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Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Inspiration for woodcarvers | Plaster ornaments and useful models for woodcarvers | Plaster models of ornaments | Examples of woodcarvings

Patrick Damiaens
Ornamental Woodcarver

How to make a plaster ornament.

Useful models for woodcarvers.

As was already mentioned in other blog items, plaster models are very important to ornamental woodcarvers.
A plaster model, as the name already suggests, is a three-dimensional reproduction of what a certain ornament looks like.  For example, they give the ornamental woodcarver a realistic and tangible feel of the design and character of a certain style or period.   

Since certain ornaments are typical for a certain style or period, this helps to ascertain the period of a piece of furniture or a building. 

My workshop

Due to their design and tangible presence, models of ornaments play an important role in the education of any decent ornamental woodcarver. Even the most seasoned woodcarver can still draw a lot of inspiration from these models. 
An ornamental woodcarver is therefore always looking for new models. Whenever I’m abroad, visiting a fellow-woodcarver, I automatically pay full attention to their personal collection of plaster models and other plaster casts that adorn the walls of their workshop.
This represents an enormous wealth of information, which whets the appetite for taking on new woodcarving challenges.


Especially when I visit the woodcarver workshop “l’Ecole Boulle” in Paris, where the walls are absolutely plastered with beautiful “goodies”, I’m completely overtaken by this greedy sensation, making me think “I want that one” or “how I wish that one was mine”. The only solution at a time like this is to take as many pictures as possible.
This helps you to create an extensive educational archive; a useful personal archive that you can consult whenever you want.

l'école Boulle in Paris

As I mentioned earlier, there is no substitute for “the real thing”.  Plaster ornaments and other plaster casts are essential to the education of any woodcarver, who takes his profession seriously. 

Sketches and photographic material (especially taken with a digital camera) are starting to play a bigger role and have become increasingly more important in the quest for knowledge, but are by no means real substitutes for plaster models. 

l'école Boulle in Paris

Why did ornamental woodcarvers start using plaster ornaments?

Back in the day, when a woodcarver was commissioned to create a decoration or ornament, the design was first moulded in clay and shown to the client so that he or she could decide whether or not the design was to his or her liking. 

One would think that a woodcarver could basically use this clay model to start working on the wooden ornament. Unfortunately, the clay would dry out and start cracking. Pieces would fall off, making this a very inefficient model to use: not then, not now, not ever.
The solution was finally found by first making a mould of the clay model, which was then filled with plaster: the plaster model was born.

This was more durable and because of the hardness of the plaster, the woodcarver was able to take measurements for his workpiece.  This method was also used to create basic ornaments in plaster, to serve as a model and a source of inspiration for apprentices.

This work method is still very relevant and therefore I also apply it during the education of my students.


How to make a plaster ornament
 Tangible models for woodcarvers

In this blog item, I introduce you to the different stages of making a leaf-shaped plaster model. 

Ornament Drawing

The modeling of the ornament in clay

Making a silicon mold
The silicon mold is ready

Casting a plaster ornament

The leaf-shaped ornament is finished

Course in woodcarving – ornamental carving
I’ve been teaching professional courses on the subject of the creation and carving of ornaments for 15 years now. This class – a course on “woodcarving - Liège ornaments” – has been successfully taught in Tongeren, (Limburg, Belgium) for many years now.

Every assignment or technique is executed in wood by me personally. These wooden panels or models are then used to create silicon moulds, so that the student has the opportunity to make his own plaster cast to serve as an example when working on his assignment in wood. The plaster casts are an important source of inspiration for the student, seeing as woodcarving is not only learned by doing, but also by observing and constantly being confronted with models and designs. 

For the moment, we have approximately 150 different models. Should you be interested in acquiring one of our educational ornaments, please feel free to contact us.


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