How to Cast a Head: Pre-Stage 1: The Eyes

OK, let’s backtrack a bit.  I realize I launched into the puppet casting without explaining the most important part:  the eyes.

Here’s what the inside of the Sabela mold looks like.  When I made the mold, I put straightened-out bits of paperclips in her eyeball beads.  Paperclips work well because they’re the right size for these particular beads, and they’re made of really stiff wire.  They’re sticking straight out, like in Xosé Luís’ eyes in the previous post.

After the mold was done, the original plastecine sculpt removed, I carefully trimmed the paperclips down so that they’re just slightly shorter than the hole of the bead when it sits on it.  Just so there’s no wire overhang when the beads are put in place.  I.e. the beads I’m using for the eyes are 7mm in diametre.  So I trimmed the wires down so they’re sticking out about 6mm inside the head.

Then, when it’s time to cast the head, this is how I begin:

  1. Line the tiny edges of the eyes — the eyelids, top and bottom — with liquid latex, filling up all the crevices, but trying to leave the eyeball part clean.  This step allows you to paint the tiny folds clearly before the eyeballs go in, because once they’re in, it’s very hard to get into those areas.
  2. While the latex is still wet, insert a placeholder bead (these are exactly the same size beads used throughout, and for the final eyeballs) over each wire.
  3. Fill the holes of the beads with a tiny bit of plastecine, and level the plastecine off with the shape of the bead.  Basically this eliminates the hole so that latex doesn’t seep into the bead and lock it in place in its socket.
  4. Brush more liquid latex over the entire bead, creating an eye socket.  I like to brush latex all over the inner face at this point as well, just to make sure the details of the nose and mouth are firmly coated, and to build up those parts a bit thicker.

Let that all cure for a few hours.  When dry, repeat, building up 3 or 4 layers of latex.  In the end, it will look something like the picture above.

That’s it!  Once the eye sockets have cured, you’re ready to go on to Stage 1, lining the inner mold with liquid latex.

Zooming forward to beyond the end of stage 2, which would be stage 3, I suppose; after the cast is finished, foam filling and all, and the head is totally painted and ready to go — this is when the placeholder bead is carefully removed, and the painted eyeball is put in place.  Before I take the eyeball out though I carefully stretch it open a bit and dust a little talcum powder inside the eye socket, just to be sure the eyesocket doesn’t stick to itself on the inside and get pinched shut.  Once the placeholders are taken out, I put a bit more talcum powder inside the empty sockets, and brush it around… The powder helps the final eyeballs articulate more easily.  Pop the final eyeballs in…  Voilà!

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