Well Adam made it home and is nestled on that black bin bag in the sink. His plaster head is pretty clean – very little residual clay. I spend time scrutinising the surface looking for ‘potatoes’ to pick out. These are formed from bubbles in the plaster. There is something very satisfying about picking them out with a sharp metal tool. I am also checking for any holes or cracks in the plaster. In fact there are few holes, but some small indentations I want to rectify. So I fill these with small amounts of fresh plaster before rubbing down. I spot the odd fragment of rubber that is stuck in the crevices of the plaster surface. For these, tweezers do the trick.
I then make sure the plaster is truly wet before I start to sand down with Wet and Dry sandpaper – from the coarsest to the finest grade. A regular rinse or scrub with a toothbrush keeps the surface clean – otherwise it is easy for the plaster shavings from the sanding to clog up the surface. This whole process is very cathartic. It is easy to become completely absorbed, to the point of obsession. I am happy with the surface texture, nice and fine, so move on to the next step.
The cup of tea is made and the surface of Adam’s head is wet. With a soft artist’s paintbrush I apply the tea across the whole surface of the sculpture. This takes back the brightness of the white plaster. And it also stains the nooks and crannies, providing interesting contrast. Time now for the last rubbing down, with the finest sandpaper money can buy. The surface begins to feel like porcelain. My job is done. Except for the clearing up – the sink area is awash with bits of old plaster, escaped polystyrene beans, tea bags and tools. But Adam is looking happy. Okay – perhaps still a bit sullen.