Probably my favorite feature in our whole house (or at least top 5—what can I say, I love my house) is our floor to ceiling bookshelf in the living room. It makes our television set feel like part of the space, and it adds a lot of color and texture to that side of the room. Recently I made these giant quotation mark bookends to add to the shelf and it really adds a fun, graphic element to the whole collection.
-pottery plaster (sometimes called craft plaster)
-acrylic paint (black and white)
-mixing bowl (for crafting, not also used for food)
-disposable mixing stick or spoon
-heavy duty (epoxy or gorilla) glue-scrap wood
-hammer (or nail gun)
In case you're curious, this project cost around $22 to make considering I already had the scrap wood and tools needed (like the mixing bowl, scissors, saw, etc.).
Step One: Make your molds. Draw your shapes onto the poster board and cut out. Then cut long 2 inch strips of poster board to be the edges. Tape the strips along the outside of the shape. As you can see in the photo above, the mold doesn't have to look perfect on the outside. The main thing is to get the shape you want and to make sure no holes are present (or the plaster could seep out when you pour it).
It's really up to you how large or small you want your shapes (the quotation marks) to be. I went for an over-sized look on mine, but you can make them smaller depending on your bookshelf/space.
Step Two: Pour the plaster. Consult the plaster packaging to see how much water you should mix with your plaster. Use a mixing bowl and spoon/stir stick that you don't also use for food, as it may be difficult to get all the plaster off. Keep in mind that the plaster will heat up as you stir, so take care as you work.
Step Three: Remove the molds. My plaster package said to wait 30 minutes after pouring to remove the molds and then to let the shape dry out for at least 24 hours. Check your package for any drying time or other directions on this as it may vary.
As you can see, some of the blue from the poster board didn't come off all the way when I removed the molds. I chose blue so you would be able to better see this project in the photos, but it turned out not to be the best choice. I actually completed this project a couple times (more on that in a second), and found that the best poster board to use is either white or the "dry erase" poster board (it has a slick side that easily peels off of the plaster). I recommend using these. But if you do find that some of your mold just doesn't come off, you can easily sand it off once the shape fully dries.
Step Four: I used scrap wood to create a base and back for my shapes. I simply cut the boards to the size of my quotation marks, and then nailed them to each other (you could also glue with wood glue and clamps or use screws). I then painted these black to match my existing bookcase. I wanted the quotation marks to look like they were floating on the shelves. 🙂
I sanded my plaster shapes, painted them, and then glued them to the already painted wood base. Be sure to check all paint and glue packaging for proper dry/curing times.
Here I wanted to show you a failed attempt. I wanted to add dowel rods to the center of these so the quotation marks would really be floating over a wood base on the book shelf. But I had to pour so much plaster to cover the dowel rods that the thickness just didn't work well with this type of craft plaster, and it cracked as it dried. So, I changed up my design slightly and made thinner (but still over-sized looking) shapes.
Another tip I learned while working on this project is it's best to let your plaster shapes dry out for a couple days before painting with acrylic paint. I painted mine after the suggested 24 hour dry time and the paint ended up peeling off (I think because the shapes weren't fully dry so the moisture messed with the paint). If this happens, you can sand off the peeling paint, let dry, and paint again. Which is what I did. But, better to wait too long to let it fully dry than have to go through those extra steps if you ask me.
Credits // Author: Didier Li, Photography: Janae Hardy and Didier Li. Photos edited with Spiegeling actions.