how i made the decorative [toast] plates.

At some point while working on the toast collection, I found some hilarious melamine plates that were molded to look like paper plates. I bought a bunch, knowing that I would someday figure out how to include them in the project.

Eventually I had the idea to slap a piece of fake toast to the center, like a cheap paper plate with freshly toasted bread. In the end, I love how these turned out. I love the feeling of how this mundane experience (a piece of toast on a cheap paper plate) is highlighted into focus and suspended forever in time. I think it would be so great to walk into a house and see a “decorative [toast] plate” just hanging on the wall.

If you’re curious, here’s how I made them…

The toast itself is made from regular cellulose sponge. I had been experimenting with this material for a while after realizing that the texture of sponge and bread were nearly identical. I bought sheets of flat, compressed cellulose sponge and hand-cut dozens of toast-shaped sponges. Some of these went into a bread bag for a separate piece in this collection (label. bakeries, inc.). For these pieces, I molded and painted them to look much more realistic.

This process started with molding the crust. After cutting out the sponges, the edges are just natural sponge material that obviously doesn’t look like crust. To make it more realistic, I sculpted some wood filler around the edges (which, I found after trial and error, works amazingly well) and allowed to dry. Then I sanded just a bit to get the natural texture of a rough crust.

With that dry, I painted about four layers of heavily-glazed acrylic onto the surface, to build up the crust texture. It started with very light brown and went all the way to some darkened bits to give it a realistic look:

Painting the surface of the bread to look toasted took quite a bit of experimentation. I started by toasting many slices of real bread and observing how they changed as they burned. The interesting thing is that they burn from the outside in, of course, so the darkest spots are on the very tips of the texture, with the lighter parts deeper down. This is exactly opposite of how you would typically paint a surface, with shadows deeper down and highlights on the surface. They also burn far more orangish-red than I would have expected (due to the Maillard reaction).

Getting this right took about five layers, starting with the natural bread color across the whole surface, getting progressively darker brown with more red/orange on the tips and towards the center.

The most tedious part of this process is seen below. As I built up layers, it was hard to hit all the overhanging surfaces inside the pockets of the texture. If you were to look from a steep angle (below) you could see all the light unnatural surfaces inside. I had to hold the slices at an angle and rotate, stopping at every angle to fill in all those pockets with a medium brown color. There seemed to be hundreds in each slice:

The last thing to do was simply to use a strong glue to secure them to the “paper” melamine plates. There are six of these in total:

If you’re wondering, this was the same technique I used to make the “grilled (cashew) cheese sandwich.” The toast and plates were made exactly as above, but I also drilled holes through the middle of each slice (except the front one) and attached them to the plate with a wooden dowel that is screwed into the back of the plate for added stability.

I don’t have step by step photos of this, but it was actually the most intricate and time-consuming piece in the entire toast collection. After making six more slices and attaching them, making the gooey cheese took days. I used craft glue mixed with varying shades of yellow acrylic paint and drizzled it layer by layer by layer between each slice, allowing to dry and continuing over several days until the drips were complete, with realistic texture and color.

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