Sculpting the Body
Sculpting the body is an incredibly complex process. It takes a lot of planning and preparation even before we can introduce the clay. The first stage is to build a frame, well a sort of skeleton if you like and we call that the armature. To do this we select 12 key photos of the celebrity in their pose taken from different angles around the body. We then mark key points throughout the body with dots - elbows and shoulders, knees and ankles for example. We then join the dots together and the lines that we have drawn become the basic skeleton structure and our guide to build the armature.
The armature is made from a variety of materials and is supported by an iron scaffolding frame. The legs are made from strong metal poles and fixed into position, whilst the arms are made from flexible aluminium and so remain movable throughout the sculpting process. Usually this process takes one week.
Once the armature is complete we pack it with chicken wire and newspaper. At this point we are ready to start placing clay onto the armature to build up the body shapes. Three weeks later, approximately 12-14 bags of clay (each bag weighs 12.5kg!) and a lot of hard and detailed work the body is finished and ready to be moulded. Women usually need less clay whilst men usually need more and it really does depend on the size of the celebrity to how much clay we use. I think the most clay we’ve ever used for one figure was over 20 bags!
Some body shapes are easier to sculpt than others. I enjoy sculpting both male and female bodies. However, the best are those with the most flesh showing as we can really focus on sculpting the detail of the body, like sculpting six packs. I find sculpting seated figures the most difficult; when they’re seated it is very tricky to see how parts of the body are shaped when touching the chair. Wheelchairs are especially awkward as a lot of the body is hidden and tightly enclosed within. I do enjoy the challenge of having to incorporate props; we’ve had many different props in the past such as footballs, tennis rackets, cigarettes, microphones and awards.
There have been some very interesting requests for us to alter parts of the body. The most common has to be for bigger biceps and more toned bodies. We like to please the celebrity so we always portray them at their very best (even if that does mean we’re a little generous at times)!
But there is one part of the body that we never sculpt…….…the hands!
Join us next week to find out how we do it!