Mister Rogers and the Quiet Joys of Brotherhood

A Wonderful Day in the Neighborhood

I’ve made a couple of small objects in resin inspired by Mr. Rogers’ well-known episode in which, on a hot summer day, he invited Officer Clemmons to share his foot bath.  This, in 1969, was at a time of controversy over the racial integration of public swimming pools, when many white people couldn’t deal with the idea of sharing their public pools with black people.  Fred Rogers was showing where he stood on the matter, with imagination, compassion, and humor, using his little backyard foot bath as an ingenious symbol for the big swimming pools, sharing it with his friend, the black police officer.  They bathed their feet together in a kiddie pool of the sort that their small viewers were most likely familiar with, just big enough for two toddlers.  

When they were done, Mister Rogers offered his own towel to Clemmons to dry his feet, helping him as well. (This scene that reminded me of the many paintings of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, a gesture not only of love but of equality.)  Then Rogers dried his own feet with the same towel - a breaking of a racial barrier, and not overlooked by many.  Then Officer Clemmons, while putting his socks and boots back on, sang a verse of a song in an operatic style with his beautiful tenor voice.  (Clemmons was played for many years by François Clemmons, a talented and trained singer with experience in opera and gospel.)  This “bit” was done other times, with small variations.  In one, Officer Clemmons sang majestically ”Thank you for your refreshments!”, to which Mister Rogers responded singing operatically ”You’re welcome!“  In another, when both he and Rogers were a bit older, Clemmons sang ”There Are Many Ways to Say I Love You.”  

I was way too old for Mr. Rogers by the time he started his TV program, but of course I heard about him.  This work is dedicated to Fred Rogers and François Scarborough Clemmons for the very important work they did.

The resin piece shown here is the culmination of a series of small works using the idea of the fountain or the bathing pool or the bath tub.  The resin itself is clear, untinted - the blue color is achieved by lining the mold with pale blue pigment made by crushing artist’s pastel down to a fine powder.  It gives an effect similar to that of the typical swimming pool:  the water is perfectly transparent, but it picks up the color from the azure painted on the sides of the pool.  Since I’d only recently begun to work with resin, I wanted to start small to see how things would work out, especially the method of lining the mold with pigment.  (Some technical notes are below.)

Since doing these pieces I’e made quite a few other works in resin, which I will feature in the main part of my website, or in another blog article.  But here I want to concentrate on these few items.  First and smallest is a piece with only a dove positioned in the resin, as if just alighting in the water from flight.  Then, slightly larger, a piece that represents my brother and me (we are twins) in the bath with a tiny red duck.  (I’ve used the duck in a scanned image you can see elsewhere on this website.)  I used two tiny plastic baby dolls that I’ve had around for many years.like the duck.  I happened to have twelve more besides, six white babies, and six black babies.  By this time I had the idea of doing the baby-swimming-pool, thinking of the Mister Rogers episode, but I wasn’t sure how to apportion them.  All twelve in one piece seemed too many - for the circular arrangement I had in mind it would have meant too large a group.  So I used six by themselves in a bath or pool, and the other six in a slightly larger bath, with another dove in their midst.  I made as well a simple piece with a baby girl doll (at a slightly larger scale than the other baby dolls) by herself in a pool of water.

The piece above was the penultimate one before the final, definitive one with the six babies and the dove.  Since then I have kept an eye on the figures available in toy stores.  I might have bought a few plastic soldiers except that I didn’t want the tanks and jeeps and helicopters that came in the package.  (Once I was looking for a simple plastic water pistol, and checked out the Torino store Ars Ludica - a great name, Latin for “the playful art” - and I was dismayed to find that nearly everything for sale comes in a big box.)  I have so far made one piece using tiny jet fighters, black and gray, salvaged long ago from a model aircraft carrier that I made in my youth, and I plan to do a few more.  They are swimming in the resin, their tail fins sticking up like shark fins.  I suppose I will call it ”Dogfight”.  The next one will be similar, but I will add red coloring to the resin, and call it ”Feeding Frenzy”.

The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood” is the title of a poem and a song by the extraordinary Richard Fariña.  Here’s a link to Mimi Baez Fariña’s recording of the song, which was also recorded by Sandy Denny.  The tune is adopted from My Lagan Love, an old Irish air.


Technical notes:  There are concentrated colorants made to be used with resin.  One can use food coloring, but I avoid this, as food colorings are unstable and will fade in time.  One can also mix a small quantity of artist’s acrylic paint - without any water added, as water interferes with the setting of the material - to the resin.  This works well, as acrylic polymers are chemical cousins to resin.  For those unacquainted with resin, it’s somewhat like two-part epoxy glue:  you mix equal quantities, apply the glue, and make your repair quickly, as typically the epoxy starts to set after about five minutes.  Epoxy resins also consist of two parts, one of which is the hardener.  Some types are mixed 1:1; the kind I use is mixed 3 parts resin to 2 parts hardener, or 60%:40%.  A typical batch for me will be 60 grams of resin and 40 grams of hardener.  (A sufficiently precise scale is indispensable - perhaps more precise than what is adequate for the kitchen.  My digital scale is accurate to 0.01 grams, more than good enough.  It was much less expensive than I had expected - about €20.)  You must then stir very thoroughly for a few minutes, after which you have about two hours to work.  The mixtures starts out like syrup, then slowly thickens to the consistency of honey.  After two hours or so it gets quite thick, and is no longer pourable - only brushable.  Brushes and other implements must be thoroughly cleaned with acetone (or the more costly nail polish remover) before the resin sets (with plenty of air circulating, and no open flames - acetone is extremely flammable).  The resin becomes hard to the touch after three to five more hours.  It continues to cure for a few days, although this is not apparent to the eye. 

Many of the pieces I make are done with multiple layers.  For example, the pieces shown above were usually done with a base layer about 2mm thick, after which the dolls were applied with a few drops of resin on their bottoms and feet and allowed to dry in place.  (The dolls could not simply be immersed in fresh resin as they are very light and would float.)  Then I added another layer or two of resin to increase the depth.  When that was dry, I fixed the dove or duck in place with a few drops on their bottoms and let the resin harden.  Finally, because I wanted the birds to appear to float on the surface of the water, I added one more thin layer to bring up the level slightly.   

The molds are made with a mixture of clear acetic silicone and ordinary flour or cornstarch, with a few drops of vegetable oil.  This is kneaded to the consistency of bread dough, then applied around the back and sides of the object which will define the form of the resin piece to be made - or the object can be impressed into the mass of material.  Alternatively, a mold can be made with pure silicone:  it is squirted into a bath of water mixed with plenty of dishwashing liquid, then worked into a ball or a mass (thus removing the excess water) and then applied to the “master” form.  (The water helps start to cure the silicone.)  With either method, the mold starts to get hard after a few hours.  Both are messy procedures.  Silicone may irritate the skin, so gloves are recommended.  These materials are good for objects in resin, but note that they are not food-safe!  If you wish to make molds for sweets or other edibles, there are methods involving gelatine and glycerine.  The molds are reusable and recyclable.  I found an excellent tutorial on the subject by Chidex, a woman with a very charming voice:


I have also had good results using certain types of plastic food containers as molds - they usually allow an easy release of the piece when done.  It’s difficult sometimes, though, to find containers with suitable flat bottoms, hopefully without the makings pressed into them such as for weight and type of plastic.  Besides these, I have used photographic sheet film to make molds:  as I used to take photographs with a view camera and black-and-white 4”x5” sheet film, and have a quantity of sheets left over, I have constructed little boxes or trays with the film.  They leave a glassy-smooth surface on the resin.  The disadvantage is that it’s usually impossible to remove the piece without ruining the mold.  I should still try, applying a layer of vegetable oil (perhaps sprayed) to the film, or by spraying a mold release compound before pouring the resin.

Allen Schill, January 2023

P.S.:  I’m happy to report that ”The Neighborhood Archive - All Things Mister Rogers” has published a photo of my ”A Wonderful Day in the Neighborhood”, a link to this blog page, and a very kind comment in their section devoted to Fan Art.  For this I am very grateful.  I encourage all my readers to have a good look - you will find there many other fine artworks inspired by Mister Rogers.  Fred Rogers was a televangelist in the truest sense of the term.  He was a mahatma (a great soul).


A.S., March 2023

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