How does hand-sculpting differ from commercial collectibles ?

Commercial sculpting requires mass production. In one word the difference between OOAK or a One-Of-A-Kind piece is ~ commercialism.

  One might say it is media driven and part of the entertainment field. That is, it is controlled by a company for profits and is massed produced for the consumer goods marketplace. This is not a judgement, nor a negative, but is a very profitable and substantial retail venue for highly visible commercial brands. 

So, to have a produced product, one must first start with a design and with its development. This is called 'Product Development' as the design is first sculpted as a prototype or original Master. From this a mold/mould is made and further castings are produced. In character brands or licensed products, a few changes will surely be forthcoming as it needs to meet approval guidelines from the parent company. Sometimes an actor will have final approval of his or her likeness for any merchandise associated for a role in which a character is produced for toys or other collectibles. So this is a process by committee and is sometimes very frustrating to the artist. But, the most important thing is the pieces will be put into mass production and retailed in toy stores, department stores, or via a product catalog nationally or globally (given the selling aspect of the company's appeal).

The original sculpt is never again used once production is started. The sculptor is used only on the "masters" or the design prototype originals. To become a professional prototype sculptor, one is either on a staff position within a company, or more commonly, is sculpting as an independent freelance vendor and creating "works of hire" in which the said company hires a sculptor/designer for a certain product only. Since 1988, I have done both, but my speciality and my heart lies in Disney brand characters and in portraits and detailed Fine Miniatures.

So, I am posting a few pictures to present the stages in my commercial sculpting. How this production method differs from a handmade OOAK piece is in the achieved results.  First of all, you may notice the materials. For these fine miniature pieces were not created in a clay, but rather first in wax in order to go into production casting. 

This Shirley Temple miniature figurine was created using jewelers wax, which comes in varying degrees of hardness. Small knives or dental tools are used in which to model the figure and add detail. I am picky and precise in getting portraits, even if it is on a rather tiny scale. I take time to add fine detail, although I do know that some detail will unfortunately be lost in the molding/casting and production.
  Here you see that the jeweler's sprue is still attached for the lost wax casting process and to be made into a raw bronze miniature. It would have then been hand-painted and fitted into a display, but the product was never produced. 

In my profession as a toy sculptor, I have created many prototypes for the toy industry, but I must admit to specialising in Disney collectibles. As you can see from the photos below, I have on display a painted and unpainted set of figures, or sculpts. The 'raw' or unpainted set is a sample of resin casts. These are not the final material to be used as they are harder than the more flexible and soft PVC used in production. The painted characters have been painted in Asia for production.  As you can see, again much detail is lost in production casting and painting. I have no control of this as it is all done for the licensing company and their overseas manufacturer. 

And finally, I must give credit where credit is due ~ and that is to my inspirational mentor of Walt Disney and his amazing creative vision that took hold my imagination as a young child and put me on the path to art and imagination!  
This head of Mickey is a resin cast of a piece that was originally sculpted in a polymer clay. Unfortunately, after molding and casting, this process usually destroys the original and it is not to be used again. 
 Copyright Credit for photos are mine as the sculptor of these prototypes, but I do not hold copyright for the characters themselves. All copyrights are credited to their legal copyright owners: 
The Walt Disney Company,
 Warner Bros,
Klasky Csupo/Nickolodeon, 
Shirley Temple/MGM/Turner productions.  


 I'm often asked how my clay figurines are made. Well, please let me show you!  Here is a wee friend that I am sculpting in polymer clay. You can judge his size by the coin to the right.
The process of sculpting is not all additive, in which the clay is applied in sections and modelled into the desired shape and form; it is also subtractive as in carving or taking away. But first, the clay must be baked to a medium hardness so detail can be added. Too soft, it will not carve well and crumble. After this, any corrections must be seen to and he is baked again. The polymer clay can be carved, lightly sanded, tooled and smoothed to the proper finish. 
Once baked to the final stage, the clay must be allowed to cool and then can be painted with acrylics.  Some pieces are first painted a white or a solid colour to give it a distinct hue. Others, like our little lad here, is left in the natural shade to add more realistic undertones. 
 As you can see, the painting is done by hand, as well. The various layers must dry before the finishing details can be added. A bit of gold dust is sprinkled into the greens for this leprechaun and it catches a sheen that sparkles like his mischievous personality !  
And here he is presented, as sure as t' green of t' clover and for your own lucky eyes,
 Casey Séamus O'Toole O'Malley, himself !  

               Casey Séamus O'Toole O'Malley - ©2010 Weird Contessa Studio Creations™


Weird Contessa Studio Creations™ are original hand-sculpted OOAK Objet d'art, Curios, and Fine Miniatures ~ 
© Copyright Gina LF Draker

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