Making my MA Project Sculptures

Two sculptures of characters in the book ‘The Optician of Lampedusa’ are included as part of my MA final show exhibit. One is of Theresa, the optician’s wife who was in the rescue boat, and the other is one of the surviving refugees. My wife Suzy is the actor playing Theresa, and Leo Wringer is the actor with the role of the refugee.

I have already described how Suzy was 3D scanned using the Veronica Scanner loaned to the Royal Academy by Factum Arte. This produced fantastic detail, much more than can be achieved with other scanners. The scan file was used in the Digital Fabrication Department at Central Saint Martins to 3D print a 20 cm tall maquette, the largest size that could be produced by CSM’s Project 360 Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D printer. The maquette was then used to decide how to make a life sized bust of Theresa by breaking up the sculpture and printing it in several pieces. This was a difficult process, as I had to double the dimensions while leaving the facial features intact. Each piece needed to fit within the maximum dimensions of the 3D printer. It is now being 3D printed in ten parts, which I hope to collect next Friday: A jigsaw puzzle for me to assemble later. I know that the fit will not be exact as shrinkage during and after printing occurs, and at different rates because several printing runs are needed to produce all the pieces of the finished sculpture. My experience with 3D printing ‘Vanessa in pose’, made in only four parts, indicates that a fair amount of post-production work will be involved.

Earlier this week I arranged a 3D scanning session in the basement Photographic Studio at Camberwell. This was to scan Leo in pose as a refugee. In preparation, I consulted with Michael Meuller who is advising on a treatment and script for the actors, on what poses Leo should make. We agreed on three based on the following ideas from Emma Jane Kirby’s book.

First moment – the rescue.
The man they had just pulled from the water was hysterical, jabbing his finger back down to the water. He kept repeating a word over and over again but he didn’t seem to understand any Italian.
It was Matteo who thought to try and speak in English.
“What do you want?” he urged him. “We can help if you tell us slowly in English”
The man looked at them imploringly, tears pouring down his face.”Please,” he said , holding his hands together as if in prayer. “Children, there are many children”

Second moment – meeting his rescuers again at the reception centre.
It didn’t matter that they didn’t share a language. He seemed to understand how worried his rescuers were to see how he was faring. He gave them the thumbs up to re-assure them he was okay then inclined his head on his open palm to indicate he was just very tired. He held his hand over his heart and pointed his finger at his rescuer. You gave me life, he was saying. You gave me life.

Third moment – ceremony at sea on the boat that saved him to commemorate first anniversary of the rescue.
The man turned from the sea and faced his rescuer, holding out his hand.
“Come,”he said, looking him squarely in the eye. “Come and be with us.”
So they joined hands, looking out to sea, and the refugee began to pray. He could feel the collective pulse of them all, throbbing in his own wrists. He could feel their shared lifeline.

After that I had to consider the limitations of the scanning equipment and software I used, namely the Structure Sensor attached to a mini iPad with Itseez3D software. The bust profile does not easily accommodate outward hand gestures, as they fall outside the viewing frame. So during the session Leo improvised each pose in an acting sense and I directed him taking into account the technical limitations of the equipment. Here are 2D pictures of some of the results.

The images were viewed by Leo, Michael, Suzy and last but not least Becky for advice about the best to use to make a foundry bronze. Technical difficulties with some of the poses (for example, printing or lost wax processing the pointing finger, or digital imperfections due to Leo moving) ruled them out. We also had to consider the juxtaposition with Suzy’s pose, first seeing with horror refugees drowning in the sea. Finally we chose this combination.

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From the texture image it can be seen that the raw 3D scan has lost quite a lot of detail, notably around the eyes. However we thought that the haunted look created suited the disturbing message we were trying to convey. It was necessary to make a small 3D print (6 cm x 6 cm) of the two sculptures together to see the effect in reality. I 3D printed Leo as the refugee in this pose overnight. It took eleven hours at high quality at 50% density!! I have another meeting at CSM Digital Fabrication next Friday when I will arrange for a 20cm tall maquette to be 3D printed using their SLS printer. At the same time I will discuss how the 3D file should be split in order to make this sculpture life size too.

These sculptures will materially influence the script for the holographic video of the characters’ narratives. I have set up a meeting next Friday evening with Michael, the scriptwriter and Suzy to move this aspect of the work forward. Leo is off to Mexico for a week to teach professional actors how to perform Shakespeare, and then to select the best for roles in a production.

Onwards and upwards!





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