Daruma Project
April 2017

Polyurethane Castings 7" x 7" Aprox.

Following the digital prototyping steps I needed to bring the project back into the physical world, I took the 3D model produced in blender and used 123D Make to produce slices of that model that could be transferred to cardboard and cut out. This would give me an idea of scale. One model was then covered in plaster to simulate some of the final features. At this time I was also experimenting with other silhouettes in Adobe Illustrator. I suspected that these might be a more satisfying or recognizable shape then the original paper-mache doll. These shapes were laser cut in flat plastic so they could be compared to the other models. 

Some photographs copyright of Alex Falk 2017

All images copyright of their photographers • All rights reserved do not distribute without authorization
Published July 2017


Initial design for this project consisted of on-paper drawings both trying to understand what elements make the Daruma recognizable and how I can add my own contribution to the idea. Then I produced a number of rough 3D models based on the dimensions of an existing Daruma doll  this model was used to digitally plan how I would configure the final installation. 




At this point the 3D model was finished, and prepared to print, and more ideas about the possible finished Daruma shapes were illustrated.


I decided to forgo the traditional eye-filling motif and instead focus on the shape of the Daruma to evoke the idea of promise making and breaking. 

The finished 3D model was taken to CMU's IDeATe Labs where it was printed in PLA plastic on a NVBot 3D printer. I printed two sizes, 5.5" diameter and an 8" diameter. One of the great assets of having a 3D model is the ability to arbitrary scale the sculpture. 

After the printing was finished I brought the Daruma's back to the studio and proceeded to do some re-sculpting with 'Apoxie Sculpt' modeling putty. They were also sanded and painted until the model was glossy and smooth. 

Before molding the master model was attached to a base and a sprue that would become an opening for casting materials to be poured inside the mold. A base with registration marks was also added to ensure a smooth base to the model.


A soft silicone was brushed on to create a perfect negative replica of the master model. The silicone does not adhere to the master so it's safe to brush onto most materials. In addition once it dries it creates a flexible mold allowing for easier removal of new casts. 

Finally discs of silicone were added to the soft mold to create registration points as a rigid mother mold is constructed around the soft silicone mold. 

The final step in mold construction was making a master mold was around the silicone mold. Silicone does a great job of preserving small details and it's soft texture means that it flexes and de-molds well, but the mold needs some rigidity to hold it's shape. A outer 'jacket' or 'master mold' was made out of fiberglass mat and fiberglass cloth and a polyester resin. Thanks to my time creating buggies for Carnegie Mellon University's "Sweepstakes" Race I had some experience working with composite layup. This was my first fiberglass mold, it worked pretty well but I know some things I would do differently. 

With the master mold around the silicone the mold now has some rigidity and will hold it's shape as casts are created. 

The casts of the mold were made with a 2 part polyester resin. A fast setting resin like Smooth Cast 65d allowed me to 'rotocast' the sculptures making them lightweight and hollow. The material was mixed and poured into the mold and the mold was continuously rotated in all directions allowing the material to settle just on the walls of the mold, picking up the small details. This resin had a working time of less then 3 minutes and a full cure time of around 15 minutes till it was hard. (Well....as hard as it was going to get plastics that a 65 durometer are relatively soft to the touch, like a roller blade wheel) 


When the fresh cast comes out of the mold it needs a little clean up but with a few exceptions this method was wildly successful and I produced many sculptures from this mold. 


Miscellaneous pictures of the process can be found below: 

The Japanese daruma doll is an icon steeped in history. The doll is typically realized as a papier-mâché egg painted to resemble the Bodhidharma, a bearded monk dressed in red with no limbs or pupils in the eyes. Upon acquiring the doll, a person will decide on a goal or a wish and full in one eye; the doll will then serve as a reminder of that goal until the other eye is filled in. Though most view the object as a toy or a good luck charm, the power of an embodied promise really struck with me when I was given one of these dolls. By referencing the shape of the Daruma doll, I hope to evoke the small and large promises that we make to ourselves and to others.


Ethan Gladding