Lifecasting, also known as bodymolding, is the practice of creating sculptural works from three-dimensional molds taken directly off the human body. It is an art form that is thousands of years old, dating back to ancient Egypt. Today, we still feel the same compelling reverence for the beauty of the human form and seek to celebrate, honor and immortalize it through our artistic pursuits. Lifecasting provides a direct access to sculpting that might otherwise be unattainable by most people. The molding materials are completely skin-safe, and the process is very participatory and fun!

Lifecasting preserves a moment in one's life in a way that no other method can. All of the shapes, details and expressions that make you YOU are captured in amazing detail. Your lifecast can feature any degree of detail you like, from ultra-realistic, to artistically textured, to highly-polished and stylized. The modeling process is a creative and collaborative process between the model and the artists. Through this process, a beautiful and durable heirloom is created that will be treasured and handed down for many years to come.

Pregnancy masks or "belly masks" have become a very popular way to celebrate and memorialize the profound experience of creating human life. ELS is happy to provide this service, from the simplest plaster gauze impression to a full-fledged lifecasting in our standard process (described below). The simple plaster gauze version captures the basic shapes with little detail, while the molded version captures the pose in very fine detail.

While it is difficult to define the word "art," we like this attempt at a definition:

"Great art is something that conveys great emotion or causes a deep emotional reaction."

Lifecasting is profoundly capable of creating a deep emotional reaction, such as when one sees a sculpture containing a loved one's face, a grandchild's hands, the hands of two lovers, or the impression of a child in the womb. It is different than a painting or a sculpture, as it has actually touched the person that it represents, evoking more emotion and more sentiment than any other art form.

 

About the lifecasting process

Essensual Life Sculpture (ELS) was started by two artists wanting to create studio-quality sculptures from the lifecasting process. Making a high quality lifecasting involves more than simply taking a mold from a body. How carefully the model is posed, how painstakingly the bodymold is cast, how creatively the piece is re-touched or augmented, how the sculpture is cast, and how it is finished and presented... All these factors affect the quality and emotional content of a lifecast sculpture. ELS strives to excel at all of these steps, and this is why we prefer to use a 2-phase molding process.

The first phase is a carefully layered bodymold, as true to the model as possible. We don't recommend the use of plaster directly against the skin, due to safety concerns as well as the fact that the first "print coat" of plaster will unavoidably crack as the model moves and breathes. ELS uses a skin-safe material called alginate for the print coat, made from the seaweed kelp. It is the same material that dentists use in your mouth to make tooth impressions, and it is even related to the seaweed-wrap skin treatment offered at health spas. Alginate solves the cracking problem by curing to a soft and rubbery state, and it also captures detail better than plaster.

Many lifecasters -- whether they use alginate or not -- will stop at this phase and cast the finished piece directly in the bodymold. There are two main problems with this method. First, the bodymold is rarely perfect, so the finished piece will contain any defects present in the mold. Second, the bodymold is destroyed as it is peeled from the casting, so you only have one chance to get it right. If the imperfections are irreparable or too distracting, your only option is to make another bodymold.

Therefore, ELS employs a second phase in the process. We cast a wax or plaster positive from the bodymold, which provides unlimited opportunities for re-touching or "chasing" the work. Anyone familiar with foundry casting will recognize this as a standard step in sculptural casting. The wax positive is painstakingly chased to remove defects or to fix problems in the pose (sometimes the model will move during the bodymolding, for instance). During this process we invite the model to revisit the studio to see how their sculpture is looking. The model will sometimes see features that they would like to have altered slightly, and we are happy to re-sculpt the piece to satisfy their wishes. A good example of this is in the stomach area, a feature the bodymold tends to capture in its larger 'in-breath' state. It is usually an easy matter to re-sculpt selected areas to how they look in normal life, or even better if so desired.

Once the wax positive is completed to everyone's satisfaction, we then create a silicone rubber 'master mold' which will be used to cast the finished work. From this master mold, we can cast a finished sculpture in just about any material desired, including bonded bronze, bonded marble, plaster, and resin. If a cast bronze duplicate is desired, the master mold can also be used to cast another wax to be used in the 'lost wax' bronze casting process.
         

Another major benefit of having the master mold is that it allows us to create multiple reproductions, something that can benefit both the artists and the model (see the Modeling section of this site).

 

 

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