While all Moore’s pre-war sculptures had their genesis in drawings and notebook pages, those from later dates were made first in terracotta or plaster in a size that was easy to hold and view from all angles. Moore particularly liked plaster, admiring its flexibility and explaining that it was ‘ . . . an important material for sculptors. Good quality plaster mixed with water sets to the hardness of a soft stone. I use plaster for my maquettes in preference to clay because I can both build it up and cut it down. It is easily worked, while clay hardens and dries, so that it cannot be added to.’ These small sculptures served as the first model in the process of enlargement, and many were also cast in bronze editions.
Often Moore would apply plaster or plasticine on to a found object such as a flint or bone, or produce a plaster cast directly from the object itself. One example of this can be seen on the stand in the centre of the table. Notice the small plaster maquette with the bone beside it. This bone was the basis for Mother and Child: Hood 1983 (LH 851) in travertine marble, currently on loan from the Foundation to St Paul’s Cathedral, London.
The plasters were worked with various tools such as files and cheese graters to provide a textured surface, and sometimes coloured with walnut crystals to create a warm bone-like tint, recalling many of the found objects. The green deposits on the plasters result from shellac coatings used during the casting process, or from bronze dust settling on them while at the foundry. Moore admired this effect and sometimes imitated it with a watercolour wash.