Common Uses for Plaster of Paris

    CRAFTS CLASSES
    TO INSPIRE CREATIVITY
    by Katherine Kally

    About the Author

    Katherine Kally is a freelance writer specializing in eco-friendly home-improvement projects, practical craft ideas and cost-effective decorating solutions. Kally's work has been featured on sites across the Web. She holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of South Carolina and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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    Overview

    Plaster of Paris is a sculpting material with a variety of decorative and practical applications. Inexpensive and quick to mix, you can use it to make castings, molds, sculptures and home décor objects. Bead, stones and other embellishments can be impressed into the plaster during the damp phase and even very fine detail can be recorded. A plaster of Paris piece is delicate enough to chip and is not waterproof, so choose a project that will be kept on a shelf or other safe place.

    Castings

    One common use for plaster of Paris is to make decorative castings to be used as embellishments, jewelry charms and pendants. Select a flexible plastic mold from a craft store and apply a generous coating of a release agent to the mold before pouring the mixed plaster of Paris into it. Release agents can be common household supplies, such as petroleum jelly or nonstick cooking spray. Without a release agent, the plaster of Paris will be difficult to remove from the mold and will often break. Allow the plaster to set up in the mold for one hour, and then remove it. The molded plaster is still soft enough at this point to trim away any excess material from around the edges. Allow the cast piece to dry for at least 24 hours before decorating it.

    Sculptures

    You can sculpt with plaster of Paris using armatures made from wire, newspaper or other household objects. Armatures for sculptures remain inside the plaster to strengthen the piece. To make an armature, create the shape of the outline with 20-gauge craft wire. Cover the outline with paper or tape to create a solid surface so the plaster will have a base. Spray the armature with a release agent, and then coat it with mixed plaster of Paris. After the plaster dries for at least 24 hours, carve, paint and decorate it as you like.

    Decorative Objects

    Planters and masks are examples of decorative items that can be made with plaster of Paris. Common household objects -- such as a bowl or a coffee can -- may be used as a mold. To make a planter, coat the inside of a large bowl and the outside of a smaller bowl with a release agent. Mix and pour the plaster of Paris into the larger bowl. Insert thin dowels that are also coated with a release agent into the center of the wet plaster to create water outlets for the plants. Place the smaller bowl on top of the plaster in the larger bowl. Let the plaster set up for an hour, and then remove the molds and the dowels. After 24 hours, decorate the planter as you like.

    Finding and Using Plaster of Paris

    You can find and buy plaster of Paris at art shops and craft stores. Sometimes it is sold in containers that look like paper milk cartons. Other types of plaster, such as pottery plaster, are also available. Pottery plaster is harder and denser than plaster of Paris and may be more suitable for some projects. No matter what kind of plaster you use, take precaution by wearing a face mask when mixing to avoid breathing particles into your lungs.