Making plaster casts of origami tessellations

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Related models: Tumbling Square Rosette

Plaster with a fresh impression, with original origami model (Tumbling Square Rosette) Finished plaster cast of Tumbling Square Rosette
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For some time now, I have been thinking of origami tessellations as a kind of bas-relief, executed in a very particular way. This led me to the idea of combining tessellations with a medium more traditionally used for sculpture, namely plaster. In this experiment, I made an impression of a quick-and-dirty fold of Tumbling Square Rosette in a layer of fresh plaster.

The results are interesting, and I will possibly experiment some more, but there are also limitations to this technique. For one, even a tessellation with relatively deep relief leaves only shallow pits in the plaster. They are not very well visible, though it depends on lighting. Perhaps an even more voluminous model such as Braided Pinwheel Tessellation would be better. There might be some techniques for improving contrast such as filling in the pits with some kind of wax, or painting the cast in a way that highlights the edges.

The other issue is that in order to make the impression, the original folded model has to be destroyed (or at least heavily damaged). In the test I used a throw-away fold, made from plain copy paper, so this was not a problem. But for more complex designs, folding the model so that it later gets thrown away is a bit discouraging. I tried to make the impression through an intermediate layer of transparent wrapping foil or aluminium foil, but that did not work too well as the intermediate layer greatly decreases the amount of detail transferred to the plaster. It might be less of a problem for larger models since the thickness of the intermediate layer would be smaller relative to the model, but I have not tried that yet, and working with larger models comes with some other challenges.

Anyway, this is just a proof of concept, but I think it might be an interesting direction in combining origami with other media and is worth exploring in more detail.

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