Friday, April 11, 2014

Tutorial-How To Make Chalkware Figurines

Chalkware simply refers to decorative figurines made from
Plaster-Of-Paris.  Chalkware was very popular
all throughout the 1800's and is still popular today.  It's often
called "the poor man's porcelain" because it was inexpensive
to produce and affordable to the masses.  As a child I remember
 going to the Taney County fair and seeing the brightly painted
carnival chalkware prizes to be won at the games of skill.
Sadly, by the time I was old enough to play, they'd been
replaced with stuffed animals.
Many of the new folk art chalkware figurines you see
today are made from antique chocolate molds.
I have one antique 11 inch bunny mold.  He has a
little flower on one side,

& a little shamrock on the other.  He makes a
beautiful chocolate bunny.  We are having an
impromptu "girlfriends" get together in May, so
I thought I'd make them a chalkware bunny.

Antique chocolate molds can be very costly.
Large ones can go for hundreds of dollars.
 I also have some 3D, two piece open bottomed
polycarbonate professional chocolate molds.
 These molds are hard, heavy and rigid. They were
purchased from Tomric Moulds.  They've been in business
 since the early 1960's & many of their molds are made 
from antique chocolate molds.  They work wonderfully
for chocolate and are sturdy enough for Plaster of Paris.
Below is a 16 inch Easter bunny with a basket, a lucky
Irish pig and Father Christmas, all from antique molds.

I bought some Plaster of Paris at the local building
supply, gathered up some plastic containers for mixing
 & something to mix the plaster with.  Plaster of Paris pops
 right off plastic and metal when dry, but doesn't come off
of wood easily.

I have plenty of clamps for holding the 2 sections
of the molds together. You cannot have too many clamps.

I have a large bucket of soapy water for clean up.
When I am done, I will pour off the water outside. The
 Plaster of Paris at the bottom will dry up, pop off
and can then be disposed of easily.

Plaster of Paris is mixed at a ratio of 1 part water to 2 parts of
plaster.  I blocked off the open end of each side of the mold &
filled them with water to get the exact amount, then
doubled that for the plaster. 

The mold is held tightly together with clamps,
the more the better!

I readied a box to prop the filled mold in,
while it cures hard.

To prevent air bubbles while pouring, I prop the
mold on it's side and pour about half of the plaster
down the side of the mold.  Gently shaking the
mold helps to dislodge air bubbles. 

I also wore a facial mask and disposable gloves.
It's not good to breathe and it will dry your hands out.
Plaster of Paris starts to set up in about 7 to 10 minutes.
 I worked quickly, especially when mixing for the large mold,
stirring till it was smooth and the consistency of a thick milkshake.

I leveled off the bottom with my mixing tool.

 It's easy to see an air pocket in the clear molds.
(I used a long wooden dowel rod to fix those)
Father Christmas was propped up in an old coffee

Lucky pig was easy!

I propped the large Easter Bunny in a trash can.  It
required clamps from the hubby's shop.
I love the hub's workshop, he always has what I need!
Luckily, it didn't fall over and spill on my kitchen floor.
(It was just too chilly to work outside that day.)

Plaster of Paris heats up as it hardens.  When
the molds are cool, it's safe to remove the casting.
20 to 30 minutes for a small mold, about an hour
and 30 minutes for the big one.
(Don't let the kiddies make a plaster mold of
their hands!)

The casting pops right out of the mold.
Very little sticks to the molds and they clean up
easily with soap & water.

The figures will have a seam line, where
the 2 sides of the mold meet.
I purchased a couple of fine grit wet sanding sponges
 in the drywall section at the hardware store.
I scrapped off the seam line with a sharp clay tool (a paring
knife would work too) and wet sanded until I could no
longer feel the seam line.  I cut one of the sanding sponges
 into smaller pieces for those hard to reach places.
Then sanded the bottom smooth.
  I used wall patch to fill any holes.
I sanded those smooth too.

Let the castings thoroughly dry for a couple of days.
The large one I will let dry for a week.
To prepare the pieces for painting, I used gesso according
to the directions, one thin coat followed by a thicker
second coat.  This gesso is for oil or acrylic paints.

 Painted a rich dark chocolaty brown they look good
enough to eat.  Add a silk bow to the bunny & he makes a
 sweet Easter decoration.  A light cream color simulates
white chocolate.  Paint them a pastel color, glue on German
mica flakes or glass glitter and they look foo foo fancy!     
  I got a wild "hare" and decided to paint the girls 
bunnies like the cute ones in my yard.
 I did take a few ceramics lessons 35 years ago and
I can stay in the lines of a color book.  I can even 
paint by number.  So, I purchased some folk art color 
acrylic paints, a sea sponge and decent brushes at
our local craft store.  I don't know what I was thinking!
 I am NOT a painter. 
Hopefully, they won't be too butt ugly.
Tune in next time for "How To Put
A Finish On Your Chalkware"
So far, so easy, just a little messy!!
Click the link below to see how I finished
my bunnies, Santa and pig.
How I Painted & Finished My Bunny 
Learn more about chalkware:
Polycarbonate 3D Chocolate Molds:
 Bittersweet House
Tomric Moulds
Antique Chocolate Molds:
Old Molds
Dad's Follies
Victorian Chocolate Molds
German glass glitter & mica flakes:
32 Degrees North Specialty Craft Supplies
D Blumchen & Co.


  1. Shame on you...tempting those among us who are weak willed and easy to influence. We want to play with plaster when there are other things that must be done. Hope you're happy with yourself. (Seriously, enjoy your bunny painting!)

  2. Jan is right. Making some of these chalkware figures would be fun and I do love them, especially the bunnys. These are wonderful and will be so pretty painted. thank you for the information on where to get some molds.

  3. What a wonderful surprise these little bunnies are going to be for your friends. I love the bunny, but your Santa figure is really wonderful too. I am wondering if you might paint him too. My education continues here at Little Cabin Creations...Thanks!

  4. So very interesting!! I'm hoping to see them finished!

  5. I know this is very old post but hopefully you will receive it and be able to help me. I have some old antique chocolate molds. One in particular is a single mold Easter egg. I want to make the eggs into chalkware that I can give to my daughter and niece. I am stuck- literally. 3 attempts so far and the plaster does not come out of the mold. First I tried a release spray I had from candles. That didn't work. Next I tried cold water on the mold before filling- that didn't work. Lastly I called the DAP company and tried Vaseline on the mold before pouring. Nope - still stuck. Do you have any ideas or suggestions?! Any help would be great y appreciated!! Thank you

    1. Gee, I have never had trouble removing a casting from a mold. They just pep right out. You can contact me through email, perhaps send a photo of the mold. Maybe I can come up with some ideas.


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