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,
Shirley Temple/MGM/Turner productions.