How Saints Are Made
Updated: Feb 20, 2021
Making a statue of St. Catherine of Alexandria
Making the statue of St. Catherine of Alexandria
Earlier this year,(2017) Reverend Hall commissioned me to make a 44 inch statue of St. Catherine of Alexandria for his parish (of the same name).
Reverend Hall sent me some photos of a carved wooden flatback of St. Catherine, which he had admired.
This gave me a starting point to supply some sketches of how the finished statue might look. We used these to explore and develop possibilities as our collaboration progressed.
The sharing of images between artist and client is essential for understanding what each has in mind - it helps to keep the project on track and reach the final vision.
Sketching out ideas
Reverend Hall wanted to include a dove, as well as a wheel to the statue. According to legend
Saint Catherine was imprisioned and starved for twelve days by the Emperor, for having tried to convert him. During this time, a dove visited Catherine and fed her bread . The dove symbolises the Holy Spirit administering the Eucharistic bread to sustain her during her trial. Once the sketches had been finalised and approved, I could begin to plan the construction of the figure, and how each part would be cast. A practical consideration was the area where the finished statue was to be installed. The volume of the garments on the sketch, had to be reduced to fit the plinth accordingly. With all these practicalities accounted for, the position of the internal armature can be determined. From this point forward, no further changes can be made to the figure, except perhaps for minor details.
Building the Armature - (figure Support)
To support the clay figure of St. Catherine, David constructed a rotating platform and scaffolding jig. This would hold the metal armature which I would use to build the figure. The armature is shaped to fit the pose of the figure, and has to be strong enough to support the clay, in this case around 50+ kilos.
Modelling St. Catherine's face
Once I had made the basic clay model, Reverend. Hall rerquested that I have Catherine resemmble his young granddaughter, this was a challenge as she is much younger than St.Catherine would have been.
Children's faces tend to have larger eyes, plumper cheeks and smaller noses than adults; yet many beautiful women have faces which retain a child like quality, and so I was able to work within this framework. Reverend Hall sent me photos of his granddaughter by which I could replicate her pretty heart-shaped nose.
Moulding and casting the model of St. Catherine
Once the clay model was completed, David made the rubber mould for the figure.
To prevent the rubber mould from distorting when the plaster is poured into it, another layer called the Mother mould is build over the rubber. This is rather like the shell that protects an invertebrate - and is usually made from fibreglass resin.
Separate moulds were made for the hands, crown and dove. All the parts to the figure were then cast in plaster, and re-assembled.
Colours & surface decoration
Once the plaster was fully dry, the addition of colour (polychromy) could begin.
The complexion and hair was coloured to resemble that of Reverend Hall's grand daughter.
Reverend Hall also asked for the plumage of the dove to follow an African species which would have populated the Jordan in biblical times. I love to make artworks as authentic as possible so this was a welcome detail to add.
The church in which the statue stands was built pre-1600's. although there were some modern interventions to the interior. I wanted the statue to have a mix of ornament and simplicity, in good balance, which I acheived to Reverend Hall's approval.
The statue was complete and ready to install in the church of St. Catherine for her feast day on 25th of November. See More of Jeanette's Catholic statues