Sadako armature

This is the only blog about Sadako I wrote last year…I thought I would share this again – the trials and tribulations of armature-building

Hazel Reeves

It’s one thing building the armature for a third life-size maquette. It’s another thing building an armature for a four-fifths life-size sculpture, even though it is of a ten-year old girl. I am definitely out of my comfort zone. The armature needs to be able to support the weight of the clay without drooping or tipping. The clay must be able to cling to the armature. And the armature needs to be able to support the weight of the rubber during the mould-making process. A tall order. There isn’t the time to make too many mistakes. My model is off to Japan in July and the sculpture needs to be cast in July/August and unveiled in September. So I bring in the expertise of Andrew Brown, co-owner of the Sussex Sculpture Studios http://www.sussexsculpture.co.uk/ .

We agree that a purchased ‘half life-size’ sliding armature should be sufficient to give this small…

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The Sadako sculpture – the commission

So how did this wonderful commission come about? It is serendipity, a chance encounter at a London art fair. I meet this amazing woman with a vision of a community retreat and peace garden in Wales. She introduces me to the touching story of Sadako. With shared interests in international development and issues of peace, we just know we should work together towards this vision. Within a year, I find myself in Wales, spending an inspiring couple of days talking through the commission and spending time in the plot, where the landscaping is progressing. We part, enthused with our project to have a bronze sculpture of Sadako Sasaki at the centre of Hedd Wen, the peace garden. We have tousled with a number of key questions. How should we depict the story of Sadako? What response do we want from viewers? What age should Sadako be? What clothing should she wear? What size should she be? Where should she be positioned in the garden?

Our target is to unveil the sculpture and garden on the World Day of Peace, the 21st September 2012. This is in just under one year’s time. This perhaps sounds like a lot of time, but the modeling, casting and installing of a bronze sculpture is complex and time-consuming. My first task is to work on a third-size maquette, or model, of the proposed sculpture. A friend’s daughter kindly sits for me. I build a rather elaborate armature and use terracotta wax so that we can move the arms, legs and head around, to try out different poses. Another meeting, this time in London, allows us to finalise the pose and settle remaining questions.

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Emily and Kaiser
Emily and Kaiser

My next step is to find a model to sit for the final Sadako sculpture. Good fortune strikes again, and I find the lovely model, Emily. We have many happy sittings in my studio in Billingshurst. I look back at those sittings with fondness. It has been a real privilege to spend time with Emily and her mum Aki, over the last year. In fact, we are back in the studio at the moment working on another portrait of Emily.

The next part of the story will be sharing some of the photos of sittings with Emily and the clay modeling process.

http://www.hazelreeves.com

The Sadako sculpture – the inspiration

In 2012 I had the privilege of being commissioned to produce a bronze sculpture of Sadako Sasaki, to form the centrepiece of Hedd Wen, a tranquil peace garden in Wales. The garden and sculpture were blessed on the World Day of Peace, on Friday 21st September 2012. But who was Sadako Sasaki?

Sadako Sasaki in 1954
Sadako Sasaki in 1954

Sadako was twelve when she became ill from the effects of the radiation from the Hiroshima nuclear bomb. Despite becoming increasingly ill she sought to make one thousand origami paper cranes. This follows the Japanese legend, “fold 1000 paper cranes and your wish will come true”. Many patients, including Sadako, were inspired to fold their own paper cranes. Into each crane, Sadako folded her wish to get well. Paper was expensive so she used any paper she could lay her hands on, including advertisements and medicine labels. Despite her failing health she folded over 1000 paper cranes, helped by family and school friends.

Children's Peace Monument
Children’s Peace Monument

Sadako Sasaki lost her fight for life on the 25th October 1955, at the age of twelve. She was just one of the hundreds of thousands of people who lost their lives as a result of the Hiroshima bombing. Devastated by the death of their friend, her school friends from the Nobori-cho Junior High School decided to raise funds for a memorial sculpture. In May 1958, the Children’s Peace Monument was unveiled as a fitting tribute to Sadako and all the other children who died from the atomic bombing. This nine-foot high bronze sculpture of Sadako can be found in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, close to the spot where the atomic bomb was dropped. Over the years, the story of Sadako and the 1000 paper cranes has travelled far. It is used worldwide in peace education initiatives. Indeed, children from all over the world still send paper cranes to be placed under Sadako’s statue in Hiroshima.

See my blogs ‘Who was Sadako Sasaki?’ and ‘Young people unite for a peace monument in Hiroshima’ for further detail.

This blog and its images draw on the excellent resources of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and its website – http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/index_e2.html

http://www.hazelreeves.com

Young people unite for a peace monument in Hiroshima

Devastated by the death of their friend Sadako, her school friends from the Nobori-cho Junior High School met to discuss a way to ‘console Sadako’s spirit’. They formed the Unity Club, deciding a fitting tribute would be a  monument to Sadako and all the other children who died from the atomic bombing. The Unity Club’s campaign began. They called for the construction of the peace monument to be an opportunity for schools in Hiroshima to learn more about the bombing and to reflect on issues of peace.

Children's Peace Monument, Hiroshima
Children’s Peace Monument, Hiroshima

The Unity Club started to work with the newly-formed Hiroshima Society of School Children for Building World Peace, formed of the student councils of each school in the city. Over 3100 schools from Japan and nine other countries sent money and letters to support the campaign. Within two and a half years of Sadako’s death, in May 1958, the Children’s Peace Monument was unveiled. It can be found in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, close to the spot where the atomic bomb was dropped.

The nine-metre high bronze monument consists of a figure of a young girl holding aloft a huge gold-coloured ‘paper’ crane, atop a large three-legged pedestal. A stone in front of the monument is inscribed with:

This is our cry

This is our prayer

For building peace in the world

Kazuo Kikuchi, then Professor at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music, sculpted the figure. Kiyoshi Ikebe, a former Professor at the University of Tokyo, designed the pedestal. A bell donated by the nuclear physicist Hideki Yukawa sometimes hangs under the arch, acting as a wind chime. This bell is inscribed with ‘A Thousand Paper Cranes’ on the front, and ‘Peace on Earth and Heaven’ on the back.

Three students, including Sadako’s brother Eiji Sasaki, presided over the unveiling. They pulled the red and white tape off the statue to symbolise its completion, while Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony was played. The bell rang out, with the sound reaching as far as the A-bomb Dome and the Memorial Cenotaph in the Memorial Park. Children from all over the world still send paper cranes to be placed under Sadako’s statue.

Unveiling of the Children's Peace Monument, Hiroshima
Unveiling of the Children’s Peace Monument, Hiroshima

Next blog? How the story of Sadako and the one thousand paper cranes, began to travel the world.

Acknowledgements

This blog draws heavily on the excellent resources of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and its website – http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/index_e2.html

Who was Sadako Sasaki?

Paper crane
The Hiroshima Bombing
The Hiroshima Bombing

Sadako was born into the Sasaki family on the 7th January 1943, in Kusunoki-cho, Hiroshima. This was a time of war. Two years later, on the 6th August 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima by American forces. By December, around 140,000 residents were dead. They died as a result of the bomb blast, the heat ray, fire and the radiation.

At 8.15 on the 6th August, the Sasaki family were eating breakfast. The blast hit their home. As it collapsed and was consumed by fire, Sadako’s grandmother and brother Masahiro were injured. Sadako and her mother were unharmed. However, as they fled to the Northern part of Hiroshima to join family, they were caught in the “black rain”. Altogether Sadako lost 12 relatives to the atomic bomb, including her grandmother.

Sadako and her class relay team
Sadako (middle, front) and her class relay team

Post-war, the Sasaki family worked to reconstruct their lives. Despite being a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing, Sadako grew up to be a healthy and athletic young girl, known in the Nobori-cho Elementary School for being the fastest runner in the school. It was in late 1954 that her health began to fail. Sadako was diagnosed with leukaemia, known as the “A-bomb disease”. She was admitted to the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital on the 21st February 1955.

In order to bring cheer to the patients, school children from Nagoya sent the hospital 1000 multi-coloured paper cranes. This follows the Japanese legend, “fold 1000 paper cranes and your wish will come true”. Many patients, including Sadako, were inspired to fold their own paper cranes. Into each crane, Sadako folded her wish to get well. Paper was expensive so she used any paper she could lay her hands on, including adverts and medicine labels. Despite her failing health she folded over 1000 paper cranes, helped by family and school friends.

Paper crane
Paper crane

To the end she remained hopeful and stoic, according to her brother Masahiro. She was committed to peace, often singing the peace song ‘Genbaku-O-Yurusumaji’ (‘Never Again The A-bomb’). Her wish for life, however, was not to be granted. Sadako Sasaki lost her fight for life on the 25th October 1955, at the age of twelve. She was just one of the hundreds of thousands of people who lost their lives as a result of the Hiroshima bombing.

My next blog will talk of how Sadako, and the story of the thousand paper cranes, became the focus of peace education efforts in Japan and beyond. After this, I will write about the development of my bronze sculpture of Sadako for a peace garden in Wales.

Acknowledgements

I have heavily drawn on the excellent resources of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and its website – http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/index_e2.html

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, ‘Sadako and the Paper Cranes – Message of Life Transcending Time’- http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/frame/Virtual_e/exhibit_e/index.html

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, ‘Kid’s Peace Station’ – http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/frame/kids_e/sadako_e/index.html

Hawkins, Kathryn, 2010, ‘One Thousand Paper Cranes for Peace: The Story of Sadako Sasaki’ – http://gimundo.com/news/article/one-thousand-paper-cranes-for-peace-the-story-of-sadako-sasaki/

Building the ‘Sadako’ armature

Joining the arms

It’s one thing building the armature for a third life-size maquette. It’s another thing building an armature for a four-fifths life-size sculpture, even though it is of a ten-year old girl. I am definitely out of my comfort zone. The armature needs to be able to support the weight of the clay without drooping or tipping. The clay must be able to cling to the armature. And the armature needs to be able to support the weight of the rubber during the mould-making process. A tall order. There isn’t the time to make too many mistakes. My model is off to Japan in July and the sculpture needs to be cast in July/August and unveiled in September. So I bring in the expertise of Andrew Brown, co-owner of the Sussex Sculpture Studios http://www.sussexsculpture.co.uk/ .

Half life-size sliding armature
Half life-size sliding armature

We agree that a purchased ‘half life-size’ sliding armature should be sufficient to give this small figure the back support it needs. I finally track one down in Northern Ireland (Scarva) and get it shipped over. I order ten metres of aluminium armature wire (6.3 mm) (from Tirantis). It’s all here – we can start.

Wood runners are attached underneath a large oblong ply board (45cm x 76cm). This will make it easier to pick up the sculpture/board.

Armature affixed to board
Armature affixed to board

At the end of the board the armature is attached with heavy-duty screws & washers.

Now for the calculations, so out comes my trusty calculator. I have a one-third size maquette and the life-size measurements of my model, but the sculpture is going to be four-fifths life-size. And of course the metal armature I am building from steel and wire – like a stick version of the model – has to be smaller than the four-fifths dimensions. Confused? My brain is aching. And Andrew is laughing at me.

Attaching the steel rod
Attaching the steel rod

I finally work out the length of steel rod I need for her back that would go from the outstretched metal arm of the sliding armature up into her head (middle of forehead).

This is cut and attached using ‘jubilee’ or ‘hose’ clips.

I then work out the lengths of 6.3 mm square armature wire needed for (a) two separate legs/feet going up into the hip (b) shoulders into torso (c) shoulders across to each arm and hand. These are cut to length – Andrew uses wire cutters but my wrists are too weak, so I put the wire in a vice and use a hacksaw. I then bend these pieces of wire into the correct shape before attaching.

Must admit, this is the bit I hate the most – attaching the pieces of armature wire, in the right place. You need to make up metal ties and find appropriate-sized jubilee clips.

Wire tie
Wire tie

Andrew makes up a wire tie for me to copy. Mine don’t quite look like his, but do the job. I’m told later that the important thing is that you can pop the wire tie around what you are binding and use pliers on both ends, turning in opposite directions to tighten. This will only make sense if you try it!

Attaching the wire armature lengths
Attaching the wire armature lengths

So I attach legs to the sliding armature, the shoulder/torso wire to the steel ‘spine’ and the shoulder/arm wire to the shoulder/torso wire. Best to just look at the photo.

Joining the arms
Joining the arms

Final step for the day is to position the arms so they are roughly in the right position. I use the maquette as reference. The hands are to be cupped together, to hold a ‘paper’ crane. So we join both arms at the hands.

Tomorrow I need to continue – need to add some more jubilee clips, add some wire under and along the arms, and make loops of softer wire and weave it over the legs and arms, so the clay won’t fall off. Then we will pack the torso/dress with polystyrene to save clay (more an issue of weight rather than saving money).

Fingers-crossed. Wish me luck.