Best Date Ever–Face Casting at StudioFX101

— by Elsa L.

What makes for a memorable date experience? For me, the best dates are unique, perhaps extravagant and indulgent outings, where I get to experience new sensations while bathed in the attentions of my loved one and possibly attendants. The very best dates conclude with baubles or other memorabilia that recall the outing so I can savor it repeatedly.

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Last Saturday, my Beloved Doktor took me to Studio FX 101 in Troy, MI where we spent the day in a spa for special effects. To remind me of the experience, I left with not only a plaster cast of my face but a silicone mold with which I can make many more. I will replay this date for a long time to come.

When my beloved Doktor asked me to participate in this experiment, I mean, date, I agreed without hesitation. We are both fans of the show Face Off, and I knew he’d extensively researched the processes involved. I prefer an experienced partner when seeking new experiences. We were greeted by Nick and Mark, the enthusiastic and personable owners of Studio FX 101, upon our arrival and welcomed with coffee and  bagels before getting down to business. The shop is bright and tidy, and the team rigorously follows safety measures which made me relax thoroughly and enjoy the day. A skin test with the products assured me there’d be no adverse reactions, and a thorough presentation of the procedures let me know exactly what to expect.

My beloved Doktor could barely contain his enthusiasm. Grinning somewhat uncharacteristically with that newly shaven face,  he was hardly recognizable– even to me. The Doktor volunteered to go first into the “hot seat,” or as I can verify from personal experience, the “cool-and-oozy-then-warm-and-heavy seat.” He was swathed in plastic, and his hair, eyebrows and eyelashes were covered with thick cream conditioner.
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Then I got to pour mold compound down the sides of his head and over his face. Nick made sure the nostrils were kept free. Suffocation can so ruin the romantic mood, I find. Alga-Safe starts out only slightly thicker than milk but almost immediately, the liquid transforms into increasingly thicker versions of itself.

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We used our hands to move it around my sweetheart’s face covering the entire surface and scooping the dripping substance from his chest back up to the top. Do note: the human nose is ingeniously designed for this activity. Drips naturally cascaded around the nostrils.

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After the Alga-safe set up, we applied medical grade plaster-laced bandages over his now unrecognizable visage. Once the plaster cured — a mere 10 minutes at most– we gently freed him from his cocoon.

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As he cleaned up, our instructor mixed up plaster and filled the mold.  Soon enough we were admiring the resulting cast.

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After a pizza lunch, it was my turn. My eyes were closed through the process which heightend my other senses. The alginate running down my face was the first bizarre sensation; it felt really cold!

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I had wanted to maintain a slight, enigmatic smile for posterity but I lost track of that idea pretty quickly. For a few minutes, I was strangely occupied with keeping my eyes closed. Very soon, however, the weight of the alginate made it clear that opening my eyes accidently wasn’t possible.

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In preparation, we’d learned a few hand signals which I used in response to questions, and I also had a pad and pen where I conveyed my concerns such as when my nose felt runny. I wanted to blow out hard but I didn’t want to puff crudely into an unseen face.

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I also was concerned about my ear getting covered, but the instructor assured me that my orifices were safe. While my mold cured around my face, my beloved murmured reassuringly and the time passed fairly quickly.

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When the mold was removed, it felt like getting a really intense facial treatment! My eyes felt somewhat sensitive to light for a few minutes, and my hair was, frankly, kind of disgusting. The heavy coat of conditioning cream that kept the alginate from sticking wasn’t all that difficult with soap and water in the utility sink.

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Once the mold was complete, it was time to cast my plaster double. A handle was added to the curing plaster to made it easier to pull from the mold as well as to carry and display.

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As an unexpected bonus, we were able to make silicone molds of our plaster faces. The Alga-safe used for the initial mold is somewhat fragile and capable of making only a couple casts. Silicone is far more durable and allows the opportunity for multiple casts in a wide variety of materials. Silicone is a two part material and we added a bit of color too, blue for the Doktor, red for me. Before we applied the first layer, the mixed silcone went into a vacuum that sucked out any air bubbles that would create pinholes in the cast. Then we poured on the first layer.

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The first coat of silicone looked particularly cool over the plaster faces.

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After the third layer of silicone and the hard plaster “mother” mold we made around it cured, we demolded our faces.

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You might ask what a girl would do with a plaster cast of her face. The best date I had last year with the Good Doktor was to Theatre Bizarre. Though we were adequately costumed, we want to up our game for this year. A plaster cast of our faces will allow us to make form fitting masks and prosthetics that fit far better than any off the shelf false face. StudioFX101 offers sculpting sessions for just this kind of custom creature-making.

My plaster face sits on my dining room table, a memento of an unforgettable date, and every time I walk past it, I imagine the fantastic, personalized mask I’ll make using it. And sometimes, I think of the fun I’ll have with the Good Doktor this year at Theatre Bizarre and at numerous conventions where cosplay is encouraged. The VERY best dates are the ones that lead to MORE remarkable dates.

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