I am Len Gifford. As well as being a Fine Art Sculptor I work for a company called Rootstein making the original sculptures for display mannequins, like the ones you see in fashion shop windows.
In 1984 I had just successfully completed my B.A. Hons. Degree in Fine Art (Sculpture) when I was offered a position by Adel Rootstein as a Mannequin Sculptor. I was intrigued by this offer as I had no idea how a mannequin was made. Don't they just appear in shop windows? At art collage I had made several life-size figurative sculptures so I reasoned it would not be too difficult to create a mannequin. How wrong I was!
The company Rootstein was founded in the 1960's by the late Adel Rootstein. Adel was a window dresser who founded a small display company and turned it into a multi-national mannequin production company.
One of the reasons I took the job was Adel's master mannequin sculptor, John
Taylor, who I had met at one of the preliminary interviews. John is a master
figurative sculptor and I wanted to develop my own skills learning from him.
Rootstein presently employ designer Kevin Arpino who has worked at the
company for over 20 years; 3 sculptors, John Taylor (40 years service), Steven
Wood (10 years service) and myself (18 years service). Together we produce
around 24 original sculptures a year from which thousands of mannequins are
SETTING UP THE POSE
The model Lauren is chosen by the designer and sculptor, a suitable position decided upon that reflects the theme of the new collection. Photographs and detailed dimensions are taken to aid the sculptor in his exacting work.
the pose with Kevin in the background.
2 - Lauren in the chosen pose (Len, the sculptor, can be seen in the mirror taking the photograph).
3 - The final pose
Dimensional sketches showing the numerous measurement taken
CONSTRUCTING THE ARMATURE
The armature is constructed using aluminum wire. The armature is a structure that supports the clay in the correct position. Wood attached to the armature reduces the amount of clay required and stops the clay from slipping out of position. The final clay figure can weigh about 150lbs.
1 - Len
completing the armature.
2 - Lauren with the portrait head in progress.
3 - Lauren with the correctly positioned armature.
STARTING THE CLAY
Wet modeling clay is attached to the armature in building up the structure in small pieces; the applied clay is then refined to create the correct shape using modelling tools.
1, 2, 3 - Various views of Lauren with the clay well under way but a lot more work to go!
CLAY HEAD - CASTING OF HANDS - FURTHER CLAY WORK
More clay is added to the armature and the clay head is attached. The only parts of a figure that are life cast are the hands and occasionally the feet. This is done using dental alginate, which can be seen as pink in the photographs. The hands are then attached to the figure.
1 - Lauren
with a more advanced clay figure.
2 - View of figure with cast hands and feet attached.
3 - Hardy life-casting Lauren's hands.
4 - Another view of figure with hands and feet attached.
CLAY COMPLETE WITH ARMS
With the hands and head in place final detailed adjustments are made and the clay smoothed. The clay is kept wet at all times as the clay will shrink and crack if it dries out.
smoothing the clay form.
2 - Final adjustments to the portrait are made.
3 - Lauren manages a smile now the work is nearing completion.
With the final clay finished you can now see how the photographs, measurements and the precise skill of the sculptor have combined to create a figure that exactly reflects the model.
1, 2, 3 - Lauren
and the clay figure are checked for accuracy from all views.
4 - Lauren takes a photograph of the finished clay.
GETTING THE CLAY READY FOR MAKING A PLASTER WASTE MOULD
A plaster waste mould is required to create a durable and transportable figure that can be sanded down. A waste mould is only used once and is broken up in order to take out the cast. It is not possible to fire the clay in a kiln, as is usual with pottery, as the thickness of the clay would explode! A mannequin has to have detachable joints in the arms, legs and torso so that they can be detached when dressing. The clay is cut to remove the limbs in the same place as the joints in the final mannequin. A clay wall is built up around each part to separate the two halves of the plaster mould.
and Hardy cutting arms and leg off the clay.
2 - The clay with arms and leg removed.
3 - Detached leg with clay wall ready for covering with plaster.
4 - Detached arms ready for the plaster.
PLASTER WAST MOULD
Plaster is splashed onto the prepared arms and legs until a thick coat has been built up. Once the plaster sets the mould is soaked to aid the separation of the two halves. The parts are prized apart to remove the clay. The pieces are cleaned out of any remaining clay and allowed to dry.
1 - Hardy
splashing the plaster onto the first half of the arms.
2 - Hardy cleaning out the arm moulds. The other arm mould can be seen soaking in the bucket in the background.
3 - Plaster cast of leg part.
CASTING THE HEAD
The head is very carefully moulded in plaster in order to capture all the portrait detail. As with the limbs a clay wall is constructed to facilitate the separation of the two halves.
1 - The
head is prepared with a clay wall ready for moulding.
2 - Len splashing the clay head with plaster.
3 - Plaster coated head.
4 - The plaster mould of the front head section.
CASTING THE TORSO
The same procedure as before is carried out on the leg and torso sections however the torso section is created in four parts.
1 - Clay
with head removed. The remaining leg does not require a joint so is kept intact.
2 - The main leg with clay wall. The plastic bag protects the torso while the leg is plastered.
3 - Main leg covered with plaster.
4 - One quarter of the torso plastered.
5 - The torso and main leg with plaster complete.
TAKING THE MOULD APART
The mould is taken apart with care and the wet clay removed. The clay is now no longer required and will put back into the clay bin ready for use on another figure. The parts are allowed to dry and coated inside with shellac to seal the porous plaster.
1 - Front
quarter of the torso removed.
2 - The back of the figure with the mould and clay removed exposing the wood and armature.
3 - Torso completely removed.
4 - Pieces of leg mould coated with shellac.
5 - The 4 pieces of the torso mould drying.
FILLING THE HEAD MOULD - BREAKING AWAY THE MOULD
The head mould is filled with a harder plaster (seen in Pink) than the mould plaster. After setting the softer mould plaster is broken away to reveal the plaster head cast.
chipping away the plaster mould to release the pink head cast.
2 - Head cast with some of the waste mould still attached.
3 - The head cast, an exact replica of the original clay sculpture.
PUTTING THE FIGURE TOGETHER - REFINING THE FIGURE
Once the figure is cast into a hard, workable material it has to have the mannequin joints fitted. Once this has been done the figure is reassembled and the entire figure smoothed down using sand-paper. The finish required has to be perfect so finishing by hand is necessary.
1 - Len
refining the head with sand-paper.
2 - Len hand finishing a leg section.
3 - The assembled parts are hand finished around the joints.
4 - Hardy does his bit too!
FINALISING THE FIGURE
A mannequin is designed to wear clothes so the figure is checked by dressing it to make sure any clothes can be fitted. If the fitting is acceptable the figure is then sprayed with grey paint this enables any remaining blemishes to be spotted and corrected before the next stage.
clothes to the figure.
2 - Complete figure assembled and sprayed grey.
3 - Close-up of the figure with the surface checked and ready for the next stage.
Once the sculptors have finished the original figure it is sent to the mould department for a fiberglass resin production mould to be made. Each piece to be moulded is layed-up with a thicker separating wall than the previous plaster mould and to allow the two halves to be clamped together as a resin cast requires a longer time to set than the plaster one. By laminating layers of resin and glass-fiber mat a more durable mould is made. This durability is required as up to 500 mannequins can be cast from a production mould.
1 - Torso
and arms in mould department.
2 - Main leg in position ready for laying up.
3 - Joe making separating wall of leg mould.
4 - One half of leg mould (red) with original leg still inside (grey).
5 - Joe and Ken laminating one side of torso mould.
6 - Ken laminating the torso with glass-fiber resin.
LAMINATING MASTER FIGURE
Once the production mould is made a flesh coloured mannequin is cast by coating the mould in a layer of flesh coloured gel and glass-fiber resin. This is called the Master Figure. This figure is kept so that when the original mould wears out or damaged another production mould can be made from the master.
1 - Final
torso mould complete with head.
2 - Torso mould with head section removed showing original figure inside.
3 - Half of the leg mould laid up with first flesh coloured resin coat.
4 - Ken laminating second coat of glass reinforced resin, making the master figure.
5 - One half of leg cast completed.
6 - Ken laminating other side of leg mould.
7 - Joe taking the head mould apart to reveal the flesh coloured master.
8 - Joe taking the torso mould apart.
9 - Joe showing the master torso.
FINISHING THE MASTER FIGURE
Once the master
figure has been laminated the seams left on the figure from the moulding are
sanded down so they are no longer visible. The joints between each section,
arms, legs and torso are also sanded flush so the assembled figure is perfect
The master figure is kept in store ready for when new production moulds are required.
1 - Adrian
sanding down the joints so they are flush when assembled.
2 - Sanding down the seams left from the moulding.
Production figures are laminated and finished exactly as the master figure except the production figures are spray painted in the required colour, base and top coats; Make-up applied, and the wigs fitted.
The production figures are spray painted with cellulose paints with a primer and top coat. Any defects spotted are made good between base and top coat. A vast range of colours are available for he customer to select from.
1 - Torso
sprayed with primer cellulose paint.
2 - Arm being sprayed with finished top colour.
3 - A variety of body parts hanging to dry.
Each mannequin is individually made up by hand by artists using oil paints. The style of make-up done to the customers requirements. For our own showroom the make-up is perfectly matched to Lauren's colouring.
1 - Master
make-up artist John hand painting Laurens mannequin head.
2 - John working from Lauren.
3 - The final make-up nearing completion.
All our wigs are made of synthetic hair, perfectly colour matched, cut and styled to the individual customers requirements. As with the make-up our own showroom mannequins are perfectly matched to Lauren's hair.
1 - Preparing
the synthetic hair.
2 - Professional hair stylist cutting and styling the hair as Lauren looks on.
3 - Final cutting and the wig is finished.
THE COMPLETED AND ASSEMBLED MANNEQUIN
A SELECTION OF
SHOWROOM FIGURES IN FULL COSTUME.
(Lauren mannequin: top row center and bottom row left & right)