Sunday, February 28, 2010

how to make a monster

It has been difficult to chronicle the making of a work from start to finish. My greatest hurdle is the fact that when starting a new work, I do not have the slightest confidence that I will be able to complete the project.

A second problem is my absent-mindedness. Once involved in a project, the rest of the world seems to recede in the background - my surroundings de-evolving into a slightly annoying hum - suddenly finding myself on step 7, without any photo documentation of steps 2 through 6.

Casting the former hurdle from mind, and documenting steps 1 and 2 while working on step 3, we begin:


Step 1: This particular item is to be a ring with a wide shank. Starting with a hard wax will allow for detailed carving. This photo shows the wax cylinder with a slice cut off that could serve as a base for a ring.


Step 2: This is a photo of the wax cylinder slice carved into the basic shape of the ring. (Ignore the 'step 3' workings on the back of ring.) This step is done by hand to begin removing the 'machined' look from the model. The final piece must look as 'organic' and natural as possible.


Step 3: Spinning the ring around, you can see the early stages of step 3 where the ring is taking shape by both manipulating the wax base itself, and adding elements that are easier to attach than carve by hand into the wax surface.

'Grafting' a garden snake's shed skin gives us a textured, outer skin for our monster. Veins are placed under the area to be grafted so that once the skin is added, you are able to see and feel the raised vein under the surface of the skin. Each element needs to be fused onto the ring in such a way as to appear as part of the whole. Completing the project to this step gives us an idea of the problems that we will encounter in trying to finish the project.

As you may be able to see in the photo, even after accounting for the obvious differences in color and surface texture of the two elements, the item as a whole is not working. The 'skin', even if trimmed in a realistic way, looks too thin and unnatural, not mammalian. The skin needs to be a substantial organ with depth. This could be rectified by giving the wax a more prominent edge where the skin meets the exposed 'internals'. This deeper edge could serve as the creature's subcutaneous tissue. The exposed internal area of the creature will then have to be carved to a lower depth to account for the skin's thickness. This also means that the 'sutured areas' to be added to the ring will need to be more three-dimensional than originally planned.

A second problem is that the clearly defined skin makes the 'internal areas' look as they were carved out of a single piece of hard wax - a loss of continuity that ruins the overall effect - it is neither realistic or hideous, merely ugly and amateurish. The creatures exposed internals will need more clearly defined fragments - less shallow, vaguely-textured areas. Solving this problem, in addition to giving depth to the outer skin, on both the exterior and interior of the ring, may mean starting over with a thicker wax base. Time will tell. be continued, I hope...



  1. Lovely work. Did any more of the piece get chronicled?

  2. I still plan to finish this ring and document the process, but I never know how long it will take. I am usually working on several complex projects at a time, along with design and production of more trinket-like items. Sometimes things of this nature turn out better if they are allowed to just sit for awhile, especially if one confronts design 'issues'.