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Figure Hybrid


Wofford College



Course Level

3D Foundations – Intermediate Level Sculpture 


Conversation points for instructors

This project introduces the process of alginate mold-making and plaster casting as a medium to consider the mutability and experience of the human figure within the contemporary context. Students are bombarded by information about their bodies and they are eager to have a voice in this matter.  Mold-making and casting have been integral to cultural production for over 7,000 years and these processes can often feel like magical experiences connecting students to sculpture’s long history.  I’ve often used this as a final assignment, as it asks students to balance material, process, formal, and conceptual concerns.



Project Prompt / Challenge

“When I think of my body and ask what it does to earn that name, two things stand out. It moves. It feels.”    -Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual


The contemporary body is shaped through shifting social constructs, medical advancements, and virtual realities, while also remaining the only vehicle for our experience of the world. Today, we can imagine bodies that were impossible just decades ago. We can also appreciate bodies cast aside for centuries.  


Our bodies continue to be sites of radical resistance and mythical narrative, in spite of moments when we feel limited to our singular corporeal shells. How do our bodies, which are ultimately simple carbon matter, correspond with our subjective experiences and realities?


For this project, design and construct a sculpture incorporating part of a plaster cast figure, created from an alginate mold. You may rely on class discussions for inspiration, as well as your own experiences/research. 


In-class demonstrations, handouts, and reference videos will provide a basis for understanding mold-making and casting processes. You may also ‘hack’ these processes for creative effect. 


Plaster will need to fully dry (about 4-7 days) before it can be sanded, glued, or painted.



  • After the project introduction and process demos, watch the linked videos on issues of the contemporary body.

Consider these questions for discussion: 

What relationship does the body have to identity, personhood, and consciousness? 

What are some differences between lived experience and an external viewer? 

How are bodies shaped through environmental stress and individual choice? 

How can sculpture affect our understanding of the body?

  • Class discussion about the videos. Working in pairs, practice the casting process by creating a mold and casting your thumb.

  • Complete at least 15 sketches/collages to consider potential forms. While sketching, think about various ways to adapt the mold-making and casting process.

  • Discuss sketched ideas in small groups and share feedback. Finalize the project idea and collect any additional materials you plan to use.

  • Find or create a container for making a mold of your selected body part. Create the mold with Smooth-On alginate as instructed in demos and videos.

  • Gently fill the mold with water. Pour that water into a measuring bucket to find the volume of the cavity.

  • Mix your plaster and fill the mold. Be sure to tap or vibrate the mold for a minute to remove air bubbles.

  • Allow the plaster to set for at least 1 hour. De-mold within 24 hours and throw away the used alginate. Allow the plaster to air-dry for 4-7 days.

  • The plaster may be carved, sanded, glued, and painted after it is dry. Use 2-part epoxy to assemble any parts or to repair any broken plaster.

  • Present the work for critique.


Required Materials: Alginate (Smooth-On brand recommended, 3lbs per student), plaster or hydrocal, mixing containers of various sizes, mixing sticks or whisk, cardboard and packing tape for creating custom mold containers.

Additional Materials: Drill, carving rasps/chisels, 2-part epoxy, paints, sandpaper, found objects/materials.

Alginate is available on Amazon (or, and all other materials are available at most hardware stores.


Approximately 3 weeks.  This time includes the project introduction, process demos, discussion of video references, ideation, and allows for time for plaster to dry.


Student Examples:

Online / Video Resources:



Meret Oppenheim, Louise Bourgeois, Alison Saar, Janine Antoni, Sarah Lucas, Yinka Shonibare, Erwin Wurm, Nick Cave, Diana Al Hadid, Cassils, David Altmejd, Doreen Garner, Jes Fan, Genesis Belanger, Ronit Baranga, Lewis Colburn

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