The Art of Bellycasting
How many mamas out there find themselves missing their baby bellies from time to time? I know that I am one of them. Once a month or so I slide my belly cast from my pregnancy under my shirt, and look in the mirror, amazed that my body once had such a dramatic form. I’m continuously so in awe of our body’s ability to flow so fluidly from the shape of multiple humans back into one.
It is so special to me to have preserved a moment in time when my daughter and I shared a body! It’s incredible watching her grow to the point I can hardly imagine she was once small enough to fit inside of me, and yet there lies the belly cast preserving the moment when was in fact that tiny.
I hold such a passion and awe for the human body, both male and female, in all shapes and sizes, and it is a reason I have found a passion outside of birthwork in creating full-size body casted sculptures.
Perhaps my favorite of shapes to preserve in sculpture form is that of the pregnant body; it is the time in life in which our bodies change most dramatically. The body’s changes through and after each pregnancy are as unique as each child that is born. You will never be quite the same shape as you are through those stages and phases of pregnancy, and it is certainly a tribute to our strength to embrace these changes, and to honor them by creating a keepsake sculpture of the body which was your baby’s first home.
You don’t need to be an artist to create a belly cast of your own! Just some plaster bandaging, willing, helpful hands, and a willing-ness to get messy and have fun with the process!
Here is a step-by-step guide to creating your own belly cast:
- 2-3 rolls of plaster bandages. (4″-6″ width x 15 feet or so)—-here is a link to some that works great!
- Vaseline, olive, or coconut oil
- Warm water
- Drop cloth
- Willing & helpful friend(s) or partner!
- Choose a warm area where you want to do the casting, and lay down a drop cloth or towels. For positioning, find a position in which you can be comfortable staying still for 30 minutes or so. (As comfortable as you can be, heavily pregnant, that is.) This can be in a chair or on the ground, just be sure to drape the chair in a drop cloth as well!
- You can choose to be naked or wear some undies you don’t care about when doing the cast, just be sure whatever you and your helper are wearing is okay to get very messy! The plaster does wash out, but there’s no harm in wearing clothes you don’t care about much.
- Cut the plaster bandage rolls into strips between 4 to 7 inches, (having strips of various lengths to choose from while casting helps!)
- Fill a bowl or baking dish with warm water and place on the drop cloth near the plaster strips.
- Rub Vaseline or coconut or olive oil generously over all the areas where you will be casting. This prevents the plaster from adhering to any little hairs and pulling on them when you remove the finished cast.
- Get into a comfortable position and let the casting begin! (The rest of the instructions are for the helper you’ve chosen!)
- One by one, choose a strip of plaster and dip in quickly into the warm water. Don’t let it soak, a quick dip is all you need, and more than a second in the water will make the material much harder to work with!
- Lay the wet strips onto the areas to be casted. It doesn’t particularly matter where you start, but try to work out from the place that you start, laying strips slightly over the previous one. The plaster begins to dry and harden on the skin very quickly, and once it is dried will not adhere as well to freshly wet plaster.
- You want all areas that are casted to have at least 3 layers of plaster strips so that it is strong enough to hold shape once removed from the body. Less than 3 layers may make the cast flimsy and more susceptible to damage.
- As you work, it will likely become an intuitive process of smoothing as you go! When freshly wet, the plaster bandages are very easy to shape, and a gentle rub with your fingers will help to smooth out any wrinkles that may happen.
- Gently remind the person you are casting to stay still! It’s not always comfy to stay still for 30+ minutes, but even small movements can cause a warping in the form of the cast.
- Get messy, and have fun!!
- Once you feel you have enough layers, and have gone over the cast smoothing out the wrinkles, it’s likely it will already start to be separating from the body as it hardens. You shouldn’t have to pry the casting off. As it starts to feel a little harder, slight movements of the person in the cast will do the separating. When it feels ready to come off, gently lift it off and place it somewhere warm to dry, in a way that won’t warp the shape due to where the weight lies.
Allow at least 24 hours to dry completely, and at this point it’s ready for decoration & display!
You may choose to leave it as-is, paint it as is, or for those who want to go the extra mile and make it smooth as skin, pick up some wallboard joint compound which you can smooth onto the cast, sanding down each layer once it is dried until all the little bumps and ridges are gone and you’re left with a smooth-as-skin finish, ready to be painted or decorated!
You could display it on a shelf, tuck it away in a closet, or drill a couple holes in the top in order to hang it on a wall. Whatever you choose to do with it, it will surely be a fond way to look back on and remember your pregnancy!
If you are located in the Portland, Oregon area and would like to cut the DIY out of the process and have it done by someone with experience, feel free to reach out about having a belly cast done by me starting at $35!
Thanks for reading, and happy casting!