Prosthetics for Fashion

I wanted to talk a little about prosthetics being used outside of the film industry.

Over my career I’ve been called upon to work on some interesting jobs, about 15 years ago I was part of a make up team (headed up by a great friend, Geoff Portass) that went to both Paris and Rotterdam to work with a fashion designer called Walter Van Beirendonck. He wanted to involve prosthetics into the fashion world (and this is way before Lady Gaga used these ideas!).

He brought on board an artist called Orlan who uses her own body and the procedures of plastic surgery to make “carnal art”. Our job was to recreate her look on these models for the fashion show entitled ‘Believe’. So over the course of a few days we generally made up around 40 models a day, some of them loved the experience and some hated it.

Because we didn’t have lifecasts of the models we sculpted a series of different types of shapes and sizes and produced them all in Foam Latex, it was a case of mixing and matching the pieces to the models, we had small, medium & large shapes. We would apply and then paint them using PAX Paints (Acrylic and Pros-aide based colours) and blend the colours into the models natural skin tones, then the fashion make up artists would take over and do their hair and beauty make up.

A few years later, a special effects company Crawley Creatures run by Jez Harris called me to work with Turner prize winner GILLIAN WEARING on an intriguing idea of making her look like family members taken directly from her old photographs, she played her sister, brother & grandparents. Jez had sculpted the prosthetics at his company in conjunction with Madame Taussauds.

The character I was involved with was her brother. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of what her brother looked like but if you look in the photos I’ve added you can just see in the corner of the picture a photograph of the image she wanted to recreate. And that was the brief, to exactly recreate a moment in time, her brother in the picture was 18 years old and the photo showed him combing his long hair. So Gillian went through face and body cast to get the process started. The Silicone skins were painted to exactly match her brothers colour tone even down to his tattoo on his arm.

Interesting the whole sculpt was made in that exact position so she could climb into the ‘suit’ from behind. There was no need to worry about certain things like seam lines and joins under the jaw line because they would never be seen. Everything you see on Gillian is fake, we even made hands which were essentially gloves that kept that position, the silicone was quite tough but it didn’t really matter because they were taking photographs as opposed to moving images.

So we glued Gillian into the prosthetic and moved her in the same position as her brother would of been in that exact same room (her family home in Birmingham) many years before. The whole silicone torso was very heavy but Gillian was a real trooper and such a patient artist.

The only thing we didn’t change were Gillian’s eyes, she wanted to keep her eyes as opposed to wearing contact lenses which would of matched her brother, the final image is quite striking as you can see her eyes behind the make up and that was the whole point of the exercise which we thought was such an interesting and totally original idea.

Until next time…