Molding Glass Hands

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My wife and I like to decorate our home with objects that have sentimental value. There are a few posters and paintings and objects that are relatively generic, but the things we value the most have a connection to our family in some way: photos of kids/vacations/weddings, portraits Jody’s mom painted of the dogs and our family and several paintings Jody commissioned in the past decade and a half that capture periods in our somewhat chaotic lives. We were looking for something to hang in a doorway between the dining room and living room and came across a perfect solution that was kind of unique and also pretty cool: a family hand casting in glass.

We live about an hour and half away from St. Jacobs, Ontario, which is located just outside of Waterloo (home of RIM) and well known for its farmers markets, Old Order Mennonite influences and hand-crafted goods. St. Jacobs is also the location of the nearest LEGO outlet to us, although where a LEGO outlet fits in with the other things, I’m not entirely sure- but who am I to question? Anyway, we spend a few afternoons each year meandering through the various shops and (in more recent years), trying to keep the kids from having us banned from any stores. Am I the only parent whose kids turn into Octopuses the minute they set foot into anything remotely resembling an art gallery? Instead of 6 hands to track and keep off the merchandise it seems like I’ve got two dozen tentacles to ride herd over.

We’d been admiring the work of Robert Brown, who runs a glass and metal studio in St. Jacobs. One of his specialties is creating glass casts of hands; basically a rectangular window hanging, several feet across in thick glass, with the imprints of hands cast in the glass. It’s very 3D, very personal and very funky. We finally decided that this would be perfect for that doorway; almost a hanging transom window, but also a piece that captures a moment in our life. And it would be something that the kids could participate in making. On Sunday, we booked an appointment and drove to St. Jacobs to have our hands immortalized- well, at least as immortal as a big chunk of glass can be.

The first step was arranging everyone’s hands, then adjusting the mold to the necessary size. We opted have the kids use both hands, while my wife and I had one each, acting as bookends. We didn’t want things crowded too closely together, so our casting is going to be nearly four feet wide.


Filling the mold with plaster. Image: Brad Moon

Once the mold was set up and hand positions marked, we waited a few minutes while plaster was poured in. It had to set to just the right consistency, then it was a race against time. Fortunately, Robert has obviously done this a few times and is quite skilled at getting kids to place their hands correctly with a minimum of fuss. There’s a bit of a trick to it as the hand has to be rolled into the plaster to squeeze any air bubbles out.


I was first in, first out and I'm still cleaning plaster off my camera. Image: Brad Moon

We had to wait a few minutes while the plaster set. This was probably one of the longer two minutes in recent memory, even after being at the dentist last week, with the infamous “you’ll only feel this for a few minutes” while the needle was being administered. It’s not that this was uncomfortable, but it took probably half an hour to get everything set up to this point and no-one wanted to start over if one of the kids decided to scratch their nose or kick their sibling under the table…

The completed casting.  Image: Brad MoonThe completed casting.  Image: Brad Moon

The completed casting. Image: Brad Moon

And then it was time for the hands to be removed. The mold turned out perfectly and captured a great deal of detail. I can’t wait to see the finished product, but unfortunately we’ll be away when the heated glass is imprinted so I won’t be able to sneak in and see any of that process. I will post a photo of the completed project when we pick it up (which should be around the end of July). In the meantime, there are photos on Robert’s web site that give a good idea of what it should look like.

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