A college is expanding its craft workshop after students caught the Jesmonite bug and the use of the versatile material is increasing each year. Hereford College of Arts uses Jesmonite with both it’s FE and HE students across two campuses – and now the degree level cold casting facilities at the College Road site are growing. When Jesmonite was first introduced around 5 years ago a sink was plumbed in and one workstation fitted so students could work with the product. Now there are 4 casting bays and plans to expand out of the workshop. Ian Berrill, a blacksmith by trade, has run the FE workshop since 2012 and the Degree workshop at HCA for two years.
“About five years ago Tim Sharman paid us a visit at our Folly Lane workshop and introduced us to Jesmonite. We’ve been completely addicted ever since,” he said. “It ticked all the boxes – it was safe, relatively easy to use and the possibilities were vast. It is not so much what you can do with it, you find me something you can’t do with it. “As 21st century makers we ‘work smart’ with high tech tools – 3D printers can take 20 plus hours to print something of the size of your fist in high quality, but once you’ve made silicone moulds from that object that’s where the fun starts – but with Jesmonite we can just play with it, try ideas, see what happens and 40 minutes or so later you can demould it and start all over again, rapid prototyping if you will. “We love the spontaneous nature of working Jesmonite. You can create amazing patterns, designs and textures with techniques more akin to that of a chocolatier. “I love demonstrating Jesmonite processes. You judge the student reactions by the noises they make, we get “oooohs”, “aaahs” and “wows”. “They tap it with a ring and are always surprised that it sounds like that, they ask, can we sand it, polish it, thread it…the answer is yes. It sparks that interest, curiosity and therefore the creativity that we always want students to have.”
There are several students experimenting with Jesmonite for end of year shows this year. Students add various aggregate to it; drip it down mannequins and stretched canvas to create texture in paintings, cast, mould and many other techniques. One level 5 student, Thomas Hancock, has created silicone moulds of old Victorian bottles, slip casting Jesmonite into the moulds with extracted tannins from oak. Once demoulded he brushes vinegar onto the surface, turning it purple.
Jordan Knight is about to graduate his BA (hons) Contemporary Design Crafts. He has 3D printed structures inspired by the architecture of Hereford Cathedral and cast them in Jesmonite both AC100 and AC730. “All our students are introduced to Jesmonite now,” Ian added. “The textile students use it with all of the colours, the performing arts students can use it for prop making and set building, and our print students can cast traditional block type to emboss letters into ceramics. “It has been laser etched, turned on the wood lathe, used by our jewellery students and we have even made photographic quality images in Jesmonite, the possibilities really are endless and it is great to see the creativity the students have. “We are going to be using Jesmonite for a long time and we will have the facilities to keep experimenting too.”