The next project has taken a very long time to get properly going. More than a year ago I received this request, and only now there is the peace and time to address this well. It is not a simple little project for doing between other things.
This client is working on the restoration of an ancient castle. There were formerly two large griffins at the entrance, each bearing a large shield with the coat of arms of the Count and of his wife. The castle needs to be thoroughly restored, Moreover, its main entrance was so severely damaged that only a few pictures remain of how it used to be. The client asked me to reconstruct these two guardians, so he can restore the entire entryway to its former glory.
On a few old photos can be seen how the damaged griffins are missing legs and heads. Because of this, it's clear to see that the old statues were hollow, so they probably were casts. Given the age of the entrance, dating from around 1880, I expect it wasn't cast in concrete, and probably not ordinary ceramics either, because the material was quite thick. I'd sooner think of a material like Coade Stone or the like.
Coade stone is a composite of 10% grog, 5-10% crushed flint, 5-10% fine quartz sand, 10% ground glass and 60-70% ball clay from Dorset and Devon. This was then fired for 4 days at 1110 degrees Celsius.
Coade stone is very resistant to weathering and can, after casting in plaster molds, still be extensively reworked by hand before firing. There is also an interesting video about this material available on YouTube ↑, including the history of the remarkable woman who stood at the cradle of this material, and its rediscovery.
After much research of grainy old photos and making sketches I first made a little clay maquette in plastiline. Then I was about to magnify this in hard foam. From this, the customer would create rubber molds and then make two mirrored casts in, probably in some kind of artificial stone.
I'd been carving the foam models for some time when I found that my little clay model gave me too little reference. Because I need to make clear four separate front legs and two different shields, and that should all carefully fit together. That's why I retraced my steps and made a larger clay maquette in plastiline clay. The first model was about 30 cms tall, and in this one, just the griffin itself is 62 cms tall. Plastiline is a modeling clay that never hardens and never dries out. It allows me to continue to work and change things without worrying about cracks or fissures. Modeling wax would allow that as well, of course, but in that material detailing is much more difficult and the lighting is hopeless. There is also professional industrial modeling mass, but for the size I want to make, I would need to spend a few thousand euros on clay, so that's not an option.
Once this larger clay maquette is largely to my liking, I'll make the griffin body out of hard PIR foam with two hind legs and the head, two left front legs, two wings, two right front legs and a tail. There will also be a shieldin which will fit two different center pieces bearing the coats of arms in relief. Once these parts are cast, they need to fit exactly together and form two mirrored griffins. Altogether a challenging job!