Tag Archives: Plaster

Sid Dickens and his incredible Memory Blocks

I’m taking a road less travelled today to introduce you to a Vancouver artist whose work is informed by the classics, science, art history, research, curiosity, and poetic vision. Sid Dickens’ Memory Blocks are not made of clay, but of beautifully decorated plaster tiles. They are quite thick and I like that…they have substance. Exquisite designs, soulful execution. Highly unique. Dickens, 48, is originally from Prince Rupert, B.C., according to Beladagio. “Until the age of 28 he worked as a commercial fisherman,” according to what must be an earlier site. “Off-season, he served burgers on the ferries and dedicated his spare time to drawing and painting.” Dickens attended Vancouver’s Emily Carr College of Art and design, now a university, was inspired by works he saw in Europe and later learned bronze-casting in Mexico at the Instituo De Allende in San Miguel. He opened his first studio in 1984, then built a studio retreat on Haida Gwaii. In ’91 he opened a studio in Gastown, the oldest area in Vancouver, along the waterfront. The Beladagio site quotes Dickens, who said, “Originally, I created large panels with many elements.” His ideas evolved and he began to work on a smaller scale. His site says his tiles are “hand crafted plaster, 6″ x 8″ x 1 1/4″, finished to a porcelain-like quality, cracked to create an aged look and feel.” He has a studio in Vancouver, employees a team of about 30 emerging artists, according to the site, Sid Dickens Timeless Collectibles, which features some of the artisans involved. Click here to see some photos of the blocks being made and some information about them. Dickens’ current studio in Vancouver is not open to the public, but the memory blocks can be found in many locations or purchased online. I see that there is a retailer in my town that carries his work, so soon I hope to pop on over and see them in person. The tiles can be mixed and matched to suit your tastes and there is a wide variety of themes. The Memory Blocks have an aged, antique look, and I think they are exquisite. Photos are copyrighted, so I cannot show them to you here, but here is the link to his online catalog of works. I saw an earlier version of his website some time last year, the first time I learned of him. I felt a bit put off by the new site because not all of it is accessible unless you ‘join.’ I like free and easy access to information and while I understand that he and his work are enjoying increasing visibility and popularity, it smacks of exclusiveness. In the end this matters little because the work is what counts. I will leave it to you to explore his site and possibly find a retailer that carries Memory Blocks in your area. One of my new favorites is one from a line out this spring and it is called Winged Sage. It is quite lovely and retails for $92.00 CDN. So many forms of art emerge from Dickens’ work, all of which he designs himself. When you gaze upon one of his tiles it evokes many feelings, senses, and memories. One appreciates the beauty, the artistry, and the subjects portrayed. It is so nice to know such beautiful work is being made so close to home, in Vancouver.


Filed under Articles and Interviews, Featured Artists, Home and Garden

Make a Plaster Mold of your Face for Mask-making

Several years ago, my friend Jennifer and I made molds of our faces. Later, I used my mold to create my Green Man/Woman relief tile. I am going to be using the mold again soon for a mask. It was very easy to make. I’d heard horror stories of people needing to place straws in nostrils and lengthy drying times, but I experienced neither and you wouldn’t have to, either. What you will need to get is rolls of plaster bandaging. If you’ve ever broken an arm or a leg, it’s the same kind of bandaging with which your doctor made your cast. You can buy rolls of it at medical supply stores. I bought 2″ wide bandaging. If you can’t find a store that has it, you can buy it online. I made a mold of my own face, too, but you might find it easier to have someone make your mold for you, at least the first time. Steps to make your mold:

  1. Cut the plaster gauze into 4″ strips.
  2. Tie your hair back. No hair can be on your face.
  3. Spread a thin coat of petroleum jelly or  eco-alternative on the face, under the chin, and jaw line. This will allow easy removal.
  4. Lay several towels down and have the person you’re molding lie down on them.
  5. Place a bowl of water and your stack of plaster strips next to them.
  6. Now, working quickly, fully immerse a strip, pull it out, then remove excess water by running it through two fingers, like with the wringers on an old washing machine.
  7. Place the strip on the forehead, smoothing out any creases in the bandaging.
  8. Immediately immerse the next strip and continue, overlapping strips. I wanted a sturdy mold and had two layers over the entirety.
  9. Work down the whole face.
  10. When you cover the eyes, make sure you gently follow all the contours, making full contact with the skin.
  11. When you work on the nose, leave the full nostril area open, so there’s about a half-inch gap with nostrils fully exposed.
  12. Work your way down till you are just under the rim of the jaw and chin.
  13. Now, leave it dry. Warn the person that it will become warm…it’s not too hot and feels relaxing.
  14. You’ll be able to tell when it’s set. Once it’s set, work around the edges with your fingers, then lift off.
  15. Have sink, soap and towel nearby so your friend can wash off his or her face.
  16. Wipe Vaseline off the inside of the mold with a soft rag.
  17. Voila! I used mine for molding clay, but I decorated it, too, so when I’m not using it, I can hang it on a wall for decoration. I usually sew twigs and leaves around it.

Decorated Face: Mold is the concave side.


Filed under Articles and Interviews, Featured Artists, Fun, How-to-do-it, My Work