Skulls, Gems, and Raw Vegan Cakes

For quite a long time I’ve had a rat skull — a real one, not a plastic fake — lying about here, not really sure what to do with it. Yesterday I finally got around to plugging all the holes in it, gluing the jaw to the cranium, and then designing and creating a — what if I do say so myself is rather clever — two piece silicone mold from it. It’s pretty fiddly and fine detail but I’m pleased to say that now having poured a quartet of metal copies, it turned out very nicely. After pulling the metal from the mold, I finished them by drilling out the rear where the spine would attach and then adding a second hole (if you look carefully at the one in the bottom left of the picture you’ll see) so that they can be hung from a necklace, attached to a keychain, or just be left as is.

I’ll add those to the shop tomorrow. I also recently got some more practice on gem setting. Some of the stuff below is for the shop and some is already gone and committed to customers.

Finally, a couple days ago — as part of my marathon of walking, which has included as much as 10km per day, rather remarkable for me and I’ll write more on my theories about it and how it interacts with both pain and my genetic disorder when we return from Mexico — Caitlin and I ate at Rawlicious, which finally reopened it’s newly renovated Bloor West location a short walk from our studio. I started with a nice salad but for desert I had my favorite thing they serve — “cheesecake”.

Now maybe you’re thinking that looks a little odd for cheesecake, and maybe you’re thinking, “why did he put ‘cheesecake’ in quotes?” Well, that’s because not only is that vegan cheesecake, but it’s also entirely raw, as is everything at the aptly named “Rawlicious”. I looked up some recipes online for raw vegan cheesecake and it’s actually quite simple, the crust being crushed nuts and dates, and the filling being a coconut oil and agave base. Pure calories! Bet you didn’t think a raw vegan diet could keep you chubby? It’s worth every calorie. So delicious.


  1. dresden wrote:

    Hey Shannon, more questions for you. Do you have a good online source for resin and silicon? There’s no place local to me that sells anything other than basic craft kits. Also, how do you sculpt your stuff? Do you do it in clay, then cast? Do you use a harder substance and remove material that way? I’ve never done much sculpting, so I’m curious on the techniques you use, since you get some really great results. How long do your molds hold up for? I think that’s all for now. Again, thanks for your help so far.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 8:08 am | Permalink
  2. Zandelion wrote:

    I love the rat skulls and I may splurge on one. You should create tons of them and make them very affordable! (Wishful thinking).

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Permalink
  3. Shannon wrote:

    Zandelion – They won’t be expensive, don’t worry… I wouldn’t feel right charging a premium on anything that I haven’t either put in serious time on or made primary artistic contributions to. Also I’m gonna run a MEGA sale (for Zentastic readers only) shortly. So don’t buy anything until you see a post about that.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Permalink
  4. Shannon wrote:

    Dresden –

    Early on I used a few online suppliers, but lately I’ve been buying locally at “Sculpture Supply Canada” who also have a website at and do mailorder. I don’t remember where you are located but there’s a very good chance that you can find a local supplier. Sometimes even arts and craft places stock this stuff and if not, could certainly order it for you.

    I will add that almost all of the plastics and silicones that I have used are products of who I think will also do mailorder direct if you don’t find any other options.

    For starters I’ve been really happy with the putty silicones, which is fast and easy to use and pretty “idiot proof” (so it was great before I understood the processes). Now I mostly use Dragon Skin silicone, but that works best in a vacuum chamber, which is going to cost you $500 – $1000 new. You can do it without a chamber but you’ll make more mistakes and won’t get as good detail most of the time.

    BTW, the “basic craft kits” might actually be an economical way to get your feet wet and try the different materials in low quantities.

    As to sculpting the masters, I’ve done just about everything but most of the time I work in epoxy clay (ie. products like “Fixit” and “Apoxie Clay”) which is a two part clay that cures chemically rather than via heat. Sculpy and Fimo (which is heat cure, in a home oven) also works fine but I was never really able to get good results from it personally. With the epoxy clays I found that you could both get good results from sculpting itself, and from subsequent carving after the fact with both hand tools (even a knife) and my Dremel. And you can also bulk it up with multiple layers, which doesn’t seem to work as well with sculpy/fimp (it falls apart in my experience, and doesn’t handle multiple cure cycles that well). If you like working with a Dremel, invest in a flex shaft (about $50)… It’s worth every cent.

    If you like carving another option is wax. Some people swear by it. Another option is “3d collage”. That is, taking found objects and modifying them. If you remember some of the rings that I made out of toys, that’s how I did those. You can also take a cast of an object and then modify it. That’s how I did some of my “zombified” versions of Nefarious’s Littlest Pet Shop characters — I made a copy in hard plastic resin, which I then carved and modified with clay, and then took a second mold from my modified version.

    All in all there are tons of different methods to create your master and all of them have pros and cons… ultimately it all comes down to what you find most comfortable personally.

    Finally, I’ll add that with those silicone molds you can also use them for casting soap (incredibly easy to do) and wax candles, as well as food (candies, jelly, cakes, whatever) to say nothing of lower temperature metals like pewter (although for pewter and perhaps other metals you have to use “platinum cure silicone” because the “tin cure silicone” off-gasses when you pour metal into it and you end up with bubbles in the surface).

    Whew, that was a lot of typing. All in all a lot of these questions will just answer themselves once you start playing with it. If you can afford to spend a couple hundred dollars to get some different clays, some plastic resins, and some silicone for the molds, you will have a lot of fun and learn a lot.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink
  5. Shannon wrote:

    …and if I didn’t already mention it, for all of these techniques there are TONS of videos on youtube from people much more experienced than me giving out free tutorials. If you learn by seeing, this is another thing worth doing. The smooth-on website (link in my previous comment) also has superb tutorials on using all of their products.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Permalink
  6. dresden wrote:

    Wow man, thank you very much. That’ll be a huge help. I have been watching a lot of the videos at work so I have a pretty good idea how to do it. The problem with local places is that no one sells silicon (I need to check a few others, but I’m 0 for 3 now), and the only resin they have is clear resin, which is cool, but without a mold, eh, doesn’t help. I appreciate the time you put in to your reply. BTW I’m across the pond from you in Rochester. :)

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Permalink
  7. Shannon wrote:

    Dresden — I’ll email you this as well but I wanted to recommend a book to you — “POP SCULPTURE” by TIM BRUCKNER, ZACH DAT, and RUBEN PROCOPIO. It covers carving in a whole bunch of materials as well as casting and many other interesting things that are relevant to this type of sculpting.

    Friday, November 18, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Permalink
Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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