Baker Bob gets plastered — literally!

by Brent Eades

Stephen Brathwaite wrote last year about his plans to restore the Shelter / Tissage sculpture he and Jennifer Ryder Jones created in 1992 for the NCC to commemorate Canada 125.

Stephen hoped to have the restored sculpture ready for this spring and installed at an Almonte site, but a delay in receiving it back from the NCC, plus greater damage than expected, delayed those plans. He’s now aiming for later this year.

The key element of the sculpture is casts of faces, suspended on a curved grid. Faces in the restored version will feature those of local residents, and yesterday Stephen invited me by Carriageway Studios to see just how those casts are made. It’s a fascinating — and to a claustrophobic like myself, slightly disturbing — process. The subject was Almonte’s very own Baker Bob.

It lasted about an hour and began with Bob being carefully slathered in a layer of ‘alginate’, a somewhat rubbery (and spearmint-scented) material used principally for making dental impressions. It creates a very precise imprint of the surface it’s placed on.

But because it’s flexible it needs reinforcing, in this case by a thick layer of fast-drying plaster of Paris. Throughout the process the subject must of course stay motionless, breathing mostly through his nose. The end result is a template that can then be used for the final sculpture.

Here are a few photos.