Over the past 3 months I have been busy casting resin & Jesmonite for a new contemporary sculpture series. I have long wanted to cast solid bases to hold my acrylic edge-lit LED creations. Searching for a suitable material that can be cast in a traditional open mold. Led me down the path of using man made resins. These are widely used by artists at the moment and offer exiting possibilities.
I tested Polyester resin which seemed to fit what I was looking for as it suited large thick casts. I was immediately put off by the powerful smell of the styrene in the mix & the long cure. After several weeks of experimenting I had some good results however I decided that I needed a material that cured faster. And that was a lot more user friendly to work with indoors. Polyester resin is an excellent material to work with as it will accept multiple filers and can be cast in large sections. It can be easily coloured and is used extensively in the boating/fiberglass industry as a gel coat. Working primarily indoors the smell of the styrene in the end was the deciding factor. There are other less odorous resins available (Polyurethanes and epoxy resins) but they are not really suited to sculpting.
I decided in the end to go for a material similar to Jesmonite in its characteristics. Jesmonite is marketed as a safe water based casting resin, it is a very useful material and can easily cast into a multitude of shapes & forms. It cures fast and will also accept fillers and other composite materials. It does not need a traditional kiln to cure and will usually fully cure to a hard finish within 1 hour.
Jesmonite seemed the perfect choice but I wanted more flexibility. I needed to understand what I was actually mixing (Jesmonite ingredients are not listed). I researched alternative water based casting materials and have now developed a material that is similar in its characteristics. My new composite casting material has a finer surface finish & will also readily accept pigments & fillers. And most importantly the mix can be made stronger and more flexible with the addition of polymers. The flexibility in the original mix gives me several new & very exciting casting possibilities. I look forward to casting contemporary edge-lit sculptures and feel confident that the research undertaken here will pay dividends in the future.
The blue circle cast below is a cast from my new composite material.