Commissioning a portrait sculpture

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clays in studio

The commissioning process starts with detailed discussions over possible poses and final locations for the sculpture. If more than one piece is involved then the interplay between the pieces will be considered.

I like to meet the children as soon as possible, to put them at their ease and to learn more of their character. All people have individual and identifiable habits of posture, which are important to capture in the finished sculpture. The choice of pose is very important as the body position and attitude can give as much a sense of likeness as the face.

The location is equally important, I like to place children in as natural a way as possible without separating them from their environment, so I prefer not to use artificial plinths.

When we have chosen poses and location we need to sort out a timetable for sittings and arrangements for the modelling studio.

It is preferable to set up a temporary studio arrangement in your home. The children are much happier on their own territory and chaperones are easier to arrange.


Some work constructing the armature and basic clay form is carried out in my studio from initial measurements and drawings. The final sittings are always from life. The time involved is usually achieved in about 5 days per child, spread out as much as possible and only working for short periods at a time. I have a lot of experience of working with young children and can usually get their co-operation.


I usually stay with my clients during modelling sessions and have found this allows for a relaxed atmosphere and for me to get the true character of the children represented in their sculptures.

If you would prefer I make alternative accommodation arrangements please let me know.


The working area I need varies from 8 feet by 8 feet to 8 feet by 16 feet depending on the size and number of pieces.

The most important factor is good natural light preferably not south facing. I put down a temporary wood floor covering and have the sculptures and model on movable trolleys. The work is cut into sections prior to transport and casting.


I prefer to be in a central area of the house like the kitchen, where the children will feel at home and the chaperoning easier. I do insist on the same sort of chaperoning as say a teacher, I useDVD’s to keep the interest of the children focussed. I encourage full participation with the clay modelling during the early stages of the piece with children getting to apply some of the clay themselves to their own sculpture. As the work progresses I divert them into making their own models. Very few children don’t like playing with clay.


The clays are considered finished when you are happy with the likeness I have achieved. When complete I transport the clays to my studio for mould making and then casting into bronze. Many clients travel to Suffolk to see the bronze being poured. This close involvement with every stage of the process can make the finished pieces that much more special.






© Brian Alabaster Ltd 2011 brianalabaster@gmail.com tel. 01986 785520