PLASTER CASTING ART AT A SANDY BEACH

Heading for the beach by the sea or a lake? Along with towels, sunscreen and flip flops, bring along a carton of plaster of Paris, a paper cup and an empty quart-size can or plastic recycled food container to make a unique piece of natural art that will last — and decorate your yard or deck when you get back home.

You can even make a terrific creation in your own backyard sandbox if you don’t live near the water. If your kids have made plaster handprints in school, they’ll be familiar with the following and easy how-tos.

To make a mold in damp sand, use your hands to scoop out a free-form design at least 2 inches deep. If you are at an ocean beach, just be sure the tide won’t be coming in for at least a couple of hours. You also may make a mold using toys such as a plastic fish or crab. Press the toy into the sand to make the shape, and then remove the toy. Any connecting areas in your design should be at least 2 inches wide to keep the final plaster project from breaking. To add interest, press some natural objects you collect on the beach into the base of the sand mold, such as shells, rocks, twigs and bark or driftwood.

Pour a cup or two of fresh or seawater into the disposable container. Add the powdered plaster according to directions on the box and stir with a stick. The mixture should be smooth and thick like a milkshake. Don’t overstir, however, as this causes the mixture to set up too quickly and weakens the final product. Immediately pour the mixture into your sand mold, spreading it evenly to all areas with a stick, if necessary.

To make a hanger for your art, poke a paper clip halfway into the plaster at the center top as the plaster thickens. If the project is large, you may wish to position two paper clips evenly spaced from each side.
Allow the plaster to harden for about an hour and a half, depending on the size of the mold, and then carefully remove the plaster souvenir from the sand. Dispose of leftover hard plaster in a trash can.

Take a picture of your pleased kids holding their creations before you head home. Wrap your art loosely with newspaper, and let it dry and harden completely. Glue on additional decorations, if you wish.

NOTE: Never pour liquid plaster down a drain.