Artists and craftsmen have used plaster for thousands of years. According to the Association of Life Casters International, the oldest documented uses of plaster were discovered in wall applications at Anatolia and Syria, dating to over 9,000 years old. Throughout these thousands of years and up to the present day, plaster has been used as a finished construction material applied to the surface of interior walls. Plaster has also been used to make molds of faces, bodies, jewelry and decorative plaques. Plaster is available as a mix from most craft stores and art supply stores, or you can make your own.
Paper Mache Plaster
Prepare a work space on a table or kitchen counter. Remove any items that should not get wet or dirty, then put down a sheet of plastic or towels to protect the work surface from spills. Put out a large mixing bowl along with 3 cups of white all-purpose baking flour and 1 1/2 cups of warm water.
Combine the flour and water in the mixing bowl. Use a spoon or mixing spatula to mix the flour and water together. Stir quickly and be sure to remove all of the flour lumps for a smooth, even consistency that resembles thick glue. If you wish, change the water measurement to alter the consistency of the plaster.
Dip newspaper strips, fabric sheets or other crafting fiber into the plaster to make paper mache projects. Store unused plaster in an air-tight container; you can keep it in the fridge for up to one week. Add more water if the plaster mixture becomes too thick to use.
Put on a dust mask, safety goggles and protective gloves.
Fill a large metal bowl or tub with room temperature water.
Add quick lime to the water gradually. Stir constantly to combine the lime and water into the consistency of cement mix.
Remove any lumps in the quick lime with additional vigorous, thorough stirring. As the lime absorbs the water, it will heat up and then cool down. Add enough quick lime to make a thick plaster sludge for use in construction or wall plaster. Thin the mixture with more water for plaster crafts.
Mix the lime putty with fine sand, crushed stone, animal hair or other natural fibers to create the texture and body usually present in this traditional lime plaster. Store excess plaster in an air-tight container for future use or alter the mixture to create only as much as you need.
You can also make Plaster of Paris by mixing a 10 lb. package of powdered gypsum, 1 tsp. of powdered alum and a 1 lb. package of powdered wall sizing in a large metal tub.
Always wear eye and skin protection when working with powdered lime and gypsum.