When her father died last year, Tracy Cooksey nourished one big regret.
“All I could think was I’m never going to see his hands again,” she said. “I would have paid anything to have a cast of his hand and mine.”
Cooksey is offering others the chance to preserve those kinds of memories. In February, she opened Generations Lifecasting, which produces life-size casts of hands, feet, heads and torsos.
“We cast everything from pregnant bellies to newborn baby feet,” she said.
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Cooksey said she spent months teaching herself the casting process, which she said is a lot harder than advertisements for do-it-yourself casting kits suggest.
“I watched a lot of videos online,” she said. “I bought the stuff and practiced and said a lot of bad words and threw stuff in the trash.”
Through the internet, she eventually connected with a longtime caster in Oregon “who was a godsend to me” in providing advice.
Cooksey said she uses a material called alginate to make molds. It starts as a liquid, then sets into a pliable substance in about six to eight minutes.
After being peeled off a body part, the mold is filled with gypsum concrete, which can be painted if the customer desires.
Cooksey said the alginate allows pores, veins and every other detail of a body part to be captured, making for realistic casts. Before being filled, the molds are cleaned and can be repaired if, for instance, a subject moves during the process.
“That happens with little kids a lot,” she said. “There are a lot of tricks of the trade you learn by trial and error.”
Cooksey warned that claustrophobes should probably not sit for a face casting.
“You have to put straws in your nose so you can breathe while we’ve got the stuff on your face.”
Cooksey also offers group and individual classes in making molds at the business, which is in a former jewelry shop near Lincoln and Rock Road.
“People can cast anything they want to cast,” she said. “Flowers out of their yard, Hot Wheels cars, a fairy princess for their granddaughter or daughter.”
Cooksey thinks she’s the only commercial maker of casts in the region.
“I get calls from Oklahoma wanting to have it done. And from Arkansas,” she said. “There’s nobody down there doing it either.”
“Multigenerational pours” that feature the hands of a grandparent, parent and child are popular, she said. She also make molds off-site, visiting care homes to make casts of Alzheimer’s patients for their families.
Recently, she said, an elderly woman brought her reluctant husband to the business to make casts of their hands to celebrate their 64th anniversary.
“He was a grumbly old fart the whole time we worked with him,” Cooksey said.
A few days later, the woman suffered a stroke from which she is not expected to recover, Cooksey said.
“When we placed that sculpture in his hands, he cried.”
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Address: 929 S. Rock Road
Owner: Tracy Cooksey