Project: Maquette for a public sculpture commission

Skipton map tile

The maquette for this sculpture was produced from similar materials that the full size sculpture would be constructed out of. Because this is a smaller sculpture, a scale of 1:4 was chosen and a 30cm square tile produced.

The initial stage was to create the map tile from sheets of foam board, cutting them roughly to the contours of the land. The transport links were to be highlighted as features, so the route of the canal was cut out of the board to highlight this.


Paper mache was then applied to smooth out the shapes and wool like fabric added to the hillsides (to reference the “sheep town”). The rail and road lines were added in 3D paint (at a larger scale thick string might be used for this purpose which would provide an interesting texture).

This was then sealed and then moulded in rubber with a plaster shell. Unfortunately the wool texture was not sealed well enough and embedded itself in the rubber. This was eventually removed through brute force, but a lot of the material was left in the rubber. The string applied for the railway line also encased itself in the rubber and was lost from the design. This would have to be added back into the wax using carving.


(I forgot to photograph the work before moulding it)

Do to time constraints my aim was to produce this map tile in paper clay slip rather than bronze. I poured slip into the rubber mould, but it didn’t seem to want to dry out at all.

My slip cast did eventually dry, but cracked along the lines of the canals where it was thinnest and stuck to the embedded material and had to be broken out in these areas:


Overall, a disaster! However, it has taught me some valuable lessons. The most important of these was that whilst I was waiting for it to dry, I came to realise that it was going to be a pretty uninteresting sculpture (whether successful or not). There wasn’t much that would distinguish this from a 3D map you might buy in a shop apart from its medium. I had got lost in the process side of things and the need to get the work finished by a deadline. I should have left it alone for a while to think about it and whether it worked as a sculpture before ploughing on with the moulding process.

What could make it more interesting? The contour map is how it is, but the surface could be made far more interesting by incorporating objects / toys / etc. to reference the areas I was trying to highlight. For example, the wheels off a toy could reference the road network, sections of knitting/crocheting would be better on the hills than the wool fabric I had tried to use initially and could be formed into more interesting shapes and textures. Objects such as these could be added to the map tile, sealed in properly, then moulded and cast. This would be similar to the approach used by Sophie Ryder in her sculpture ‘Crawling’, 1999 where she added car parts and plastic toys to add interest and texture.


The danger is that this might look a bit cluttered on a small map tile, but I will give it a go and see how I get on.



1:4 scale maquette in foamboard, paper mache and found objects.

I was much more pleased about this maquette than my previous attempts. It is also properly sealed onto the base and shouldn’t cause problems when being moulded.

I will continue to develop this sculpture and add it back in here when it is in a state worthy of being on here, but as I have my second option for Threshfield quarry, that will suffice for this section for now.


Threshfield towers

I chose to construct this maquette out of paper clay as I thought this would be the easiest medium to achieve the curves I needed for this sculpture. I started out by making a plaster form on which to form my sheets of clay:


This wasn’t as successful a former as I had hoped, but it did provide a gentle curve to start the sections off on and it was twisted by hand after their construction.

The five sections were created by using this mould to support one side and constructing the edges and second side on top of it. These were then joined together once dry by blocks of paper clay and attached to a base.


Unfortunately because this is a very tall thin sculpture, this didn’t provide a very secure join between the pieces. They hold together and have survived the painting process, but they would not survive any lateral force being applied to them.

Once fully dry, the paper clay was painted in primer and then iron paint which was then treated with a rust activator to rust the surface. The base areas were painted with acrylic paint. Fabric mesh was treated with acrylic paint to represent the vegetation growing in the cracks and inserted into the holes when dry.

Resurgence 1

My tutor didn’t like the ‘stones’ around the base, saying that it was “hiding the base rather than celebrating how it stands”. Also the green ‘vegetation’ doesn’t work on the images and looks like it is just stuck in, distracting from the rest of the sculpture.

I removed both these elements and re-photographed. These two images clearly show the before and after:

Resurgence 9Resurgence 6

It does stand stronger without the boulders at the base and the removal of the green fabric does also help.

Resurgence 1Resurgence 2Resurgence 3 Resurgence 4 Resurgence 5Resurgence 6Resurgence 7Resurgence 8

45cm x 15cm x 15cm
1:20 scale maquette in paper clay and fabric, with iron and acrylic paint.

I thought of the potential problems with the bolts providing hand/footholds (mentioned in my previous blog post) after I had constructed the maquette, so these features may need to be altered in the full scale sculpture.

Site 6 b mockup Site 6 c mockup

(Not the best mock-ups, but you get enough of an idea of how it would work on the site)



The most important lesson I have learnt with this project is the need to step back from what I am doing at times to ensure I am on the right path. I enjoy the process side of things and the challenge that it offers, but can let that overtake the artwork I am trying to create. My first disastrous attempt at the Skipton sculpture was just what I needed to re-focus on what I was trying to create. I need to build in more time for reflection whilst creating work to ensure I am on the right path.

Artist Statement


This sculpture provides an imposing and dynamic gateway into the quarry site, standing as a memorial to the human presence on the site which is now gone, the industry, construction, toil and noise that took place here. It has a corporal feel, that of two sentries guarding the entrance. The rust patina and after time the splashes of vegetation which would appear, reference the new life of the site as it returns to nature.

The site appealed to me as it has the evidence of previous industry with rusting metal and ruined buildings. Decay often seems to offer much more interest to me in terms of shapes and textures. The vegetation has taken hold in some areas which makes exploring the site seem like uncovering archaeology. There is also a desolate feel about the site, sadness about an industry now gone and a busy place returning to silence.

Demonstration of technical and visual skills


The paper clay used gave me the ability to produce curved shapes that would have been difficult to manage using other materials. The iron paint works very well to make this look like rusted steel.


The method of construction was not thought through enough to provide enough stability for such a tall thin maquette. It stands, but I wouldn’t want to have to transport it!

Observational Skills:

The sculpture appears to work well on the site I have chosen for it (although my mock-up’s are not brilliant) and the patina compliments the form.

Design and Compositional Skills:

This maquette was planned using sketches more than I have done so previously, and I think benefits from this

Quality of Outcome

Stability is an issue for the maquette and the twist wasn’t as even as I had planned (although not necessarily in a bad way). Other than that I think the maquette is successful.

Demonstration of Creativity

Developed from an investigation of the quarry site and the possibilities it offered. Once the site was decided on, the idea came fairly fully formed and changed little in development


This maquette has some similarities to Anthony Gormley’s Angel of the North, which was referenced in the course notes for this project. The obvious links are the rust colouration, the bolts/rivets holding it together and its upright standing form. Whilst my sculpture is more abstract, it does also share a corporal feeling, that of two sentries guarding the entrance to this site.


Despite the structural problems of building out of paper clay, I can’t think of a much better way to construct this maquette. I also can’t think of further ways to develop this sculpture. It is pleasing to construct a maquette and have it come out so close to how I envisaged!

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One Response to Project: Maquette for a public sculpture commission

  1. Pingback: Assignment one: Reflection | Chasing Sparrows

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