Solo – 3D Figure

I am thinking about the theme of my previous piece “the Rise in Solo Living” and taking it into 3D. I want to make a figure contained in a transparent box.

A few images I’ve seen have resonated with me, Juliette Drout’s multiple images overlaid on one another

and Farzona Hossen’s photograph of a Bangladeshi girl taking washing off the line.

My thinking is to emphasise the idea of the individual being isolated and contained in their own box (room): the “rise of Solo Living” and these images show people looking out and through a transparent layer, looking out on the world apparently isolated and alone.

I made a few little sketches to try and capture my initial ideas. I wonder about some concepts around this idea e.g. inside, outside, looking in, looking out, looking back, looking forward.

There’s a lot in the press at the moment about David Bowie as his exhibition is coming out soon at the V&A and also he has a new album coming out which has been a long time coming.

“One tries as much as possible to put oneself on the line artistically. But after the Dadaists, who pronounced that art is dead, once you have said “art in dead”, it’s hard to get more radical than that, since 1924 art’s been dead, so what the hell can we so with it from there on? One tries to at least to keep addressing the thing.” David Bowie

If I find this scary. How much worse if you are famous, such a big expectation is created.


Amer Shomali crouched figure has the pose I am looking for.

Amer Shomali

I realise I have jettisoned the ‘looking out’ idea for a’ looking in’ contemplative figure.I’d found stuffing my head (M6) with wadding very difficult.

1-cu head01-P1070133


I therefore decided to experiment with inflating the figure with industrial, polystyrene, expanding foam. The interesting thing about the foam is because it takes time to solidify you have time to arrange the figure into the pose you want. It is also very light and portable.

I did a couple of tests on a small scale.

The test was helpful, I realised I would need to use a fabric that had a closer weave as the foam was seeping through and I could also see that the foam tended to collect around where I’d inserted the nozzle.

I bought two IKEA tables and four dressing table tops I thought I could use to make my glass display box and stand. This gave me the size I needed to work to. It cost me £34.

To work out what size to make my artifact I’ve decided to make another smaller “body”.

I made a paper pattern using an artist’s wooden model to gauge proportion and size, laid it on some furnishing fabric and marked it with a thick black pen. Once I’d sewn it I stuffed it with newspaper. I tested it out for size in an upturned chair the same size as the display case. I felt it was too small I wanted the figure to look restricted and squashed.

I scaled up and used myself with some help to make an even bigger model.

I used furnishing fabric and hand stitched some features on the face, before sewing the pieces together.

I’d had problems with the polyurethane foam seeping through the fabric with my first trial so I decided to paint my model first this would prove to be a mistake that lead to some bizarre results.

We used several cans of foam to inflate the figure but with little success.

We tried raising the temperature, increasing the moisture in the air and in the end inflating it with a bicycle pump.

Eventually thinking we had at last succeeded we left it to dry clipped into the position.

However returning some hours later on moving her she started to ooze foam.

I think that painting the fabric before filling her with foam meant that the air was not in contact with the foam and so it wasn’t activated.

I’d also been unable to fold the limbs in as much as I’d planned so she no longer fitted in the display case.

I found she wouldn’t sit without tilting back so I had to sew some weights under her toes to redress the balance. I painted a white coat with a dry brush to finish her off.

Though the result was disappointing I think this method will be worth returning to as it has interesting possibilities,  particularly that you can shape the figure before the foam dries, it fills the sculpture well to the furthest recesses and it is very light and portable.


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