William Francis Hubbard III pinched the brown rubber mold covering the plaster cast of a woman holding a torch above her head. Then he carefully pried up a side to see if it was loose.
"This is scary. I might break it if I pinch it too hard."
His teacher, William Adair, watched closely.
The two-foot casting, Adair said moments later, was "perfect."
It was all about being patient and the importance of doing things right.
"I've learned not to hurry and take my time so it comes out all right," Hubbard said. "We've already got a lot of busted ones."
The successful casting marked a turning point for Hubbard and three other Shaw Junior High School friends in a summer spent learning an art: making plaster reproductions and then gilding them with metal leaf. They were ready to go into business producing two designs taken from the fanciful ticket booth of the old Lincoln Theatre at 1215 U St. NW.
The summer workshop, created to encourage youths to consider careers in the arts, is a joint project of the Lincoln Theatre Foundation, which is restoring the old movie palace; Gold Leaf Studio owner Adair, who volunteered his time; and the National Building Museum, which donated classroom space.
The youths are volunteers who will share $5 for each salable piece of artwork.
Adair said the plan is to produce castings, some left white and others covered in gold leaf, for the foundation to sell as part of its fund-raising efforts.
On Friday, Hubbard, twin brothers Mark and Markeith Washington, and Holly Thomson, all 13, huddled around Adair as he repeated a demonstration of mixing the plaster, pouring it into the mold and then "uncorking" it.
"Now, remember, we don't whip it into a froth," he said. "It is supposed to look like pancake batter."
Hubbard and Thomson took turns sweeping a ruler across the back of the mold to flatten the surface.
Mark Washington inserted a hook into the hardening plaster. His brother, Markeith, then cut a slot above the hook so the finished piece would hang flat against a wall.
Hubbard is the designated signer. He carefully scratched, "Lincoln Theatre Foundation, July '90" on the back.
"That feels good," he said. "When I write that, it says who did it."
When it was pointed out that his name doesn't appear on the work, Hubbard said, "It says Lincoln Theatre Foundation, and that's us."
For Mark Washington, "the best part is taking it out of the mold. It's like I accomplished something. It's like getting an A on a report card. It makes me feel proud."
Markeith Washington said he thinks making the plaster is the most fun. "I like the mixing part because I can put my hands in and stir."
Thomson said gluing the thin metal leaves onto the statue was what she enjoyed. "I like to make it look pretty," she said.
There are plans for the $55 earned on Friday, one-fourth going to each child.
Thomson will buy her mother a present. Hubbard is planning on a trip to Kings Dominion. Mark Washington has picked out a pet hamster. And Markeith Washington will help an aunt get her car fixed.