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

Immersive Museums – Summary of Research

After researching the concept of ammonite buoyancy which I would be portraying for my client, I began thinking more about what it means to actually make a model for a museum. The way The Etches Collection portrays its fossils is very innovative and engaging. Therefore, I believe my model should also reflect this. I found myself looking towards the Science Museum, and the Natural History Museum in London, who often present information in a similarly innovative and engaging way.

Friction Slides in the Forces Zone at the Science Museum in London. This exhibition engages the visitor in active learning – they will experience the forces they are learning about by interacting with the objects.

Lisa Fontaine describes these environments as part of an “informal learning” experience. She describes that there are many contemporary museums who are starting to embrace this educational concept through “immersive and multi-media environments” (2014, p. 52). This immersion within a museum setting will often take the form of interactive models and exhibitions, that engage the visitors in the learning experience. The audience is no longer a passive observer of information, but an active participant.

I became really interested in why more contemporary museums are embracing immersion in their exhibitions. Fontaine explains that an interactive museum model will often add an additional element of interest to the subject, and even “help with comprehension and retention of the information.” (2014, p. 51) They also help in explaining more abstract information, such as scientific concepts as they can be “translated into concrete realities.” (2014, p. 51)

Importantly, they also create opportunities for collaborative experiences that can be experienced by numerous people at once, such as families or school groups. Shtulman and Checa conducted a study in 2012 during which they investigated the interaction of parents and children with a museum exhibition demonstrating an evolutionary concept. They found that “the more often the [parent and child] collaborated… the more often they generated accurate interpretations and explanations” (2012, p. 41)

Consequently, it can be summarised that “immersive” and interactive exhibitions result in a more engaging learning environment. They do this through an emphasis on person-centred design that acknowledges that meaning must be built into an exhibition in the context of the audience that visits.

How will I reflect this in my model?

The concept of buoyancy in ammonites is a relatively abstract concept that carries with it a rich history and narrative. This will be reflected by the benchmarks I am establishing for my model. These benchmarks will ensure the model will fill its purpose within the innovative context of The Etches Collection.

Benchmarks (please refer to attached flowchart):

Clear elements: The buoyancy concept must be the focus of the model. By keeping the different elements of the model to a minimum, the concept will be able to take centre-focus. This will also help to make the model accessible to a wider range of audiences as it will not be over-complicated.

Accurate: The information that the visitors will learn from the model must be correct.

Fun and engaging: This will help with immersing the visitors in the concept of ammonite buoyancy and make the information more memorable.

Additionally, the model will also have to be simple to up-keep and durable. As the main purpose of an immersive model is to be interacted with and handed, it must be robust enough to withstand time and usage. Special considerations must also be taken in the current climate – all components that would be regularly handled must be able to be disinfected easily.

Overall, the model I am making must be engaging and informative. Through this, it will work as a complementary aid to the surrounding collection of fossils, therefore emphasising the beauty and complexity of ammonites. Ultimately, I would like the model to demonstrate the passion The Etches Collection holds for the rich history of its fossils.

A flowchart demonstrating my process of establishing key benchmarks for this model. All benchmarks will ensure the model fits its required purpose for the client.