I created this special, one-of-a-kind sculpture gift to celebrate a 9th wedding anniversary. The custom design incorporated tons of personality from the family thanks to beautiful family portraits shared by the collector. Would you like to see a family of 4 sculpture come together? Take a look at the story of It Started with a Kiss anniversary sculpture, also available in the shop. (Contact me if you'd like learn more about creating your own custom sculpture gift.)
This one-of-a-kind sculpture all began with an email:
"I'd like to commission a custom sculpture celebrating my 9th wedding anniversary to the best wife in the world. 9th is supposed to be pottery, and I know that can include things outside of dishware, but I have this vision of me given her a terracotta pot and, well, that vision doesn't end well for me. I just need to somehow link your work to the traditional anniversary gifts!
"I'm looking for something that shows the closeness of our family unit. We're a family of three. I don't know what else to say, I could send some photos if you'd like. Thanks! A."
As it happens, I love when my collectors send photos, so of course I invited A. to send as many pictures as he'd like. He sent over a passel of some of the most adorable family photos I could hope for. For privacy reasons, I won't share them here (and I've edited his message to remove personal details), but trust me when I say that this "family unit" made me smile in a big way.
Then came some marvelous family photos for inspiration
The first thing I noticed from the portraits was that The Best Wife Ever had a characteristic pose when she took photos with her family: she hooked her elbow around A.'s neck in a charming hug. The pose was very distinctive, and spoke to me of their closeness and joy. So that had to be included, of course.
A. and I batted a few ideas back and forth. He mentioned out that his son is "larger than life:"
He's like a cat on catnip 24/7. Trying to capture that essence in a sculpture...I guess the only thing that comes to my mind is a superhero pose with hands on hips and chest sticking out.
So that meant sedate poses with their son, say, resting his head on Mom's lap or leaning quietly against her shoulder wouldn't work. So I offered three other pose ideas to include more dynamic postures:
- One way I could envision would be with you and your wife sitting together, with your son standing facing you as a superhero. I do wonder, though, if that pose conveys the "Best Wife in the World" message that you intend? I'd like to make her the centerpiece, unless you have a different interpretation of that message (or want a different message entirely).
- What if (brainstorming again) you're sitting beside your wife on the riser, and your son is standing on her other side? He could have his chest out, arms crossed, or maybe her arm is around his waist, and he's leaning against her?
- OR we don't go with super-hero, but with super-son. He could be standing behind her, arms around her neck, giving her a kiss or just leaning on her shoulder. She can be leaning on you, with her head tilted back toward him, to keep it balanced.
First draft: Superson and Best Wife Ever
Bingo! The third option fit the bill. A. agreed that his wife needed to be the center of the pose, with their son actively draping his arms around her neck. This kept the dynamism and kept the focus on the Best Wife Ever.
Super-son and Best Wife (with pretty great husband, it seems to me) was underway. I drafted the sculpture and snapped a few photos for A.'s feedback.
In the first draft, I over-estimated their son's height, and needed to make some tweaks. He was much too tall in this draft sculpture! A. sent over a couple more (adorable) pictures showing the family standing together, to help me gauge relative heights.
A. even convinced his son to stand still long enough to get some measurements so I could get the relative heights more accurately. He had to pretty creative to make that happen without letting out the secret of this sculpture to his wife and son.
Refinements make a second and final draft
A tweak here and there, a little more feedback, and after about a week, I had a new set of photos ready for A.'s feedback.
"It looks amazing! I have no other input than praise! Unless you think something needs to be tweaked I say we go with this!"
Success! With A.'s confirmation, I went on bake the clay model, and then poured the rubber mold.
Molding and casting (the most nerve-wracking part)
Once the mold cured, I cast the one-and-only stone sculpture.
Little secret: This stage is the most nerve-wracking part of my job. Why? When I create the rubber mold, the master sculpture usually gets destroyed. That means that the mold is the only faithful representation of the original sculpture - and it's impossible to know in advance if the mold introduced flaws.
Even with precautions and the benefit of experience, mold failure happens about 1% of the time. But the only way to know it's failed is to try a casting. If this first cast comes out seriously flawed, my only solution is to start over again at the beginning with a brand-new draft sculpture.
So the first casting comes with a lot of care, patience, hope, and silent prayers to the sculpture gods.
Waxing, buffing, polishing, varnishing (the not-glamorous part)
As fortune had it, the casting was perfect. After completing a noisy happy-dance around the studio, I forced myself to walk away and let the sculpture cure thoroughly for a couple of days. This means letting it dry completely so it's hard enough to finish without damage. Depending on humidity and temperature, this can take a couple of days up to a week.
Then it was time for sanding, wax, buffing, varnish, and all the finishing details. This happens over the course of 7 - 10 days, since each coat of wax, paint, and varnish needs to dry thoroughly before the next step can happen. If I try to rush this part, I end up damaging the finish. So I force myself to go slowly and take my time.
A. had waited very patiently through the behind-the-scenes stages, before the final photos of the sculpture were ready. This stage takes the longest, because of the multiple steps and work, but silence means I'm hard at work. No news is good news!
Final one-of-a-kind 9th wedding anniversary gift
At last I had a final set of photos, before I gift-wrapped A.'s sculpture and created the title card. I'm couldn't be happier with how the one-of-a-kind "Best Wife Ever" sculpture turned out! And A.'s message came back:
"Looks awesome! This is the perfect gift, thanks so much!"
Thank you to A. for allowing me to share the creation of this anniversary sculpture for you and your wife. I had so much fun creating this special gift, and hope it brings many, many years of smiles. Happy 9th anniversary!
The process to create your perfect sculpture gift takes about 4-6 weeks, or longer around the holidays. Contact me if you'd like to discuss a custom sculpture that captures your perfect message. Or view my shop for ready-to-ship, limited-edition artwork.