The Sir Nigel Gresley clay maquette – the process

The tweed suit hanging in the studio
The tweed suit hanging in the studio

With the decision made on which pose to sculpt, the go-ahead was given. I started to sculpt the ‘final’ maquette of Sir Nigel, 35cm in height, for casting in bronze. Back came my ever-patient model, and on went the tweed suit, for some more detailed modeling in clay instead of wax.

Starting to cover the wire armature in clay
Starting to cover the wire armature in clay

Rather than making yet another armature, I reused the armature from one of the wax maquettes. But I needed to think more about making the armature for the Mallard.

The original wax maquette was always at my side for reference, along with my large workbook of photos of Sir Nigel and the King’s Cross site.

Clay in progress, sitting in my kitchen
Clay in progress, sitting in my kitchen

I was under time pressure. So each night after a tiring sitting, I would drive the clay maquette home and station it in my kitchen so I could constantly review it while away from the studio – while cooking, resting, chatting to friends. It becomes an obsession. What is working? What isn’t working? What is my priority for the studio tomorrow? Time with a model is always precious.

The 20cm terracotta wax head
The 20cm terracotta wax head

I am used to working at life-size, so a 35cm model is rather a challenge, especially to get any sense of a likeness. My model was great for the figure of Sir Nigel, but the head had to be based on photographs of the man. I decided to sculpt a 20cm terracotta wax head of Sir Nigel, purely to help me sculpt the tiny head of the maquette.

Planning-out the Mallard armature
Planning-out the Mallard armature

The Mallard was sculpted separately – incredibly hard to sculpt on such a tiny scale, in clay.

Here are some of the photos of the clay maquette in progress. In the next blog I will show you the final clay maquette, ready for mould-making.
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6 thoughts on “The Sir Nigel Gresley clay maquette – the process

    1. Thanks Jutta!
      A maquette is always small as it is a model for a larger work. Once people are happy with the small model, then the sculptor can scale it up to the desired size – in this case, 7ft 4 inches. In addition, as we were casting the maquette in bronze we did not want it to be too large and heavy. 35cm seemed to be the optimal size. The Gresley Society Trust wanted to be able to to carry it to meetings with their Council, Camden Council, English Heritage, and Network Rail.
      Hazel
      : )

      1. Ahhh I completely misunderstood!

        For some reason I thought you were using the maquette as the basis of the final piece and someone else would be making it up to full size. If you see what I mean.

        My apologies Hazel. It makes perfect sense now.

        Thanks

        Jutta

      2. Some people these days get the maquette scanned and scaled-up in polystyrene and they put on the final 1-2 inches of clay! But I am doing it the most satisfying way – the old school way – scaling it up myself but also using a live model. Takes a lot of time, but the results should be more convincing.
        Hazel
        : )

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