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Thread: Fosshape - an interesting material being used for Mannequin fabrication

  1. #1
    PACCIN Advisory Committee Member T. Ashley McGrew's Avatar
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    Feb 2010
    San Francisco, CA

    Fosshape - an interesting material being used for Mannequin fabrication

    I've been curious (as have a bunch of folks) about this material for a while now and I am really intrigued by these images provided by Jamie Hascall - Chief Preparator and mountmaker at Museums of New Mexico Santa Fe.

    Jamie Hascall - F&#111.jpg

    From the Mountmakers Group comes a description of what the stuff is and how it works courtesy of
    Megan J. Emery - Associate Conservator at the Cincinatti Art Museum.
    In response a prompt from Shelly Uhlir at the Smithsonians National Museum of the American Indian Megan responds:

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    Hi Shelly,

    You are correct, we ran several Oddy tests on FOSSHAPE(tm), reviewed the MSDS information and carried out lengthy conversations with the manufacturer. Overall the material passed our Oddy test, however since Oddy tests can be objective and I always ere on the side of caution I recommend a barrier layer be used for long term display or storage. FOSSHAPE(tm) is a proprietary 100% polyester polymer blend, with no additives or post treatments. Each individual fiber is composed of two polyesters each with a different melting point: the outer shell of the fiber has a considerably lower melting point than the core. The fibers are then mechanically entangled to form the fabric. When FOSSHAPE(tm) is introduced to a heat source the outer core of the fibers begins to soften/melt causing the fibers to contract and become rigid upon cooling.

    Hope this is helpful,

    Megan J. Emery

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    A big Thank You to Jamie, Megan and Shelly for sharing the wealth and to the Mountmakers Forum creating a venue for mountmakers to converse.
    T. Ashley McGrew
    PACCIN Advisory Committee member

  2. #2

    Thanks for getting this on the Forum. I've just started working on another four mannequins for the exhibit we're currently working on and am always looking for suggestions.

    As folks will see by the pictures I posted on my Flickr album, the Fosshape forms a hollow shell that is not truly rigid. from there a structure must be made and installed inside to support the actual weight of the garment and to give an interface for the support post. I've been carving a shoulder form out of dense Ethafoam, but the fitting of this is tricky and I haven't yet been satisfied with the conformity of my carved shoulder to the Fosshape shell. My real wish is for a pourable foam like basic two part urethane, but at least relatively archival. Any thoughts?


  3. #3
    We recently made a number of forms in this manner, with great results. For healing the back seam we decided to lace it up with cotton twill, which allowed easier insertion of the structural parts. In addition, our pattern was made with darts to allow a nice, form fitting piece that eliminated a lot of the bunching at critical points like the shoulders. Our structure was built with birch plywood and ethafoam, so that we could attach metal parts that matched existing stands. Since some mannequins were for pants, we stubbed out legs on a few units and mounted to one side. Very happy with the results, and grateful to Marla Miles at Cincinnati for providing guidance through the process! I'll post more pics if there's interest. Plus, I've worked out some killer articulated legs that I'd be happy to share!

    Kate legs 023..jpgKate legs 024..jpg

  4. #4
    I'd love to see some pictures of your form and of the legs you mentioned, as well any details of your process. We will be needing arms and I wonder if your leg design might be adaptable to that usage. The whole project looks beautifully thought out and executed. We were definitely looking at pushing the limits of fast and cheap as that's what the State budget commands us to do. I'm starting four more next week and will trying to be standardizing techniques. I'll keep everyone posted on the process.


  5. #5
    The form for shaping the Fosshape was a solid block of ethafoam carved to the dimensions we needed, so it looks pretty much like what you see. The mounting form was carved ethafoam glued to plywood and shaped - I did not use anything above the waistline, and the material is holding its form very well without it, even with fairly heavy garments. The mount hardware, which I had fabbed at a local shop, is a piece of 3/4 EMT welded to a 3 x 3 inch plate with a 1/4-20 nut welded near the bottom for the height setting screw. This slides over the pole of our existing dress form mounts. I'll take some photos of the pattern we used to cut the fabric with darts when I get a chance.

    Here are some photos of the articulated legs. The keys were finding a locking rotating hinge (which was way more difficult than I thought it would be) and devising a hip joint that would come close to human mobility and be lockable. This is far from perfect, but I feel it's up to the task for what we needed. The hinges (Varilock hinges from Adjustable Locking Technologies - are a little wobbly at the ankle once all the leverage is applied, which I resolved with a turnbuckle. The nice part is that they adjust via a locking plate that can be triggered while the form is dressed, so positioning is easy. My "hip" joint is off-the-shelf hardware including an aluminum lamp finial ball, a 1/4-20 aluminum stud, a cold formed aluminum mounting plate at the top of the "femur" with a rivet nut, and a large diameter steel washer. The rotation is checked by two set screws accessed through the top of the form. It's not the most elegant form naked, but once it's padded out with ethafoam and batting it's pretty convincing. I'm still looking for acrylic square tubing to fit the varilock hinges, but it's an odd size (1-1/4 I.D., 1/16th thick) and Outwater and Piedmont don't stock it. I'm open to suggestions for improving this design, so any one who wants please feel free to chime in! Cheers! --Jim

    Kate legs 001..jpgKate legs 012..jpgKate legs 017..jpgKate legs 013..jpgKate legs 011..jpg

  6. #6
    Wow John, Those are really amazing. Thanks for the link to A.L.T. and the photos of the hip joint. It's given me a whole now group of ideas. Did you use heads on any of these forms? if so, did you have any sort of support system for them?

    I'm starting my next 4 mannequins today and would love to see the patterning for the darts if you have a chance to post it.

    Best regards,

  7. #7
    Jim, these Varilock hinges look very cool! I can't wait to try them out! I am particularly interested in the "adjustable while dressed" aspect. Does that work well? Would aluminum square tubing work for your leg inserts? McMaster-Carr has a 1-1/4" square product (#88875K36) that might be an option? Kinda pricey though... Why not use the round end version? Love the hip joints too - have they turned out to be fairly easy to adjust when the forms are dressed?

    Jim and Jamie, thanks for sharing your experiments. Can't wait to see the final results! If I have any successes (or interesting failures) here, I'll send on as well.

    Best, Shelly

  8. #8
    Er, that's Jim, Jamie ;-) This particular batch was made strictly to mount Kate Hepburn's famous khakis (we have like 30 pair), so no bodies or heads were necessary. On the Fosshape forms we also went headless, since it would be too complicated to make a Hepburn likeness, and using a generic head seemed wrong. My plan for future work is to make a head that mounts to a "dickie" like form that slips onto the fosshape and can be pinned in place.

    Shelly, they work great! There's a lock detent every 10 degrees, and they'll go about 270 degrees total. You simply press the round side plate, adjust angle, and release. Unless you're working with shattered silk there's no worry about stress to the garment. I did get some aluminum, but it's just a bit too tight in the interior dimension, plus it's heavier than poplar. For some reason the guy at ALT wouldn't tell me what these were made for so I could ask about the appropriate material - trade secret, I suppose.

    I didn't use the round hinges because they cost about 10 times as much!! These were about $18/each, the milled aircraft aluminum version are around $200. Too bad, 'cause they are slick!

    The hips are somewhat complicated, and I need to reimagine them a little. I have two set screws that are accessible from the top of the form (an ethafoam cap slips out for access). You move the leg into position then tighten down the sets with a long allen key. If you don't get it tight enough the leg can drift out of position over time. It's an amazing amount of leverage on the free leg, especially if it's extended out in space very far!

    I'm looking forward to seeing and hearing about everyone's experiments!


  9. #9
    I am in the process of figuring out how I want to make mannequins for my upcoming MFA thesis exhibition and was recently told about Fosshape. It seems like it might be a good match for what I want to do. I've only started researching it and have noticed it comes in two different thickness. Has anyone made any forms with the Fosshape 300? If so, how is it? I am planning on using these forms to display jewelry, which are large, but also pretty light weight. The mannequins will also be similar to the torsos posted on this thread. Any suggestions or ideas would greatly be appreciated. Fosshape seems to be a more economical option than buying multiple mannequins at this time.

  10. #10
    Sorry about that Jim...

    I'm just getting ready to shrink my next body form and I'll try to post some shots of this group. I really like the look of the no-neck style of your mannequins. We've been doing a stub neck to support collars and necklaces and adding a head on top. Your dickey idea is interesting and I'd love to see where it goes. I'm planning a "T" of steel tubing inside with a stub projecting up to accept a post on a head. We have some very heavy garments and headpices coming so I'm looking for some real strength. Working out the shoulder is taking some thought but I think I've got an interesting design.

    K., I'd recommend you use the Fosshape 600 as the 300 is really pretty flimsy. That said, the cost is half and you can double thicknesses. I just found that the 600 worked better for full mannequins and I can't afford the extra time to piece things together.


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