Tuesday, July 25, 2017

ACTÍVA Crafting Supplies (Homeschool Review Crew)

Papier mache is a craft form that I have always enjoyed. The mess involved...not so much. There's the paper cutting or ripping with newsprint all over your hands, and the flour-and-water paste that sticks to everything. ACTÍVA Products has created a no-fuss papier mache kit that helps make art projects less of a project! We got to play with their Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit.

The box contains two rolls of Rigid Wrap plaster cloth, a bag with 8 ounces of CelluClay, and instructions for 12 craft projects. First, a heads up that you will need additional supplies. Do NOT make the mistake of saying "OK, let's see what we want to do and try this!!" Unless you have a particular project in mind and already have armature supplies, there may be a lot of disappointment.Open the box, go through the suggested project pages -- or access their FREE eBook, ACTÍVA Products' Favorite Sculpture KIDS CRAFTS filled with ideas -- and come up with ideas, and plan on doing the actual crafting after you've had a chance to gather more supplies.In our house, we needed to wait for the dishwasher (Jude created a bowl) and an empty paper towel roll (the structure for Damien's rocket).

I wanted to love this product because I think the idea of it is great.  Having the plaster cloth (think "stuff used to make casts when you break your arm") that only needs to be wet and placed on the base cuts down on a lot of potential mess.  There isn't the mixing of flour and water to the correct consistency, there's no dripping of goo all over, and it dries quickly.  Being a wheat-flour-free household because of allergies, I don't want to contaminate every surface with flying flour, nor do I want to spend a small fortune on gluten-free flours and starches to replicate the glue. The product is plaster based, so no flour of any kind involved at all!  It takes about 20 minutes to air-dry, but if you're impatient, you can speed it along by baking in a very low oven, or even with short bursts in the microwave! We just couldn't seem to get it to work for us very well.

The directions just say "cover" the base with the cloth; there's no indication on how thickly it needs to be laid.  I think if you're making something basic or decorative -- like the suggested Egyptian sarcophagus or totem pole -- a layer or two over the paperboard base is probably enough.  If you're making something functional,  you may need to build it up a bit, making sure to really cover over seams.  Jude found out the hard way that butting seams together, rather than overlapping, compromises the integrity of the bowl he made.  We also found that once it is dry, you can't go back and "add more plaster cloth" -- it just doesn't want to adhere.

It also seems to like "easy" underlayment shapes.  Damien's rocket cylinder was no problem.  He used mostly rectangles, but some squares and triangles of cloth. We followed the directions for curved objects and used triangles Jude's bowl, and while we ultimately didn't get them thick enough, they did follow the curve of the bowl well.

Hint: Plain student scissors will work for this, and use them.  The plaster tape can be torn - it's a loosely woven gauze that's been impregnated with plaster into the weave. However, the tearing can knock much of the plaster loose, so you lose a lot of material as it's separated.  Clean cuts sever the material much more neatly, with minimal waste.

Matthew decided to get in on the action and wanted to do a hand sculpture.  He blew up a vinyl glove from his chemistry lab gear and started to cover it.  He figured he'd get the plaster onto it, and then bend the semi-dry plaster.  Between the four boys, they've been casted for foot orthotics at least a dozen times, so he figured he'd do as the orthotist does: get the casting material on, then bend things to where he wants and hold it while the material hardens. I thought he had a pretty good theory.  Even though he was using triangles of cloth, nothing seemed to want to stick to the shape.  Forget about getting the plaster molded; he couldn't convince it to stay on the form.  He eventually gave up in frustration.

Damien had the most success.  He used a paper towel core as the base for his rocket, along with a paper cone tucked inside the top to make the rocket's cap.  I was impressed that we didn't need any tape or glue for the cone; a couple of plaster strips around the joint kept it in place.

I actually was a little nervous about this one holding up.  The wet wraps saturated the cardboard, and I thought the tabs we cut for it to stand were going to pull off.  We wound up covering both the top side and the underneath of the tabs and tucking the wrap into the center of the core.

Drying time was pretty reasonable.  We worked outside to minimize the mess, but we also waited for a day with moderate humidity.  Most days have been in the 70-80-90% humidity range -- NJ in July is humid.  It probably would have been a good time to see how fast it dried in damp conditions, but I knew the boys weren't going to be patient for that.  In the interest of science, I kept tabs on each kid's creation.  Matthew's took close to an hour to air dry to feeling "damp but not like if I move it, it will fall apart."  (Even though he abandoned his creation, I left it on a corner of the table in the name of science.)  The little boys' projects got microwaved.  Even though the bowl Jude was using for a mold was oven-proof glass, I didn't want to put the plastic wrap covering the bowl into the oven, and cardboard and a gas oven didn't seem like a good combination, either.  After about six minutes in the microwave (three rounds of two minutes each, as directed), the projects were dry enough to continue.

It's important to do it in pulses, and not a single six-minute nuking.  First, you want to check it to make sure you don't overbake it. Moreover, after the first round, there is a lot of steam built up in the oven.  You'll want to open the door (carefully) and let some escape before continuing. We found there was some after round two as well, but not quite as much, and you could feel it was getting close to dry.  However, it does get hot, so have a blob of old or paper towel handy to take it out. Be prepared to wipe out the microwave; our projects left bits of residue behind.

Once our projects were dry, we painted them with acrylic paint.

 I noticed Jude's bowl was a little thin at the rim and tried to add another piece of wrap to stabilize it, but it wouldn't stick.   The painting process was where we learned Jude's bowl wasn't thick enough. He painted the inside first, then the outside. Some of the blue from the inside bled out where the plaster was thin.  Then, as he went to paint the outside, he knocked a hole in the side of the bowl.

Damien was able to complete his project.  He chose three colors of paint and proceeded to section it and paint. He opted to just eyeball his edges, but if you were doing a something like the suggested sarcophagus, you could easily draw lines or tape off sections to make sure you had clean edges between colors.  The plaster holds very well when dry, and the white base allows the colors to stay true.

I do think this will be more of a "looking at" rocket, rather than a launching rocket.  Despite being lightweight, it's still a big rock flying at you. I think it would hurt quite a bit if it hit a person, and probably wouldn't hold up to impact with a solid wall or floor.

We also tried out the CelluClay.  You can use this to build up projects, making them more of a 3-D vision, or create separate shapes that can be attached to decorate the finished projects.  I figured since we didn't need them for a plaster wrap project, we could make little clay figurines to use as paperweights.  They didn't turn out, either.  First, the clay is hard to mix. My best advice is to treat it like cake frosting -- only add a TINY bit of water at a time, because it's very easy to go from "too dry" to "soup."   We tried making little pinched ovals, to paint as butterflies.  We couldn't get the clay to hold the shape we wanted, and it didn't want to smooth out, either. No matter how many times we ran a finger along the edges, little fiber bits stuck out.   After the mixed experience with the other projects, the boys decided just to skip it.

This is a kit that just didn't work for us. Damien is content with his rocket, but I think Jude would have been much happier if we had found better tips for making his bowl stronger to start. Matthew just shrugged that it didn't work, but I could tell he was disappointed.  Now that I've used the Rigid Wrap, I might consider using it again in the future for projects, knowing that we would need to layer it thickly for anything we wanted to be sturdy.  Rather than using an air-filled glove, I'd wrap Matthew's hand in plastic, cast it, and he'd just have to hold still while it dried.  Rigid Wrap is available separately, so it's something that I wouldn't need to buy a whole kit to use.  I don't think I'd bother with the CelluClay, though; if I wanted to do something that required building up in areas, I'd use a traditional air-dry clay instead.

To find out what projects other Crew members did, click the banner below!

Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit {ACTÍVA Products Reviews}

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