The real deal. Check out that awesome stache!
So, sometimes I like to take a break from my job of making fake food to spend a little bit of down time making fake food. I also like to tout new, exciting things that are happening in my neighborhood- especially new foody propsy things! A few weeks ago, some good friends, my husband, and I toured a new meat curing facility in our neighborhood. Bolzano Artisan Meats is the first dry curing facility in Wisconsin, and is owned by a charming couple who are clearly passionate about their product and their process. After touring their facility, and sampling several of their delicious products, we got to talking. While we enjoyed our lesson on the history and process of meat curing, we wanted more, we wanted visual aids! So, we mentioned this to the Bolzano Meatsters, and they mentioned to us how they'd been dreaming of a display prosciutto, and we mentioned to them that Jen and I made fake stuff for a living, and somehow an idea was born. We decided to create a fake prociutto, modeled off of Bolzano's speck prosciutto. I would do the sculpting, and Jen would do the painting, as Jen is a far better painter than I. So, step one is completed, I have carved the prosciutto, and I am handing it off to Jen today. Here is the process thusfar:
Materials: Insulation Foam, Green Glue, Dowel, Jaxsan, Cheesecloth
Step 1) Research Photos
I was lucky enough to get some in person research for this one. Scott (see above photo) was kind enough to allow me to come in and photograph one of his prosciutto from every angle. I also took measurements on the prosciutto, noting them on a quick sketch in my notebook. (Note the gloves, beard net, hat, and white jacket. These guys are serious about sanitation.)
Step 2) The Foam Blank
This project, like so many, is carved from pink insulation foam, which is available at most home improvement stores. Pink foam, like blue foam, is easy to carve with a band saw, hand saw, utility knife, etc, and can be sanded smooth when the carving is done. It is lightweight and durable, and is an invaluable theater material. If you've seen a play in America, there is an 84% chance that you've seen insulation foam carved into something else. (Ok, I made that statistic up.) I decided to place a dowel through this piece as well, to give the thin part of the leg some extra stability. I layered the foam in the usual way, sticking the layers together with green glue, having first cut a v shaped trough for the dowel. Once the layers were together, I trimmed the sides on the block so that the blank was nice and square, and traced the basic shape of the prosciutto onto the faces of the blank.
Step 3) Carving the Shape
When cutting, it's important to remember this: It is always easier to remove more later than to add material back on, so err on the side of caution. Because I squared off my blank, I was able to do most of my cuts on two planes. What I mean is this, I carefully cut away the excess from the ham shape. Then, I taped the excess foam back onto the shape, as if it hadn't been cut away. I then rolled the blank over 90 degrees, and cut the profile shape of the ham. When I removed all of the excess, I had a basic shape cut into all four sides of the ham.
Ta-da!Once I had the rough shape cut into the ham, I used the research images to lay out the details. I used my trusty Olfa knife, a hand saw, a Japanese saw, and course sandpaper to whittle down to the correct shape, before smoothing it all with some medium grit sandpaper.
Step 4) Coating and Texturing
This coating was a tough one. I was hoping to try out some casting latex, but none was available. I considered flex glue, but decided that it wouldn't give a tough enough skin. I finally went with my old stand by, Jaxsan. For the bottom of the prosciutto, or the top of the leg, whichever you prefer, I used cheesecloth covered in Jaxsan to give a striated look. I also used a bit of cheesecloth up over the hoof to give the little toes a bit more stability. Once I had the Jaxsan on, I used a spray bottle of water to wet down the Jaxsan, and smooth it out more. Then, I hung the whole thing to dry overnight.
For the most part, the project went really well. If/when I make another, I'm interested to play around with new coatings, and also to get more detail on the hoof. Once I have photos of the painted item, I will post them! Also, if you like the fake ham, you should definitely try out some of the lovingly crafted Bolzano products, available in Milwaukee, and at their online store.