Published : 26/02/2019 12:12:33
Some of the greatest things in life come ‘LATE’, especially as far as Death is concerned. Although we released our latest Discworld figurine back in October, Death proved so popular over the hectic Hogswatch season that we deferred blogging about him until we could be sure stocks were suitably replenished (we believe this is what young people might refer to as a 'humble brag'). With that said, we hope you'll enjoy this little 'making of' article...
Death. One of Discworld’s most ENDURING characters. From the Colour of Magic, to the Shepherd’s Crown, Death makes a personal appearance in nearly all of Terry Pratchett’s incredible Discworld books. His character has developed over 30 years with countless Discworld fans having grown up or grown old-er with Death as a constant companion. Throughout the series, Death conducts his duties in his own curious, unflappable and caring way – a not-so-Grim Reaper full of charm despite being up to his eye sockets in mortal demise.
Terry Pratchett’s Death is one of the few Grim Reapers in fiction that we welcome, and enjoy encountering a real literary phenomenon. At times he’s the lead, implacably driving the story with purpose and pace, at other times his cameos provide objective reflection and a little light relief after a death scene. No-one does ‘deadpan’ like a 9ft skeleton. From the outside, Death might seem like an unlikely hero. But why is it that the Reaper Man should be grim? Why should someone privy to the combined wisdom of the multiverse not wonder at the little things in life? He’s at once unfathomable and utterly relatable.
For our latest figurative piece, we wanted to capture Death in a decidedly Discworld depiction. The trouble with Death is however, that Death is universal. It’s difficult to create ‘Him’ in a way that sets him apart from the death one may encounter in any old generic gothic sculpture or Halloween trinket. A skeletal figure with a black robe and scythe is a bit… expected. It was essential to capture what makes Terry’s anthropomorphic personification of the ultimate reality, utterly unique.
We wanted to show the ‘human element’ of the immortal representation of death. We decided to show Death face to face with another of the most powerful supreme beings of the multiverse… a fluffy kitten. Capturing this moment with the kitten we share a moment of interaction, that reflects death’s ability to be ‘human’ …and his famous fondness for cats. This furry feline immediately sets our Death firmly on the Discworld and gives focus to the piece, the fixed gaze adds so much expression to the figure.
In the novels, Death is remarkably expressive for someone lacking in the facial features department. This is all well and good in prose, where special effects are cheap and convincing, but in sculpting wax it’s much trickier to achieve! We had to work hard to instil a little expression into an inanimate skull. We wanted to keep him looking relatively natural, rather Instead of a melodramatic, ominous stance atypical of generic representations of Death.
This necessitated the understated curiosity you see in the final piece. Giving Death something to consider in what we like to call the ‘poor Yorick’ pose, added so much to the figurine. Although his scythe has been replaced with something far fluffier, Death still wears his distinctive sword, utilised for the reaping of royal souls, complete with with skull pommel and cross guard detailing, to show that he very much mean business when it comes to the figurative end of the line and that he is, kitten aside, the ‘”Assassin against whom no lock would hold” – Terry Pratchett, Mort.
With the basic design laid out we could progress to the maquette stage. Once again, we called upon the capable soul of Rich Kingston to face Death and bring him to or 'skeleton' if you will, that he could pose whilst keeping the anatomy of Death in proportion. Once posed, Rich began pressing wax onto this base, building up Death's form slowly. This meant that when it came time to add the robe, there were already substantial skeletal shapes over which to drape it giving a much more convincing finish to the elegant lines of the robe, allowing the effect of pointy shoulder and elbows to shine through.
It was (excuse the pun) ‘vitally’ important to convey that Death is a skeleton, but also to give enough mass for him to appear strong and imposing as opposed to wizened and weak. Rich achieved this in the delft draping of the robes gathered at the waist and proud positioning of the upper torso and ribs. The addition of a cloak billowing from Death’s shoulders gave us chance to create some elegant gothic lines and elevation to the piece. A bend at the knee and hips remind us of all that is (or isn’t) under the robes.
With the adding of the skull, robe, cloak, sword and omega embellishments the piece finally came to fruition, culimating in the placing of the tiny kitten in Death's gentle bony hand.
With all this fine, flowing drapery, and delicate out-stretched arm, we were really pushing the limits of batch resin casting, but the piece demanded it. Again, we relied on the expertise of our dedicated casting team, based only a few miles from our shop here in Somerset. Which enables us to deliver the finished wax sculptures and oversee the production of our pieces in person (and say hello to our other Discworld figurines already in production!). The master mould-makers, casters and finishers at Carter Technical Castings once again helped us bring out the very best in the design. A simple, elegant ‘cold-cast’ bronze finish is achieved by casting real powdered bronze, bonded with resin, to give a surface that can be burnished, stained and hand-polished to give a shine, depth and weight that you simply couldn’t achieve with a painted finish.
We really hope you like our Death with Kitten figurine. As with all the things we make, we’re proud of this piece. With the help of some superb craftspeople, we’re able to offer something of real quality for less than a day’s minimum wage… which, excepting acts of cat, should last a lifetime.
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