Figuring Challenges, Both Digitally and Traditionally

A challenge

Here is the challenge

I’m trying to create quite a bit of text in a sculpture. Traditionally I prefer when text is created in a sculpture is is recessed as apposed to sticking out of the clay.  Usually I create this type of affect with the following steps.

1. Set the text in a program on the computer.  The kerning or the spacing between the letters must be a lot as you want the words to translate to the clay and not get cut apart in the steps that are to come up- the mold making, wax pouring and bronze casting.

2. Text also must be a good text for this process.  Having small white space in the middle of a P is hard to keep through this process. I usually go with a Futura or Helvetica type face and make it bold. In this case all upper case will translate better through the process.

3. Print out the properly kerned text and then lay it over the clay. Very carefully scribe each letter into the clay.  Then when the paper is lifted off you must carefully cut each letter with an exacto knife, holding the knife on an angel so you get the “chiseled” look and the mold will pull easily.

The difficulty with this traditional way, even though I have already paid an intern to scribe every letter, is that it is taking me about 1 hour per 3 lines and I don’t really like the way it looks.  So I’m exploring digital processes.

My God’s Word series is created
with these “cut out letters”

This is for a life size bronze sculpture.  The bible that sits on the seat and is already roughed in. The client wants text in the bible so a scripture will be read. It will set into the bible, not come out of it.   I started hand carving it but it is not crisp enough and taking forever.

I have in the past had rubber stamps made for a sculpture, but remember these are in reverse. A vendor suggested using this company in Houston. They have done a lot of work for my other vendor American Collectors Studio

Lobue’s Rubber stamps# is 713-652-0031 ,1228 McGowen at Caroline

Press in letter?

I also own a variety of “press in letters” for clay. But  when you press in letters the clay has to go somewhere and so you get this bumpy look. It also is a fine art to make all of your words line up and not be bouncing all over the place. And finally will they have a good type face at the right size that you need?  That is the hardest part. I will try to list these press in type letters at a later date. Some sculptors might find it useful.

I know that there are 3d printed materials that are flexible like rubber.  So I am looking for this to be printed as a flexible material. Crisp text. That way, I can cut away the top layer of this clay page and set this into the clay. Because the bible is created with a dip the flexible material will allow me to creatively put it on the bible with the wave that it needs.  So I’m presently searching local vendors that can do this in Houston. I know that I could probably go to imaterialze or Shapeways, but they do this out of the country and I’m on a deadline.

Jose at the University of Houston 3d printing department made a suggestion- more on that later.

We needed an stl file. That is what is used for 3d printing.  I tired doing this simple project of insetting copy in zbrush and did not have much success. I was disappointed. I love the program but really wish some things were not so hard.  My 3d super hero husband created outlines in illustrator and brought it into 3ds max using Boolean to extract the type.  We estimated it to be 1/4 inch thick with a 1/8 inset.     I know that the more material the print the bigger the cost.  I’m waiting to see if I need to revise the files.   More on this later.  Lets see what company saves the day, with as little cost and quick turn around!


and the winner is…. Loboue’s!  they are charging $80 a page, certainly worth it.  Having it set digitally was 500-1,000.  Sometimes the old way is the best way.

Bridgette Mongeon created this sculpture for Dallas Baptist University. If you would like to read the entire process on the artists project blog for this project visit .

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