for a lifecasting
a portion of your body turned into a work of art is an extraordinary
opportunity, a once-in-a-lifetime event for most people! If you're
considering a lifecast sculpture for yourself or arranging
a session as a gift for someone else this page will help
you gain a better understanding of the modeling process. Just as
we at ELS are dedicated to creating an artwork that you will be
proud of, we are also dedicated to making the modeling experience
as safe, special and rewarding as possible for all clients.
bodies not required
The first thing
we should stress is that lifecasting is not reserved for models
with "perfect" bodily features. We want everyone to appreciate
the innate beauty of their own form their "essensual"
beauty and this shouldn't be measured against the unrealistic
and sometimes extreme beauty standards perpetuated by our society.
collaborative process between the model and the artist, we work
on different poses until we find what is most flattering for each
model. If desired and appropriate, there are many ways in which
we can focus on the model's strengths and downplay other features.
Then, after the bodymold has been made, we still have complete artistic
and aesthetic control over the appearance of the work because of
the 2-stage molding process we use (see the about
page for details). During the intermediate wax stage, we encourage
the model to come see the progress of their work. If any changes
are desired, ELS artists are able and happy to re-touch, re-sculpt,
remove or augment any features needed to make the piece look as
good as the client wants. Adding sculpted hair to a face portrait
is a good example of the kind of augmentation we can provide.
While some of
the works in our gallery have been
enhanced by this re-touching process, it is not our mission to create
only sculptures with "perfect-looking" features. We encourage
all potential lifecasting models to approach the process with their
own unique features in mind, and not be intimidated by other works.
What it takes
to be a lifecast model
started, the bodymolding process typically takes 30-40 minutes to
complete. Any person healthy enough to hold a pose for that amount
of time is a potential lifecast model. In fact, body molds are frequently
taken from pregnant women, even near the end of their term. We know
we've done it! To pose for a face casting or "face mask,"
you will need to be able to breath comfortably through your nostrils
only for the same period of time.
What is possible
We can cast
any and all external features of the human body, from a hand or
a face to the entire body. Couples can be molded together. Multiple
models can have their hands molded together. Face masks can be taken
from multiple family members and combined into one group portrait.
While just about anything is possible, the labor and therefore the
cost will increase with the complexity and size of the work.
The only bodily
areas that have to be exposed during the lifecasting process are
the ones being molded. We also have limited abilities to create
the bodymold over clothing, making the clothing a feature in the
finished piece. A young dancer in a leotard would be a good example
of this type of pose. Of course there are many types of poses that
don't even involve private areas on the torso, but where the torso
is desired and the model doesn't wish to be exposed, there may be
a suitable alternative.
For models who
would be more comfortable having a female artist during their bodymolding
session, we're happy to schedule Laura Ramberg for an extra fee.
Laura is a well-known Lawrence-area sculptor and art teacher. She
is also a mother of five and a midwife, making her imminently qualified
to assist with the creation of a pregnancy casting or "belly
mask." Laura is also available to help custom-decorate your
lifecasting or belly mask in a creative manner. See the artists
page for more information.
our pricing page to see how costs are
affected by the type of pose and the choices available for the finished
sculpture. This page also describes how ELS models are eligible
to receive a cash commission for every duplicate sold.
ready to explore the possibility of a lifecast of your own
even if you aren't sure you're ready to commit the artists
invite you to schedule an initial (no-obligation) consultation.
During this meeting we will discus the pose you have in mind, and
review photos of similar works by ELS and other artists. This will
help you understand what is possible and will also help initiate
the creative process for your pose.
We'll also discuss
the options regarding the look of the finished work, and how the
options affect the pricing. We can cast in a number of different
materials, surface treatments and colors. These choices affect the
look, weight and cost of the finished piece. There may also be accessories
to consider, such as a display base for a tabletop piece.
We know that
the more informed you are, the more comfortable you will be with
your decision, and the better the final result will be.
is an instruction for an artist to create an art work for a client
for a given fee. Once all the details and pricing have been agreed
upon, we will complete a contract and
ask for a booking fee of $50 (which will be deducted from the final
payment of the art work). The contract protects the interests of
everyone involved by describing what the model and artist can expect
from each other, who has the rights to the products of the bodymolding
session, etc. To see a sample ELS contract, click
all but the simplest pieces, we usually need an advance session
for working out the pose. This is where the artists will collaborate
with the model, looking for the pose that will best satisfy the
goals we all have for the work. Every model is different, both in
body and in how they want their finished piece to look. Our experience
with the entire process is a valuable asset during this step, assuring
that we choose a pose that will not only be attractive in its finished
form but is also practical for all the steps in the process.
With your consent,
photos will be taken during this step to help us select the best
pose or combine elements from different poses. Sometimes photos
show us nice shapes or forms that we missed in the posing session.
Photos are also very helpful later in the casting process, especially
if any retouching is to be done.
Once the best
pose has been selected, custom fixtures, braces and pads may be
made to help support the model and reduce fatigue during the bodymolding
session. For best results, it is important that the model feels
calm, relaxed and attractive during the molding session, and is
able to hold the pose for 30-40 minutes without discomfort.
If the bodymolding
session is to take place within the coming week, we may be
able to complete this advance posing session during the initial
consultation and commission signing. If not, we will schedule a
posing session within a week of the bodymolding session.
If your pose
will include the pubic region, please consider shaving the area
or at least trimming it closely before your session. The same thing
goes for any areas with longish hair, such as armpit hair or chest
hair on men. "Peach fuzz" and other fine hair does not
present a molding problem, but longer and coarser hair can. Short
hair is prevented from sticking with oil or body lotion, and is
usually not visible in the finished bodymold.
If you're not
interested in shaving or trimming these areas, we do have a couple
of options. If the hair is not too voluminous we can fill it in
with a hair styling glue, and even "style" it as desired
(this can add significant time to the bodymolding session). This
will prevent the molding materials from getting intertwined in the
hair and sticking. With a thicker hair mass, we can wet the area
with petroleum jelly or hair conditioner, and then apply plaster
gauze over the area first. Like the first option, this will prevent
the molding materials from intertwining with the hair and sticking.
With either method, the bodymold will capture the shape and texture
of the hair mass, and this will be featured in the finished casting
unless we sculpt it out in the re-touching phase (not that there
is anything wrong with it showing!).
for the bodymolding session
comfortable clothing that you don't care too much about. Old sweats
might be a good choice. We will try to protect your skin and clothing
outside of the area we're molding, but sometimes "drips happen,"
and some molding materials (like plaster) may not be removable from
fabric. If you will be standing, the same thing goes for the shoes
you bring (if you feel you'll need shoes at all).
You are encouraged
to bring anything to the bodymolding session that will help you
be comfortable. This can include a robe, music CDs, beverages, snacks,
etc. (we will have drinking water on hand). You may also bring a
friend to take photos or provide support. Some models might like
to have a friend hold their hand while their face is being cast.
Please instruct your guest to not make you laugh during the process,
and to not distract the artists with too much conversation while
they're concentrating on the work at hand.
When you arrive,
the studio will be approximately 75 degrees for your comfort and
preparations for the session will be underway. For torso poses,
you should promptly remove all clothing in the affected areas so
that your skin will have a chance to release any indentations caused
by clothing contact (this is where you may want the robe). It's
best to not wear undergarments or tight-fitting clothing for one
hour before the session. If you're wearing any makeup in the areas
we'll be molding, please remove it at this time.
also be removed in the affected areas. There may be some instances
where jewelry can be included in the bodymold, but if it is desired
in the artwork we will generally add it in the intermediate wax
stage described above.
making final preparations, you may be asked to apply a lotion or
conditioner to the skin and hair in areas we'll be molding. This
aids in releasing the mold from your body with minimal effort or
damage to the mold. For skin, we have baby oil and also a healthy
coconut-based skin lotion, but feel free to bring your own lotion.
If we're molding the face, we will apply a lotion or conditioner
to your eyelashes, eyebrows and the edges of your hair, and fit
you with a shower cap or swim cap to protect your hair.
If the pose
calls for casting the mouth or face, you will be unable to verbally
communicate with us once the mouth is covered. For your comfort
and safety, before we begin applying materials we will agree on
some clear non-verbal cues you can use to either express discomfort
or request an immediate bail-out from the process. The need for
a bail-out is unlikely, but your safety is paramount and we want
to be prepared for anything that might call for a rapid termination
of the process and removal of the materials. Some models feel relaxed
and secure in the envelope of the mold, and some may feel a bit
of claustrophobia. If you are concerned about how the process will
feel to you, you might want to bring a friend to hold your hand
and reassure you.
At this point
we will have you get into the pose for a last-minute check of the
look and any special braces or pads. Then you will have an opportunity
to relax, stretch and use the restroom. Once we start mixing the
molding material, the work will commence very quickly and you need
to be ready in the desired pose.
first material we will apply is a dental-grade alginate, made from
the seaweed kelp. This material is very non-toxic and skin-safe,
and will be applied at ~80°F for your comfort and to prevent
goose-bumps. The alginate we use features a pleasant spearmint aroma.
We only have about 5 minutes to apply the alginate before it begins
to cure to a rubbery state, so we will be working quickly at this
time. The alginate will be smoothed onto the body with a motion
that forces air bubbles out and away from your features. We may
shake you around a bit, and you need to do your best to hold the
pose without slipping.
Before the alginate
hardens completely, you will feel fingers pressing all over you
as we force fibrous materials into the outer surface of the alginate.
These fibers will help the subsequent plaster layers adhere to the
alginate "print coat."
we will begin applying strips of plaster gauze wetted with warm
water. You will feel light pressure all over during this process,
and again it is important that you hold the pose without slipping
or losing the desired form. After a few minutes you will begin to
feel the first layer of plaster getting stiff all around you. As
we continue you will feel the mold getting stiffer and heavier,
and you will feel us tapping on the mold to check for the desired
thickness and hardness. The harder the outer shell gets, the more
it will support you, and the more you can relax and stop worrying
about rigidly holding the pose.
Once the plaster
shell is done, we will begin removing the mold from the model. What
we have, in effect, is a giant , custom-fit suction cup attached
to the body. Releasing the mold is mainly a matter of introducing
air between the skin and the alginate. We will first release the
mold perimeter by inserting moistened fingers between the skin and
the alginate. Once the perimeter is released we will ask you to
slowly begin pulling your bodily features away from the alginate
while we support the mold and gently pull. Extremities such as fingers
should be gently flexed until you feel them release. If your face
is involved, you can wiggle your lips free, flex your face muscles
and even blow air out of your mouth to help your face pulll free.
At this point the mold should readily fall off into our hands. It
is important that the releasing process be done slowly and deliberately
to minimize the possibility of damaging the delicate alginate layer.
we admire the new bodymold for a minute or two, we will help you
remove any excess alginate or plaster drippings from your skin.
There are usually some light crusties lingering where the mold edges
were, which should easily scrape off your oiled skin. Crusties in
the hair are carefully pulled out with a flea comb. You are welcome
to take a shower before you dress, if you like. Before you leave,
we'd love to take a few photos of you holding your new lifemold.
At this point
the model's work is done until we have a positive casting ready
to show. We will proceed promptly with casting a wax or plaster
positive fom the bodymold, as this needs to be done before the alginate
begins shrinking and cracking as it dries out. The rest of the process
is described in the about page.
Thank you for
you interest in Essensual Life Sculpture! If you have further questions,
please don't hesitate to contact Alan or Doug.