Tom Bass

News from the Archive

Maquette or not ‘make it’

5th June, 2009

See photographs from the exhibition:

The maquette holds within it all the design elements needed for the making of a sculpture.  It is like the architect’s or engineer’s drawings which are explicit and detailed and can be used to make the larger construction required.

The process of arriving at the maquette includes defining the ideas and goal of the project in relation to the situation, drawings, research, inspiration and a period of gestation in the artist’s creative mind.  Bass refers to the alchemy of this process – the cooking of the ingredients put into the unconscious which in a timely manner will begin to produce ideas and information that will lead to concept for the sculpture.   The maquette is the way of physically working out the precise content the sculpture is to have.

The value of the maquette is in the artist’s ability to resolve problems at a scale that is manageable and accessible to the eye.

In today’s era of computer technology it is possible to create photomontage of the sculpture to scale in situ.  In Bass’ days this was not available and either scale models of the situation or drawings often served the same purpose.  Sometimes he would make the outline of a man to the proportion he would be in relation to the full scale work to test the maquette.

The maquette has all the problems of the making of the sculpture worked out, to the point where the actual scaling up or fabrication could even be carried out by someone else if this were necessary.  In Bass’ career he always made the larger sculptures himself.

Bass was fastidious about making maquettes and often made more than one.  If the work was to be very large as in the case of the National Library (70ft long) he would also make what he called a working model which would usually be 1/8th the size of the final sculpture.

When the full scale work is begun it is necessary to constantly refer to the maquette – to take it seriously. Right at the end when the whole work needs to be tightened up and completed it is necessary to go back to the maquette to ensure the essential quality of the work has been injected into the sculpture.

The maquette must not be abandoned. Should the sculptor reach the point when the maquette is not serving the project anymore, as the fabrication evolves, it may be an error has been made with the original concept and a new maquette may need to be designed; surrendering the maquette, especially in the early stages, and working out problems on a very large scale work is not advisable.

There is no point at which the maquette is not vital.

By Tom Bass and Margo Hoekstra

See photographs from the exhibition: