Moulding and casting are widely used techniques of modern and contemporary art making. Their use and application can be found beyond the disciplinary art canon, in areas not immediately associated with art practices, and in times before casting became an acceptable form of sculptural production in its own right.

Plaster as material remains the same, inherent properties and qualities don’t change. Moulding and casting are ancient techniques of giving and taking form and shape to objects and sculptures, and they continue to do so. And yet the way casts are symbolised, the way meaning and values are attributed to these works cast in plaster, has often shifted and continuous to undergo many changes:

Is it the whiteness of plaster that allows these sculptures to become humble, a material humility that accepts and submits to different interpretations, and mirrors values, expectations and application associated with them? Or is it the way they are made, the technical procedures, the seemingly sequential or operational chain which appears to delineated a network of contact and touch, the same material giving and taking form, rubbing against itself?

The interviews collected and made available here were recorded in different plaster cast collections across Europe, and draw attention to the knowledge of materials and techniques still used in the moulding workshops often operating parallel to the collections displaying the casts. The audio recordings of instructional and pedagogic literature on plaster moulding and casting were read by students from the Department of Art at The University of Reading.

This project resulting in concurrent exhibitions at MCA and Kettle’s Yard, a publication by Tender Books, London, with contributions by Alex Massouras and Agnieszka Gratza and designed by Sara De Bondt, as well as a conference scheduled for 2018, have been made possible with funding from the Arts Council England, Henry Moore Foundation, The Elephant Trust, and The University of Cambridge Museums.

Very many thanks to Lotte Juul Petersen, Jennifer Powell and Guy Haywood, Sophie Hawkins and Susanne Turner, and especially all the student volunteers and interview participants.