Capturing Memories in 3D: How Lifecasting Can Help You Commemorate a Loved One

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Lifecasting can be a whole-body process, or a sculpture can focus on a smaller part of the body, such as the hands, feet, or face.
Lifecasting can be a whole-body process, or a sculpture can focus on a smaller part of the body, such as the hands, feet, or face. | Image Source: McLeod Sculpture

My grandmother was a hands-on woman. Not only did she cook, knit, and garden, she was known for telling stories with her hands. My grandfather even teased that, if you cut her hands off, she wouldn’t be able to speak. So when my family decided to commission a life cast sculpture of my grandmother later in her life, it was easy to decide on a design — her hands seemed like a natural choice. Upon its completion, the sculpture was a meaningful addition to our home, but now, years after her passing, the casting of my grandmother’s hands holds even more importance in my heart. Looking at them reminds me of all the love, warmth, and protection they held.    

There are a lot of ways to go about creating a sculpture, but by far, one of the most interesting and intimate is lifecasting. For a life cast sculpture, an artist lays alginate onto the model’s skin to form exactly to the curvature of the body and solidify into a mould. The accuracy of the alginate affords the lifecasting process some of the greatest detail and photographic realism of any casting technique. For my family, a sculpture of my grandmother’s hands was the perfect way to memorialize a beloved matriarch; others prefer a whole-body sculpture or a bust. If you’ve ever been curious about making a life cast of yourself or a loved one, here are some things you should know when consulting with an artist.

Behind the Scenes of a Life Cast Model

The model is vital to the lifecasting process: they have to exercise patience and focus while moulds are made from their body. This makes lifecasting one of the most challenging — and rewarding — of any sculptural method for both the model and the artist. If you’re going to be in the spotlight, be sure to consult with the artist ahead of time about your vision and choose a mould-making schedule that suits you. Here are some questions to consider when prepping for an artist consultation:

  • How much of the body will be cast? A life cast sculpture can be whole-body or just a part, such as the hands, face, or chest. For example, some expecting couples choose a belly cast as a touching and sweet way to commemorate a birth in the family. Be sure to choose a pose that is both flattering and comfortable for the final piece.
  • How long will the casting process last? With the alginate casting process, a full body cast can be done in one sitting. After the alginate sets, which takes about four minutes, the mould is covered in plaster, which takes another ten minutes to set. If you opt for a full front-and-back cast, the mould-making process can also be done in two sessions.
  • How should you prepare? Planning ahead can maximize your physical comfort during the modelling process. Mould-making materials are sticky, so you may want to shave your arms and legs to avoid a painful removal.
  • What will the process be like? Every artist is a little different, so be sure to ask about their process. For example, are you allowed to listen to music? Even the most high-fashion photographers often have their models pick out playlists to listen to while they pose. Music can relax you and make the process easier.

What to Consider when Commissioning a Life Cast of a Loved One

A life cast sculpture of a loved one can celebrate a moment in childhood, memorialize a beloved grandparent, or say thank you to a mentor in your life. Be sure to talk with them first — some gifts make great surprises, but this might be one to discuss first. Is your model interested and willing to be involved in the casting process? This is also a good time to consult with the artist for their creative input: they can help you think through your vision and develop a plan for the sculpture that will fit both your vision and your schedule.

You may also want to include yourself in the lifecasting. Sitting for a mould-making session with a loved one is a memorable and intimate experience. The best lifecasting sculptures capture the essence and emotion of holding hands with a child or spouse or the joy in a hug. Even more, the process gives you a memory that you’ll treasure as much as the final work.

The Benefits of Choosing Lifecasting

Lifecasting is known for its ability to produce photo-realistic replications of the model in three-dimension. It’s the ideal technique for accurate representation and detailed portraiture. Besides walking away from the mould-making room knowing that you’ll have a beautifully crafted sculpture, you also get to keep the experience of truly playing a part of the sculptural process.

No matter what your vision is for commissioning a life cast sculpture, the McLeods can work with you to realise it through lifecasting. When you’re done, you’ll have endless possibilities for the final finish of your piece and a unique piece of art to cherish for years. Contact the McLeods today for a consultation.


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