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Creative Techniques in Fiberglass Sculpture: My Journey

Creative Techniques in Fiberglass Sculpture

Dear Reader,

In this article, I will guide you through the process and techniques behind my fiberglass art installation. This work marked the culmination of my four years studying sculpture and performing arts and the beginning of my postgraduate journey in English Literature, showcased during my Fine Art degree final show. I will share the inspirations, essential methods, materials, and strategies that brought this installation to life.

As a child, I loved different forms of art, including performing arts and sculpture. However, it was during my university years in Fine Art, when I met Sally Madge, an amazing artist and one of my lecturers, that my passion truly blossomed. Her in-depth knowledge of every material and technique left a lasting impression on me.

I began experimenting with materials to create large, lightweight sculptures suitable for theaters. Plaster, wire, and papier-mâché fascinated me, but fiberglass became my favorite. The idea of creating huge, light pieces for theater settings was incredibly appealing. Fiberglass is a tough material that can handle both high and low temperatures, making it popular among sculptors and theater artists.

In this project, I focused on the themes of lightness and heaviness, inspired by Milan Kundera’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” a book that has deeply influenced me since I was young. Using fiberglass, my goal was to create a stable yet lightweight structure, experimenting with various techniques to balance strength and lightness, eliminating the need for floor securing.

I envisioned a tall, round structure standing approximately 200 cm high, designed to accommodate a small group of people in a compact, dim, and windowless space. To stabilize the round, lightweight object without visible supports and give it a natural appearance, I filled the lower third with gardening stones, providing stability and creating a space for people to enter and sit.

Visitors had a wonderful experience entering the space of this central artwork, sitting on the uneven stones, and listening to the echoes of their voices. A group of four people sat indoors and chanted various mantras for an hour. As a large-scale sculptor, I found it fascinating to see the public interact with big art installations and sculptures, as they become part of the artwork itself, which artists love to see.

An additional component of this installation was a fiberglass piece with a more organic, circular shape, hanging on the wall across from the main structure. Transparency was ensured so that the newspaper clippings inside would be visible. Observers within the confined and dimly lit space could perceive the illumination radiating from this object. Although they couldn't read the newspaper snippets from that distance, these cutouts still evoked a sense of weight and heaviness.

The intention was to represent the simultaneous existence of lightness and heaviness in life by contrasting the outer structure with the inner weight. Adding a fiberglass fountain near the main artwork created a soothing sound, enhancing the overall sensory experience.

Creating this installation was a challenging process. Initially, using chicken wire and plaster to form a perfect circle seemed like a good idea, but they proved unsuitable for the desired size. Instead, a large plastic ball, typically used for water games, served as the mold.

Working with resin presented its own difficulties due to its toxicity and the need for specific environmental conditions. To prevent the mold from collapsing, it was necessary to work quickly and efficiently outdoors, applying multiple layers of fiberglass to the large ball.

To speed up the process and avoid a potential collapse, I enlisted my brother's help, and we worked frantically for a few hours, laying the fiberglass and resin sheets as quickly as possible. In the end, this approach was worth the risk, but I wouldn’t recommend taking such a gamble with fiberglass due to its high cost.

After the construction was complete, I had to cut the structure in half to fit it through the studio doors. Once inside, I reassembled the two halves and reinforced them with additional layers of fiberglass for added stability. Garden stones were used to fill the internal structure, providing the necessary weight and stability for people to enter and fully enjoy its exceptional acoustics.

Chicken wire and plaster were used to build the main structures of the wall piece and fountain in this art installation. The wall piece was left transparent, while the white-coated fountain enhanced the gallery’s aesthetic and provided a calming sound. With this art project, I wanted the audience to focus on the sounds, lighting, and forms, so I purposely left it white and avoided colors to highlight the sensory elements.

Completing this project has inspired me to explore diverse techniques to enhance the stability of large fiberglass pieces. It also represented a major achievement in my academic journey, seamlessly combining my love for sculpture, performing arts, and literature as I transitioned from my bachelor’s degree to pursuing a Master’s in English Literature.

Years after her passing, Sally Madge continues to be a significant inspiration in the field of multidisciplinary arts. Her wisdom and memories have profoundly influenced my artistic spirit, and her advice will continue to guide me in my future projects.

Thank you for joining me on this journey down memory lane. I wish you the utmost success as you delve into the boundless possibilities of various art forms.

To discover more about Sally Madge’s remarkable legacy, please visit her website at: Sally Madge: Multidisciplinary arts practice

Your Companion in Creativity,

Nancy Castrogiovanni

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