[Professional Chef Hat] The following discussion assumes that these sugar pieces ARE NOT for food consumption. Sugar subtleties which need to be food safe, are made with modern, commercial, professional, non toxic, pastry products. ANYTHING that is going on a table where food is going to be served should be food grade/safe in case someone might eat it. Being “period” is never a substitute for making people sick. [/chef hat]
I think I’ve narrowed down the supplies that I’d like to experiment with. You might not expect to look towards the art community for help in creating period sugar subtleties. However most of these sculptures were not designed by cooks, they were created by artisans. It is probable that the techniques used for sizing, painting and sealing works of art, would be very beneficial towards sealing armatures and sugar in general. I know that I will be creating a bunch of little sample pieces of armatures. It is possible that I will do a armature sculpture with different elements in the various techniques and materials. Maybe a happy, fluffy frankin-bunny.
In selecting the types of sizes, paints and varnishes I want to use, I looked to the inherent nature of the bases/sugar being tested. I will need to seal/prime 99% of the underlying structures and sugar prior to any final painting.
- Sugar: very porous, should be sealed, potential to crack, potential to “rehydrate”
- Paper, wood, and other plant based materials: absorbs water/moisture, will warp if too wet
- Plaster- must be both cured and sealed, very porous
The paper mache and pasteboard Will need to be sized or the paper will leech the liquid out of the sugar too fast. It can also pull moisture from the environment. This can cause the sugar to crack and the armature to warp. Both of these things would be catastrophic to the overall piece. The plan is to size the paper materials with the starch or gelatin solution (one each) to see which will give the strongest seal. The starch solution will be used to create the paper mache to begin with, so it may not need a secondary sealant. If it does, I will go with the gelatin.
The plaster/fabric wrap will need to be cured, roughed and sealed. This should give the sugar a surface to grip and avoid the leeching problem caused by the porous plaster. I will be sealing this surface with the oil/resin/wax formulas. This would not be a food safe armature.
The wood armature is a little more tricky. Most of these were carved pieces with wire. The wood needs to be sealed. It can be treated the same way as plaster for sculpture and food safe applications.
Once the armatures are sealed, the sugar can be applied. The sugar needs to be sealed as well. Anything recipe having the word water in it will not be used. The most ideal for sealing the sugar are the two wax/resin recipes. Water is the bane of existence for sugar work. Drying too fast, causes the piece to crack. Too much humidity, and your piece that was rock hard will rehydrate and slump. The beeswax, Venice turpentine makes a great surface for applying gilt.
The sugar can then be painted and sealed. I will more than likely be using powdered paints, which will be mixed with the paint formulas. Sealing with a final layer of the beeswax varnish.
I’ve listed the sizes, paint and varnish in order of toxicity.
*Starch solution- starch, water
*Gelatin- leaf gelatin, water
wax/resin- beeswax, Venice turpentine
oil/resin/wax- varnish #7, paraffin, turpentine
*Tempera- egg yolk, water
*Glair- egg whites
Gum- gum tragacanth, water, alcohol
Beeswax- beeswax, turpentine
Beeswax- beeswax, turpentine
Oil/resin- copal lumps, linseed oil
*Some really are food safe modernly when mixed with non-toxic pastry powders (but they really don’t taste good).