made glass table wares with sand. He recorded stages of deterioration as he carved holes in glasses and noticed how the thinner pieces had started to crack up along the rim. Soon, he had the makings of a whole dinner set of glass tableware carved by sand or eaten by aliens, ghostly blasted glass, standing like reverse shadows.

And back to the flag…
By now our flag had now dried nicely by the fire, and was stiff enough to take down. Like a piece of washing frozen on the washing line in winter, the material almost stood up by itself.
Normally when making a cast, a thin wash would be added first to pick up detail, but we thought this may soften the fabric as water was absorbed. Instead the underside was supported by some rolls of paper, and a layer of plaster mix spread over the surface, just as it was going off, in order to create a quick drying surface, before the fabric folds softened. Once this was hard, it was scratched, so a second layer could then be poured onto the form, and flattened off. We turned the cast over when it was hard and watched as Luke pulled off the flag to reveal a perfect mirror image of the union jack.


This marked the end of another fantastic day in the studio with Luke. Next week we will see how the figure comes out of its plaster shell and further develop the flag project. No doubt Luke will have a few surprises up his sleeve …just to keep us on our toes!

Here are some more photos of the day…


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