Reflections – It’s The End of an Era!

My final model of Edith Kramer.

My Final Major Project has now come to an end, so I would like to take the time to evaluate my making and the model.

Strengths and Weaknesses

I have identified some clear strengths and weaknesses throughout this project. For starters, I believe I have supported my making with thorough research from primary and secondary sources. This included a large amount of preparatory research into the subject, function, and professional practice. This helped me begin making through a more informed manner. I continued researching through secondary sources and experimentation throughout the making process which helped me to achieve a thorough understanding of the materials and confidence working with them. Additionally, establishing benchmarks and consulting industry professionals throughout, helped me to frame my making and final quality of the model within good professional practice.

One of the making stages which I believe has strongly benefited from this approach, was the sculpting stage. It was successful due to my planning beforehand and was improved further due to my conversations with Val Adamson. Moreover, the casting stage tested and established my independence when working with wax – from my research, I worked to create my own mix of tinted wax and a way of casting that achieved the best outcome. I believe that has been a real strength to the outcome, as it helped to establish a clear, good quality base for the painting and dressing stage.

On the other hand, I believe the surface quality of the casts could have been improved further. There were still surface bubbles that I could not eliminate despite my testing and conversations with industry. However, I alleviate this by spending more time on clean-up of the cast than I initially planned in my time plan, which made it better quality.

Additionally, I also believe that my mould of Kramer could also have been more effective. The silicon keys should have been more even and wider in order to help the silicon keep shape inside the plaster jacket better. The plaster jacket should also have been more vertical at the bottom which would have helped to catch the wax while I was layering the inside.

Another strength which I believe has helped me to apply more understanding and craftsmanship within this project, was my exploration of alternate specialist techniques such as photogrammetry. This allowed me to see the model from a different, digital perspective, which helped to frame my wax model towards a clearly defined purpose more effectively. By comparing the 3D printed model to the waxwork, I identified that my use of scale and material clearly fits the narrative of my model which fits within a museum setting. The photogrammetry itself and the 3D print, were also a good quality.

Not all elements of the model were scaled correctly though – Kramer’s final hairstyle was not quite ½ scale, as the braid was thicker than what she would have normally wore. This is because the hair I settled on using after a series of experimentation, was full-scale. Even though I thinned the hair down considerably, the final braid was still too thick, and I could not thin it down any further without compromising on length. However, I do not think this affects the narrative of the model, as I still achieved realism in the sculpt through the inclusion of a braid, which is an idiosyncratic feature of Kramer important to portraying her character.


I made a time plan at the beginning of the project which was dynamic. This meant that I could easily adjust it in order to accommodate issues and additional creative elements. At the beginning of the project, I also planned to leave a week free before the deadline.

I kept myself moving at an efficient, yet suitable, pace as I increased the time I spent on some stages of the project, by decreasing the time I spent on stages that had less effect on the overall quality of the model. For instance, I spent a week more than planned on sculpting of the project as this would have been at the core of the model (the painting is only ever as good as the base!) and the silicon moulding. To accommodate, I adjusted my hair punching to be much faster by punching several hairs at a time in areas where this would not have been visible, and only doing single hair punching on the hairline.

I think it’s important to note that I was planning my FMP during a COVID lockdown in the UK which came into force in December 2020. Due to this, I specifically outlined and organised this project in order to be achievable in a disordered and unpredictable climate that did not guarantee access to the studio and workshop resources. Due to this, instead of planning a Plan B project, I planned a model that could be completed from home with no effect on the final quality and function of the model. Wax was a natural choice for this instead of silicon, as this material can be worked with from home. Additionally, the scale of the model also helped in reaching this goal, while further strengthening the narrative of significance in my model. Lastly, I also planned to finish the majority of the sculpting during the Easter holidays from home, which meant that I could immediately get advice from tutors and professionals at the beginning of the summer term. This meant that I made more time for myself to effectively mould, cast and paint the model.

One stage that I believe proved my efficiency during this project, was towards the end. The day before deadline my final corduroy jacket went missing, which meant I had to redo it on very short notice. Due to my experimentation and understanding of the process and material beforehand, I was able to redo it quickly. I was also able to do this because I left some time free at the end of the project, which I planned at the beginning in the timeplan. Overall, I believe this proves as a clear example of efficient time management that was successful due to my dynamic planning of the project.

Suitability for Intended Purpose

I define the purpose of this model to be for a museum audience, with a representation function that engages the visitor in an open-ended object-subject interaction with a narrative of authenticity and significance.

I believe I have met this purpose with my model. First, the scale of my model, while diminutive in size, encourages closer inspection by being out of the normal. I support this choice with research on the narrative of scale in museum models, specifically investigating the work of Ron Mueck. Through the scale, the model suggests the significance of Edith Kramer, as the visitor is invited to put more effort to look closer.

Secondly, the realism of my sculpting and painting of the model, effectively engages the authentic representational narrative which I investigate through research on Madame Tussaud and meaning of models in museums. Realistic styling, inherently, forces the maker to truthfully sculpt and paint the model. By sculpting by hand and not using the aids of facial reconstruction, Edith Kramer is represented rather than reconstructed, making the hand of the maker visible which is further authentic to the process.

The base further suggests authenticity, as it is minimalistic in shape and components. The wood links back to the core element of wax in the cast due to its rawness, while the pine is an ordinary and reliable material that emphasises practicality and usefulness through its commonality. This links back to the work of Edith Kramer, which praised using everyday art materials. Edith Kramer’s name and information is laser cut into the wood that briefly describes her significance. A clean finish is achieved by a beeswax polish on the wood that also makes the base more nourished and protected. By elongating the base vertically, it further emphasises the significance of Kramer.

Overall, this model fits a museum setting as it is presented on a simple stand that gives the name, birth and death dates, and her occupation for the visitor to consider in their own interaction. The stand is made from wood as some metals can have a negative effect on the quality of wax over time. The model is removable from the stand in case of repairs and conservation. The wax was mixed to be durable. Hair pins are attached into place, so they do not need constant adjustment. The diminutive scale engages with the realistic representation and minimalistic presentation to present an authentic narrative portraying the significance of Edith Kramer to the field of art therapy.


I planned to achieve a certain level of quality by establishing benchmarks early on in the project. These included qualities I wanted to reach during the sculpting, painting, and dressing stages.

I believe my sculpting of Edith Kramer defined and met established standards of complexity (through the realism and attention to anatomy) and quality. I believe the lips in particular show an understanding of muscles underneath the skin and texture on the surface. Two areas that could use improvement in order to take my sculpt to a better quality, would be the eyes and the ears. The eyelids could have been more even in depth and scale, while the ears should have been smoothed more in order to prepare a better base for painting.

My painting of Edith Kramer has also met established standards within the industry. The colours reflect the skin tones and shades visible on the photos I had of Edith Kramer and portray a realistic representation of what she looked like. The colours also follow the anatomy of the face, with reds, greens and blues added to specific places like the undereye. They are blended in smoothly, and add elements of skin tones of the elderly such as small brown spots of discolouration, which further aids the realism of the model.

However, I would like to note that it is this stage that I believe could have been improved the most. The casting changed the surface quality of my sculpt, which means the base for the painting was not as good quality as I first planned. Due to this, the paint became stuck in little crevices so did not layer as well as I planned. I alleviated this by dry brushing the surface with very thin layers of paint, however I could have finished this stage faster and more effectively if the surface quality was improved. Moreover, I do believe I ended up with a little too much paint on the surface, specifically around the eye areas, which affected the translucency of the wax slightly.  

The dressing and presentation stages of the model also meet the appropriate standards of quality. The hair punching and styling is durable and follows the average direction of hair growth on a human. The edges of the hairline were painted slightly to reflect the fragility of elderly hair as it was portrayed in the images of Edith Kramer. The dress making reflects professional practise, as it imitates the clothing she wore at half scale to a good standard. The stitching is even all the way across and does not fray. I can attribute the quality of the dressmaking to my numerous experimentations beforehand. The hair clips in her hair are ½ scale, and so is the imitation of a hair-tie which is holding her braid.

The eyes could have improved the presentation of the model further – they were outsourced and arrived with an exaggerated amount of domed resin at the front which affected the way the eyes fit into the eye sockets. This could have been improved by making my own eyes to fit the sockets.

The quality of the model extends to the base also. It was cut and sanded to a high quality, which was enhanced by the beeswax polish. The laser cut name and information is situated in the middle of the wood.

Overall, I believe I have demonstrated a development of appropriate approaches and techniques, portrayed through my learned confidence, understanding of wax as a material, and the quality of the final cast. I met established standards of professional practise by the quality of the final paint job and presentation components that were scaled down to the correct size. I believe I have met this craftsmanship with an understanding of function that was the driving force behind my making. I completed preliminary research regarding the person I wanted to make, while also engaging with frequent conversations with industry professionals. This meant I developed an independent and professional way of working. I was able to build on the narrative of the project further through alternate creative processes such as photogrammetry.

Consequently, I have finished my Final Major Project with an effective museum model portraying the significance of Edith Kramer through a representational narrative of authenticity and respect.


Preparing to Paint Edith Kramer – That’s too much paint!

“Use little paint! Use less paint than you think.”

Is the mantra I have been repeating to myself while learning to paint Edith Kramer. Wax has inherent translucent properties that are crucial to its effectiveness in realistic representations in models. Therefore, during this stage, I had to work hard to add depth and life to Kramer, without losing this unique feature.

Wade Waxworks offered me the opportunity to first practise painting on wax. There, I made the most amateur mistake possible – I painted with too much paint (see below.)

My second attempt was more successful. The key to painting on wax is to dry brush oil paint onto the surface, taking the time to slowly build up the layers so that the translucency is not lost. There are also certain colours that are almost always used:

– Cadmium red (with a little violet if necessary for darker areas). Commonly used for ear areas.

– Flesh or Pale Rose Blush

– Buff titanium

– Burnt umber (great for freckles!)

– Olive green

– Naples yellow (for highlighting)

I have also looked at portrait painting on the traditional canvas, which has helped me understand how colour can insinuate anatomy. For instance, you can use highlights to ‘pick up structures’ but these must end once the latter does. Also, colours such as ‘cadmiums with black/cobalt blue/ultramarine and umber make good shadows.’ Areas of the face where there is thicker flesh are often painted with warmer colours, while where the bone is closer to the skin, cooler. Lastly, green undertones are more common on the face than I thought!

Before moving onto the final painting, I also practised on extra casts. During this stage, I have noticed that the paint started to crumble on top of the surface. Please see below photo for an example of the crumbling when I first painted at Wade Waxworks. I believe this crumbling on my casts can be due to several reasons:

  1. The surface of the cast is not clean enough.
  2. The surface of the cast is too shiny, which prevents the paint from properly adhering.
  3. The oil paints are reacting with the brushes.
  4. Too much paint!

The first point prompted me to look into conservation of wax, which gave me some tips on preparing a wax surface. Murrel, V. points out that due to the inherent ‘waxiness’ of the material, it tends to get dirty. (1971, pg. 97). Often, conservation workers in museums use aqueous washing composed of ‘distilled water with 2% Lissapol’ which is ‘brushed over the surface with a soft sable’ (1971, pg. 100). I will follow this process on the final cast before painting, allowing the surface to dry completely beforehand.

Additionally, I altered the surface of the cast through additional carving and brushing, in order to reduce the shine and help the paint adhere better. I filled any holes left by the casting process, paying attention to the temperature of the wax I used as filling – Murrel notes how ‘all tools used in cutting and finishing wax should be warmed’ (1971, pg. 102) but not too much, as there can be a colour difference in heated and colder wax.

I will also try sable brushes instead of synthetic ones.

I believe these points combined will result in a better paint finish on my model, which I will review in my last blog post at the end of the project.

Review of FMP Time Management

At the beginning of the project, I planned out the tasks which I would need to complete to finish the project. Afterwards, I planned these out up until project deadline, with particular considerations as to how much time each task would take. Notably, I planned to finish five days before deadline in my plan – I predicted that each stage would include issues and errors that I would need time to tackle, thus left room for adjustments.

Therefore, this was a flexible plan. The very nature of using Excel spreadsheets to plan it, allowed me to adjust the dates of each stage once I spend a little shorter/longer on a task. Some of these changes included lengthening the moulding process to deal with the silicon taking longer to cure than predicted, shortening the amount of time I would need to match the skin tone of the cast.

I will review my time management throughout this project, in the final blog post.

Dressmaking and Presentation – Edith Kramer

My grandmother is a seamstress. Since I was little, I have watched her sew my clothes and have always wanted to learn. I was so happy to get this opportunity in this project, for which I will be making a half-scale outfit for Edith Kramer.

I have chosen the above image as reference for the outfit I will be making. It is composed of three components – a white shirt, a blue and white plaid, and on the very top, a corduroy jacket. This outfit stood out to me because of the layers, the loose fit, the muted colours, and finally, the materials themselves. Combined, these properties insinuate a character who prefers comfort in their everyday wear, and practicality. The corduroy specifically, is ‘one of those sturdy, reliable fabrics that sewers tend to take for granted.’ Altogether, I believe this outfit is a good indicator of the warmth, kindness and authenticity of Edith Kramer that I came to understand through my research, and for which I would like the viewer to recognise her for.

The corduroy fabric is also kind to the beginner sewer – it can be found in quite a few style variations and doesn’t present with much stretch. It is advised that when looking for corduroy, one should ‘look for one that has a generous, lush pile and a superior sheen and drape, which will produce a beautiful, cushy, rumpled look after many washings.’

Additionally, I also chose my corduroy fabric based on the scale. I had to recreate Edith Kramer’s jacket on half-scale, therefore it was important to imitate the size of the thread and patterns. The corduroy is made in distinctive ribs, which are called wales. These range in size, with the higher number of wales resulting in a tighter pattern. As Edith Kramer is wearing a large wale style, I looked to Needlecord 21 wales/in. Below shows the difference between a smaller and a larger wale.

After attending a pattern-making workshop, I learned I also needed a pattern. Edith Kramer’s jacket includes a Peter Pan variation of a collar. See below for my test jacket in the fabric calico. The final pattern will be adjusted to be a little larger and used for the corduroy jacket. Interfacing will be used in the collar for stiffness.

Practicing before-hand showed me some errors I made. I must remember for the final jacket:

  1. Do not sew the area under the sleeves before sewing on the collar! More flexibility and accuracy this way.
  2. Cut little triangles into curved areas.
  3. Sew the collar in between the front facing and the upper parts. This way edges won’t show.
  4. Prewash the fabric.
  5. Use the ‘low impact’ pressing technique to not lose the wale shape.

 The rest of the clothing components present in the image will be outsourced – I will look at the smallest sizes of children clothing.

Presentation – additional details

True to my benchmarks, I have also paid attention to small idiosyncratic accessories of Edith Kramer and will include them in my model. From the small hair pins that she wears, which I have outsourced at half-scale (from Wilkos!) to the major details, which are of course, the eyes. The latter I outsourced from Eyedentity, through which process I have experienced the (occasional) frustration of outsourcing.

I first ordered the eyes early April. I wanted to give myself leeway in case they were not good enough quality. Unfortunately, a week after purchase the sale representative informed me that they did not have this pair available at their locations in the UK, and they would have to be shipped from their workshops in Germany. However, due to COVID restrictions and lockdowns, he was unsure when I would receive them. The best he could give me after I prompted him, was an ETA of early June.

At this point I considered my options – the size of the eyes I was seeking was infuriatingly hard to find online, and apart from Eyedentity, all other options would be out of the budget of the project by a significant amount. The best option for my project was to take the risk and order from Eyedentity. Thankfully, the eyes did arrive early June, although I was glad I kept bi-weekly contact with the company to ensure their arrival.

Photogrammetry – Edith Kramer as Physical and Digital

Along with using my Edith Kramer sculpt to create a realistic waxwork model, I also experimented with photogrammetry and 3D printing. The majority of this project focused on historical, and more natural processes such as sculpting, waxwork and dressmaking, which is why I wanted to explore a more technical and modern process as well. Taking a 3D scan of Edith Kramer proved the perfect opportunity to explore this.


  1. Take turn-around photos of the sculpt. I ended up taking 167 images of Edith from three different perspectives.
  2. Use Agisoft to process the images at the highest quality.
  3. Clean-up in Agisoft and Zbrush.
  4. Into Preform 3D printing software.
  5. Use the resin printer.
  6. Clean up of print.

Even though I processed the photos at the highest quality in the Agisoft software, there were still many areas that needed fixing. There was a build-up of material at the top, and the bottom of the scan was full of holes. This might have been because the top and bottom of the sculpt in the photos were not as clearly photographed as the rest.

By importing the scan into Zbrush, Rhino and 3DS Max, I was able to experiment and find the best way of cleaning her up without reducing quality. Zbrush worked best for this – I used the Boolean feature to fill the holes at the bottom, and gradually smoothed the extra material on top away. I re-sculpted the same texture that I did on the physical sculpt on the smoothed parts.

The final 3D print came out at a good quality. It is interesting to view both models – the larger wax and smaller resin print – side by side. Their making processes present juxtaposed representations of the same sculpt and can stand as visual depictions of how materials carry intrinsic meaning – the rawness of the wax against the cold modernity of the resin. If the former is true, it suggests that each material’s unique meaning can be utilised by the artist to present their views, ideas and emotions. I believe this relates to the work Edith Kramer was a part of during her life.

Additionally, the size of the 3D print is also an interesting comparison and relates to my earlier notes on the work of Ron Mueck, who famously manipulated the scale of his models to instigate certain reactions from his viewers. The tiny scale of the 3D print carries connotations of a little toy or trinket and presents far less detail than the waxwork. Therefore, I believe it stands as a good portrayal of the conscious choice I made at the beginning of this project – the half-size scale of my waxwork, which I chose precisely for its diminutive size.

Hair Punching Edith Kramer – Appointment at the hairdresser’s

In preparation for this stage, I began experimenting with hair punching in the earlier stages of the project while I was still sculpting. This is because most of the research I could find regarding this, focused on hair punching silicon, not wax. Due to this, I had to experiment and adapt much of the advice I was given.

Things I had to consider:

  1. Type of hair
  2. Needle size
  3. Punching process
  4. Hair styling

Type of hair

As I was working with half-scale with this model, I wanted to try to imitate hair at half-scale also. The diameter of human hair can be from 17 to 181 millionths of a meter, and can be affected by many factors including genetics, age and even weather. In elderly individuals, ‘hair strands become smaller and have less pigment… eventually becomes thin, fine, light-colored hair.’ It will also become less dense, revealing more of the scalp.

I wanted to imitate this on half-scale, therefore started looking into using types of wool instead of hair. I experimented with merino and mohair wool – see below for tests on beeswax. While the right scale, these were too fragile to use on my model as hair on the scalp but will have the correct effect when used as eyebrows.

Consequently, I looked to full-scale hair to see whether I do not have to actually use half-scale hair to fit the realistic benchmark of my model. I contacted a graduating SFX Make-up student at AUB for advice on recommendations and brands, as I did not know where to look for good quality hair. She recommended looking at three different types of hair used commonly in SFX Make-up:

  1. Real human hair – most realistic but expensive
  2. Yak hair – very realistic but also quite expensive
  3. Synthetic hair – needs more research to find good quality hair but on the cheaper side


I mentioned I have a certain budget for this project, therefore would prefer to find a good quality synthetic hair instead, for which she advised using the company Coscraft. I ended up using the silver and platinum white straight wefts from their website.

‘You… want to create a mixture of hair colors to create a more natural look’

Debreceni, T., 2013, pg. 338

One notable experimentation stage at this point, was due to the synthetic look of the hair. Straight out of the packet, this hair had a very high sheen and was very rigid, which made me worry it would not look realistic on the head of Edith Kramer. I noted earlier on how in his models, Ron Mueck pays attention to every single detail, including how parts of the model interact with gravity, ensuring things like hair or clothes fall the right way down the body. This hair did not seem to follow this pattern.

Therefore, I attempted to manipulate the rigidity of the hair by washing a small sample of it in conditioner, another sample I scraped the surface of the strands, and lastly I applied slight heat to a third sample. Out of all these tests, the heat was the only one that made a difference by curling the hair slightly which gave the appearance of fragility.

Virgin hair sample.
Hair sample after heat treatment.

However, after hair punching and styling the hair I realised that this was not necessary. The hair interacted with the colour and translucency of the wax to trick the eye to perceive the hair as more realistic than it was straight out of the packet.

Needle size

I have tried both traditional hair punching needles, and specialist/felting needles. Out of these, I eventually chose to make my own by clipping off the top of a size 12 sewing needle, which created a little hook that grabs the individual hairs to punch into the surface of a material. I used a scalpel holder to make the process more comfortable (I originally placed the needle into a push pin which I can’t imagine using for the whole 4 days of hair punching I ended up doing!).

The specialist/felting needles would have saved me time but created large holes into the surface of the wax. They also needed frequent cleaning as wax residue kept getting stuck in the little forward facing hooks.

I used 16 of these needles for the whole head.
Felting needles proved too thick to work.
The holder for my needles.

Punching Process

The main issue I encountered throughout this process, was protecting the surface quality of the wax. I had to hold the head in a particular way, which in my tests, caused the surface to rub off after a while due to the heat of my palms. I placed the head into a box of soft material and covered the surface with some clingfilm to prevent loss of quality.

Testing and practising hair punching on a spare head.

It was also a struggle at first to understand the way the hair follicles are angled on Edith Kramer’s head, but the three guides above I made after research and some references ensured I reached a good outcome. I aim to punch the eyebrows in after I paint her.

Half-way through the punching process.

Hair Styling

Lastly, to reach the desired effect, hair must be styled after it is hair punched. The main areas that needed working for this model, were the length and thickness of the hair. I have followed the tutorials of professional hairdressers to ensure my realistic benchmark. First cutting the hair, and later gradually thinning it down to reflect the age of the individual I am making.

Edith Kramer had a very signature braid at the back of her head. I aim to thin out the hair enough to achieve this look. Lastly, I aim to add ½ scale hair pins as she wears in most of her photographs. See below for some photographs of Edith Kramer getting her hair styled. The last photograph shows the thickness of the braid before the thinning process.

Casting Edith Kramer – The Mystery of Wax

Before this project, I have only done casting in wax on a very small scale. This was going to be a great opportunity to explore this material in a different manner. I was ready to experiment!

Main stages of experimentation:

  1. Choice of wax
  2. Tint of wax
  3. Process of heating wax
  4. Process of pouring wax
  5. Cleaning up of casts

Choice of wax

One of the first things I considered, was the type of wax I wanted to choose for the model. Both Madame Tussaud’s and Wade Waxworks use a predominantly beeswax product, similar to these waxes sold by the British Wax Refining Company. As they produce waxwork models on a large scale, using these companies makes sense as they ship products in bulk with deals the larger the amount.

However, for my project, it would not be feasible for me to buy this type of product as I would not use the whole batch, therefore would not be a professional choice in terms of financial management of the project. The minimum I could order was 5kg, which would add up to £65.20 without shipping costs.

It was after reading Murrel, V. (1971) Some Aspects of Conservation of Wax Models that I made the choice to mix my own wax blend instead. In their study, they investigated various historical written and physical work on wax to divulge the type of wax that was used for figure casting throughout history.

‘the majority of finished wax sculptures were made with beeswax, probably bleached, with no additions apart from pigments and inerts.’

Murrel, V., 1971, pg. 96

‘one third of their bulk – of white lead and, apart from its obvious inclusion as a colourant, it may have been used to alter the property of the wax, reducing shrinkage and making it harder and thus more easily carved.’

Murrel, V., 1971, pg. 97

It is no wonder artists throughout history preferred beeswax as their main type of wax – as described in previous blog post, it has a vast past and narrative, combined with great malleable and translucent properties. Therefore, I decided this would be the best type to use for my model, particularly the bleached kind as I could then manipulate the colour far more easily. I ordered these in 1oz blocks, as I could control the amount I needed and work within the budget of the project.

Additionally, it is also important to note that Murrel (1971) found that artists often mixed their beeswax with other products. This is due to the inherent properties of beeswax, which are advantageous to the look of the models, but do carry limitations during the moulding process. Murrel (1971, pg. 97) notes that beeswax ‘contracts considerably when setting’ which results in a ‘soft and rather blurred impression’ in the cast. Due to this, I also chose to mix the beeswax with a more durable kind of wax – paraffin.

I experimented with the quantities of each wax, starting with just a purely paraffin wax cast. This was not only my clear-out cast of the mould, but also displayed the far decreased malleable properties of this wax, as it took a very rudimental cast with layers of the wax visible on the surface. This is partly because paraffin wax seemed to cool much faster than beeswax.

Mix of bleached beeswax and paraffin pellets melting in the bain-marie. A food thermometer was used to keep the wax at a safe temperature.

The latter experimentation stage was composed of a primarily beeswax mix with small amounts of paraffin wax. Below are some of my more notable mixes:

6x beeswax 1x paraffin (1x paraffin extra inside layer)6oz/170g 50g 50gNot enough wax for a durable mould
6x beeswax 2x paraffin (2x paraffin extra inside layer)6oz/170g 100g 100gThe mix did not pick up enough surface details. The layers of wax very visible on surface
7x beeswax ½x paraffin (2x paraffin extra inside layer)7oz/198g 25g 100gEnough for the whole cast. Good surface detail. Good translucency. Malleable surface. Durable cast due to under layer of paraffin wax.

The third mix on the list was the most successful of the lot, which I used for the final cast.

Tint of wax

A massive advantage of buying the wax in bulk, would have been that the wax was already tinted to a Caucasian skin tone widely used by the Madame Tussaud and Wade Waxworks workshops. However, as I chose to mix my own wax, I also experimented widely with the skin tone of my wax.

Although Murrel (1971) does not provide much guidance on this, I called Mike from Wade Waxworks to ask for advice on how to best do this. He advised using oil paints melted with a little bit of wax, which I amended by letting the mix cool completely and then flaking off controlled amounts into my wax. This ensured I could effectively manage how much of which colour I was adding to each cast and adjusting gradually to reach the best tint.

Edith Kramer.

Throughout the process, I was using the above image of Edith Kramer, and this model made by Wade Waxworks as benchmarks for the colour of the skin. Using an already made model helped me judge how the surface painting would show on specific wax tints.

Lastly, I also added another dimension to my casts, but using two main tints of wax – the top layers were more of a yellow-cream tint, while an under layer brought sub-surface scattering to the model through a more pinkish tint. Most importantly, the under layer was also composed almost entirely of paraffin wax, which made the cast more durable without affecting the quality of the surface.

Casting set-up in my kitchen! Health and safety hazards were reviewed beforehand, and all areas protected from any possible spills.

Process of heating up and pouring the wax

While working on the appropriate mix and tint of the wax, I was also paying attention to the way the materials are treated during the process. The wax must be kept below 75C during the heating process, which I controlled through a food thermometer. Bubbles can form in the wax if it reaches boiling point. This was a safety choice as well as below this temperature, the wax will not cause burns to the skin if an accident occurs.

Pouring the wax was also an issue. I did not have a melting pot to heat up the wax, which I replaced with a bain-marie. I had to take the wax away from the heat source to pour it, which would cause it to cool. I could not pour the wax once it reached a certain viscosity without risking the quality of the sculpt. At the same time, working too quickly meant the wax became disturbed and bubbles formed and showed up on the surface of the casts.

Mike from Wade Waxworks suggested using a funnel to pour the wax. I also reached out to others on social media, from which I was advised to heat the wax to a higher temperature in order to manage these air bubbles.

A combination of both these techniques worked. I heated the wax to 80C for the first pour, and ensured it was barely disturbed as I poured it in. Later layers were at a lower temperature. This ensured a cleaner surface quality.

Overall, this process was formed an a basis of prior experience, research, experimentation, and above all, contact with other professionals. Similarly as with the sculpting stage, I believe speaking with others continually changed my perspective and encouraged me to approach my work with curiosity. This helped me to achieve a good quality benchmark.

Check out a time lapse of my casting process on my Instagram here!

Some of the outcomes of my casting process.

Moulding of the Edith Kramer Sculpt – Did it go to plan?

Was the sculpt dropped by accident?
No, she has just gone through the moulding process!

After sculpting Edith Kramer, it was time to mould her to create a negative copy that I could use to replicate it in a different material. This is one of the scariest points of any project!

At the Madame Tussaud’s workshop, they mould their sculpts in plaster using multiple pieces. A lot of the times plaster solely is used for moulds which is due to the longevity of the material, without the loss of detail. However, I have chosen to do a jacket mould for my mould as its purpose does not need a lot of copies to be made, therefore I could achieve the same level of detail by using silicon supported by plaster. This would also ensure a very minimal seamline – the more parts to a mould, the more chances of low-quality seamlines. This was the correct choice, as I had a very insignificant seamline in my casts that had no effect on the overall quality.

Another conscious choice I made at this stage, was the thickness of the silicon. As I was keeping the silicon in one piece, I had to think how it would affect the wax when I was pulling it off the casts. Due to this, I chose to keep it under roughly 5mm thickness on average. Consequently, there would be less chance of the surface of the soft wax becoming deformed while peeling off the mould. However, this was a difficult line to toe, as I had to control the thickness to not become too thin, which could tear the silicon.

I would also like to address the problems I predicted in the earlier stages of this project regarding this stage:

  1. I went over schedule with the sculpting by a week. Whilst I stuck to my timeplan of the project, there were some major errors with the sculpt pointed out by Val Adamson late on that needed to be fixed to meet my benchmarks. Therefore, I made an analysed decision to extend the sculpting time by using one week spare which I left for myself at the end of the project, in order to reach a certain quality.
  2. I did not smudge the details when I laid out the first layer of silicon! Have a look at this timelapse to see me using the smallest brush I had to gently ensure coverage without force.
  3. The silicon cured successfully. I am glad I used a newer batch to ensure this.
  4. There were no air bubbles formed in silicon which means no surface details were compromised.
  5. Writing up a plan for this stage was an immense help in ensuring I did not forget crucial parts of the moulding process.

Have a look below for images of the moulding process. Overall, the moulding was successful, although it was strange to see Edith Kramer’s face all smashed after she was pulled out!

Sculpting Edith Kramer – Anatomy and Narrative

Sculpting time! I was super excited to start making for this project.

In preparation for sculpting Edith Kramer, I wanted to build an impression of her by watching any online documentaries and talks she was a part of, and reading her work. My perception of Edith is a soft-tempered woman with a lot of experience, and a strong personal and emotional understanding. She also has a quirky attitude towards her, which is particularly displayed in this documentary video.

In terms of reference images, I used digital photographs and screen grabs from videos. I scaled them to be the same size and printed out to take measurements from. I ensured these were all from different viewpoints, in order to create an environment as similar to sculpting from a life model as possible. This would aid the three-dimensionality of my sculpt.

An impactful issue I encountered at this point, was the quality of the images. This became far more important in the tertiary details stage of sculpting, when I was looking at wrinkles and skin texture. As I couldn’t see this on the images, I also used stock images of elderly individuals to compare and analyse the way skin presents itself at that age, and to also refer to anatomy features which were covered by clothing, such as the neck and back.

Elderly woman smiling.
Anatomy of the neck, back and shoulders.

An understanding of anatomy was significant to my sculpt. Consequently, I did not only use images of different features of the face and body to, I also worked quite closely with Edouard Lanteri‘s book Modelling and Sculpting the Human Figure (1965). He was a French sculptor and teacher at the Kensigton School of Art, who was quite influential to the New Sculpture movement through his Romantic style of sculpting. His book presents a thorough understanding of human anatomy, while guiding the reader through step-by-step process of building a human bust from underlying bones, muscles, tendons and fatty tissue base.

‘The book is a gold mine of technical information, the kind of reference work that should be a lifelong studio companion to the figure sculptor.’

Hale, N. C. (1965) pg. vi in Introduction to Modelling and Sculpting the Human Figure

One of the numerous tips I have gained from his teachings is the way that understanding the anatomy can help a student express the emotionality of the subject, such as in the sense of the lips. In his book he describes the anatomy of the muscles surrounding of and around the lips, and how they work together to make different facial expressions, such as smiling. Getting a more thorough understanding of anatomy helped me to build more narrative into my sculpt, of which importance I have established in an earlier blog post. As such, I sculpted a soft smile with a slight upturn of the corners of the mouth to represent her idiosyncratic characteristics which I have learned from watching numerous interviews and reading her work.

Anatomy of the face. Lanteri, E. (1965) Modelling and Sculpting the Human Figure pg. 14

Additionally, the beginning few chapters of Lanteri’s book emphasise practicing before commencing onto a more complicated sculpt, in both two-dimensional and three-dimensional forms. Thus, I began by sketching and painting Edith Kramer, after which I sculpted her facial features individually, before commencing onto a 3-day maquette sculpt. This allowed me to curiously explore both her physical features, and the material which I would portray them with. I believe these tests were fundamental to the final model, as they gave me freedom to practise and make mistakes, which helped me to aim for my benchmarks of quality I established in an earlier post.

The final sculpt, I chose to do in Plaxtin. While clay is traditionally used by the Madame Tussaud’s workshop, Plaxtin is wax based which means I did not have to keep it constantly dry, while still retaining the consistency of clay. There were some disadvantages to using Plaxtin instead of clay however – as the material didn’t dry out and harden over time, it stayed its base consistency of softness all the way through sculpting. Due to this, it was harder to sculpt in small details in the final stages, but I managed this by using cling film and a steady hand.

While Lanteri’s book was super helpful, I still struggled with getting the right anatomy in my sculpt though, particularly around the mouth and nose areas, and finally the ears. No matter what I did, and which references I looked at for help, there was something really wrong that I could not figure out. I got in touch with Val Adamson who runs a sculpting studio. I don’t think I would have ever noticed the things she pointed out! For instance, the issue with the mouth and nose area, was so obvious after she changed my perspective – I started the upper lip skin from the back of the nostrils, rather than the middle. Use the slider below to see the before and after differences.

Before (Left) and After (Right) talking with Val Adamson regarding the anatomy of my sculpt. One of the largest changes happened to the area connecting the mouth to the nose. As you can see, this whole area was brought out a few mm more to give more depth to the face. The top lip was also reduced in size to look more taught, as elderly lips often lose elasticity in the skin in this area which causes the top lip to become smaller. The eyebrows were also given more material to give the eye sockets more depth.

I believe making contact with a more experienced sculptor, was crucial to the final quality of my sculpt, as it influenced the way I approached my making process. This was a link to Edith Kramer’s teachings – a creative environment helped me to understand the restrictions of my perspective and how it is important to reach out. I think this understanding behind the making not only improved its realism and quality, but also encouraged me to deal with struggles and problem-solving in an approach based on curiosity.

Lastly, earlier in the project I predicted some problems that may have occurred at this stage (click here to read this post!). Let’s address these now:

  1. The armature was just the right size due to my experimentation with some quick sculpts before starting the final.
  2. The eyes are the right depth. Prioritising measurements throughout was crucial.
  3. By constantly referring to anatomy images, the teachings of Edouard Lanteri, and the advice of the wonderful Val Adamson, I was able to fix my mistakes. As I am an amateur at this, I would not have reached this quality without reaching out to others. Therefore, the facial features looked cohesive.
  4. This did occur once – I finished the details on the area joining the nose and the mouth while this area was still anatomically wrong. I fixed the anatomy after contacting Val, however this meant I had to redo the details.   

Overall, I had a lot of fun and frustration during this stage of the project. Most notably, I am glad I prepared by completing theoretical research behind all the materials I would use throughout the project, and the purpose, narrative and benchmarks of the model. It ensured a holistic understanding of the process, adding meaning to my making.

Benchmarks – What standards am I setting for my model?

At this stage I think it is also important to establish some benchmarks that I will be aiming for in terms of quality of finish of my model of Edith Kramer.

Wade Waxworks produces stunning realistic waxworks with a high quality of finish. Their beautiful finish is broadly defined through a high standard of quality in all stages of production – from sculpting to dressing. Due to this, I will be using their models as benchmarks for my head bust of Edith Kramer.

Wade Waxwork’s Aa Ji model
Wade Waxwork’s Amma Ji model

I will be using their models of the elderly due to the age of my subject. I have respect for the accuracy and understanding of anatomy in their models. For instance, their Aa Ji model’s facial features flow well and are very cohesive. They portray the physical characteristics of their subjects such as age etc. in a highly realistic manner – Aa Ji’s cheeks droop to imitate the deteriorating physicality of muscle and fatty tissue over time without seeming forced or out of place, as the anatomy was constructed from a place of understanding underlying facial structures.

Another point I will use as a benchmark from their models, is their emotional representation. Have a look at Amma Ji’s model by Wade Waxworks – even though it is not an overtly expressive head bust, their neutral face still portrays a degree of personality and emotional representation that communicate with the viewer. They do this through careful appreciation of idiosyncratic features of the subject’s face, combined with research on their history and personal character. That is the realism that I am aiming for – a face with personality behind it.

During the moulding and casting process, I will also be paying attention to Wade Waxwork’s handling of the silicon, plaster and wax materials. To reduce clean up in the cast, they make jacket moulds for the silicon which stays in one piece. After the plaster jacket is made, a singular cut is made to the back of the silicon mould that results in a minimal seam line.

Their handling of wax is also something I am aiming for – their wax is tinted to match the base skin tone of their subjects so that there is minimal painting afterwards. I will be using Aa Ji’s model by Wade Waxworks to gauge the tint colour of the wax – I am going for a similar tone of light yellow with a touch of pink in Kramer.

Additionally, I will also be using qualities of the work of Ron Mueck, specifically during the sculpting of the model and the dressing stage. The National Gallery of Victoria explains how ‘his startling manipulations of scale are key to our experience of each work’ which is an element I am planning to represent in my model. Additionally, Mueck also pays special attention to dressing his models in clothing that imitates the full-scale version at whichever scale he chooses. For instance, in his model Two Women, the fabric was chosen and sewed together so that it would not only represent the thread line at half-scale, but also so that it would fall down their bodies in just the right way. As such, I will imitate the clothing of Kramer at half-scale in all ways – sight, touch, and even interaction with weight and gravity.

Jessica Ennis-Hill CBE model at Madame Tussaud’s London

Moreover, I am looking at Madame Tussaud’s and Wade Waxworks models to understand the benchmarks for the painting of my model. Both maker workshops finish their models with very light layers of oil paint that still allow the translucency of wax to peek through. This helps the realism. I will also be using the specific shades of paint that is normally used in painting of waxwork figures – I will touch on this more in an upcoming post.

Marble head of an athlete
ca. A.D. 138–192

Lastly, the presentation – I will be looking to Madame Tussaud and traditional head busts in order to present my model in the most fitting manner. I would like a simple stand that emphasises the informational and representational purposes of the model. I like the way traditional head busts such as the Marble head of an athlete let the viewer have the space to make their own impression of the head by not over-complicating the display. I will aim for this benchmark throughout all the features of the model, such as tucking the clothes into the edges of the bottom of the bust to create a clean look. The Brighton Museum used this tactic quite pleasantly in their facial reconstructions.  

Therefore, I am aiming for a delicate but durable, realistically representational benchmark for my model.

L-R: Whitehawk Woman; Patcham Woman; Ditchling Road Man; Stafford Road Man; Slonk Hill Man. © Royal Pavilion & Museums