I've known plumbers with leaky pipes in their houses, and professional cleaners whose kitchens were pretty grim, by their own admission. I don't judge them one bit, because whatever your profession, if you are as passionate about keeping your clients happy as we are, then using your talents for yourself, your home or your own family always seem to come last. Which is why, even with more than 40 collective years of experience in lifecasting between us, André and I still don't have many casts of ourselves or our own family members. In fact, I've often joked that for all the gorgeous casts I've made of other women, I don't seem to have anything flattering of my own body amongst our collection of work.
Back in 2005, before André and I were a couple, I actually asked him to help me make a cast of myself to test a new technique I wanted to experiment in. Back then, André was the only other lifecaster within a few counties of me and we'd worked with each other quite a lot already so I trusted him completely to help me achieve this particular artistic goal.
I'd been inspired by the work of another lifecaster from County Durham, called Richard Neal, who to this day remains one of my favourite artists in our field and whose innovative work I have always loved. All those years ago, Richard was experimenting with molten pewter as a lifecasting medium, as well as some gorgeous textured clay pieces. He was kind enough to share his secret method with me at the time and to give me his blessing to have a go myself, which I just couldn't wait to do. So I asked André to help make a mould of my body that I could use to have a go at this incredible technique, which he agreed to do.
The moulding part went well - we opted for a simple back, bottom and thighs cast to give a real sense of my shape. However then life got busy and complicated and instead of getting on with the pewter cast, I had to put the mould in storage and get on with all the other work on my books. This mould sat in the back end of my attic gathering dust for the last 12 and a half years, waiting for me to get around to it. You know those craft projects you always mean to finish and never seem to get around to - I have several on the go at the moment (I WILL finish making those cushions and that narwhal embroidery I started one day). Every time I had to pop to my attic for something I would see it, think 'I must get around to that' and then promptly either forget about it completely or just be too busy with work to even think about making something for myself.
So it was with this mould of my 30-something bottom until last year, when a friend of ours decided to have her own bottom cast but fancied something a little bit different. Having offered her several of the finishes we already do and are known for, I remembered the beautiful pewter technique we'd always meant to have a go at. To my delight she agreed to be my guineapig for the project and I set to work making the mould of her body. However, when it came to it, I was too nervous to risk ruining her mould with molten pewter (that I'd only ever used on very tiny moulds in the past). Then I remembered my own bottom mould up in the attic, being used as a skate park by the local mice, no doubt, and decided now was the perfect time to experiment on this original mould so I could get the hang of things before branching out to my friend's mould.
A few scorch marks and singed eyebrows later, I'd more or less perfected the technique Richard had taught me 12 and a half years ago, or at least adapted it to suit my own needs. It was sweaty, smelly, fairly exhausting and slightly dangerous work, but I was so excited to be doing something new and beautiful that I dragged out the second mould of our friend and worked on that one too. The finishing of the pieces was a real team effort, with André doing an amazing job finishing what I'd started, along with some substantial elbow grease from our new assistant, Luke. When we finished the two pieces, we stood back and admired the work and knew we'd done a grand job. Our friend was absolutely thrilled with her botty and the cast of my own bumptious rump is on our living wall in pride of place, gleaming in full view of the postman each day or anyone who comes calling. I've waited a long time to feel this beautiful, and to be captured in art the way we do for others every day of the week and I jolly well intend to show it off proudly. Although I do keep turning to André and saying 'Why didn't I know I had such a nice bottom 12 years ago?!!'...and wondering where it went.
This new technique is so perfect for women like me, or men, come to think of it, who might be pleased with their overall body shape but more self-conscious or critical of their own skin texture, cellulite, scars etc. Being a textured cast in itself, all the focus is on the shape and the stunning medium of real pewter - making everyone cast this way look like some kind awesome sexy space android. And, let's face it, who wouldn't like to look like an awesome sexy space android?
Casts in this finish range from £1500-£6000 depending on size and complexity. Which is absolutely worth it for a piece of unique and stunning artwork of your own or a lover's body that you can treasure forever and a very small price to pay for my singed eyebrows.