Sculpting the Big Nativity Maquettes

After drawings have been made of the design, the first 3D work starts with small clay models. These models are called maquettes. A maquette is made for each sculpture and is then enlarged. Read below about the process of sculpting the maquette.

The maquettes are built upon a wire armature.  The wires act as the bones or skeleton of the small model.  The wire armatures are made precisely and in proportion to the character you are working on.  For example, if you are working on a Shepherd Man and Shepherd Boy, the two must be in proportion to one another, and as well they must be proportion to Mary, Joseph, other Shepherds, the animals and so forth.  Each wire armature is measured and calibrated to match the set.

The armatures are then precisely bent into the body positions of each character according to the paper sketch.  Attention to detail about where knees bend, ankles bend, wrists break, neck height, angle of the upper body in relation to the lower.  All of these seemingly easy mechanics of the body must be considered in order to create a sculpture that looks and feels natural.  As my dad would say “you never notice it if its right, but you sure notice it if its wrong.”  and “form follows function”.  If the function of the skeleton is off, then the form is off, and you have a weird looking sculpture.

After the wire armatures are bent and molded into position, you then apply the clay.  You start with masses of main muscle structure an work up.  The Big Nativity sculptures are heavily robed so there is a lot of mass in the clothing.  This is part of the artists style and look of the sculptures.  It is also a critical design feature in casting statuary this large.  The maquettes are taken to a stage where they can be scanned.  It is not critical that detail be worked into the maquettes as the models are going to be enlarged and used as armatures for the upcoming sculpting process of the statues in heroic size.

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