Claire Tennant Workshop - Elephant Head Mould

Think Big (Part 2)

Sorry for the delay on this post.
I’ve been run off my feet with a job I can’t talk about! Lol
Now that the elephants are in the public realm, I can reveal that they were for the VIVD festival of light in Sydney last month.
They featured as collection boxes that lit up and played music when people deposited coins to the trunk and were located around Taronga Zoo for the duration of the festival.
From all accounts, they were a roaring success and raised loads of money for the protection of endangered species!

In the last blog update, I talked about creating the elephant head and then moulding it.
In this post, I will talk about the casting of the 5 heads.
Claire Tennant Workshop - Elephant Casting

Casting these elephant heads was a really tricky process.
Working on anything large scale always compounds difficulties, but with this project, the elephant heads were to be lit from the inside so they had to be translucent as well as coloured. This created a whole new level of issues, as anything on the inside will be visible once the lights are on.
First of all, I did a number of small scale tests of materials and colour.

I decided that fibreglass was the most appropriate material for the job as the client specified that it must be waterproof (and people proof too!) long wearing and strong.
There are a few different ways to lay fibreglass so I had a few trials to see which way would show the least amount of fibre when finished, whilst still remaining robust.
Once I was happy with the strength and translucency, I moved on to the colour tests. One of the clients was ANZ Bank, so I went about trying to create an ‘ANZ blue’ that was still translucent.
Lucky for me, Barnes sell a range of transparent pigments and I was able to mix a colour from their range
Once the client had agreed on a colour, we were ready to go!
Claire Tennant Workshop - Elephant CastingWith the mould in 2 separate halves, we went to work layering the fibreglass.
All the fibre was cut into pieces the exact same size so the layering would be as even as possible.
Once one layer was done, we started a new one.
We put down 3 tightly packed layers of fibre and resin on each half of the head to create a thin but super strong shell.
You can see here in the picture the colour building up as the layers get thicker.

Once each half was finished, we mixed up a special thicker concoction of the resin and painted around the edge of the moulds.
Then we quickly aligned both halves of the mould and bolted back together.
The thick wet resin is sandwiched between the two halves and creates a join.
Once the mould is back as one piece, we had to get inside the mould and reinforce the join from the inside. This is really tricky as it has to be done neatly too!

Claire Tennant Workshop - Elephant Casting After a few hours of curing, the mould is ready to be opened.
We carefully unbolt the 4 parts and ease the silicone skin away from the casting.

Voila! No casting ever comes out of the mould perfectly but with a little detailing and finishing, the heads look great!

Once my part of the process was complete, the heads were sent back to the client where the coin chute and lighting rigs were installed, then the head affixed to the plinth.
Don’t they look great!

Here is a video of the working elephant. Thanks kids for spending your pocket money!