The bugs themselves were a mixture of different techniques and finishes, but the lion’s share of all the making involved clay sculpture with poly internals. Once the sculpts were signed off by the clients we started the moulding process, which I was a part of from start to finish on all bugs. For instance, the Grasshopper. We used brass shim to divide the sculpt, and from there we would use RTV silicone, apply a drip layer, and then apply a thixotropic layer. While this layer was still workable, we would apply a towel, to which we would then apply fibreglass. This meant we would have a rigid mould, but all the detail of a silicone drip layer. It also meant that we used far less silicone than we otherwise might had we used the typical silicone – fibreglass jacket method. All the casts were in fire retardant resin and two layers of 250g/m fibreglass matting. All legs and antennae were sculpted and produced separately.
Certain casts were produced and then textures. The hornet, for instance, had a clean carapace, and we chose to texture the legs with a talc-resin mix, applied with stiff brushes. While most casts were produced around 25mm box steel, for the more delicate legs like these we would used 8mm steel dowel for armature, and we would cut-and-shut the feet around the steel.
Some of the larger sculpts required some more heavy-duty steelwork to keep them supported. For the Stag Beetle, the weight of the pinchers was significant, and there was no way to support the body apart from through the standing legs. It meant that we had to do a lot of bonding of armature to the fibreglass itself. We would used wooden packers to make sure our metalwork was properly positioned. The feet were again cut-and-shut to accommodate the steelwork, and we used black epoxy putty to resculpt the problem areas. After a steel failure, I had to cut the entire back off the stag beetle, to allow us to reinforce the welds to make them bombproof. I cut the back off with a flat saw on a vibrating multi tool, and reattached with black epoxy putty.
There were lots of techniques used for these bugs. The wings were sculpted in clay and moulded in plaster, so we could pull vacforms. These were then fibreglassed to steel, then flocked and furred. There were other challenges, as we inherited four half-finished bugs from another studio, all of which lacked any steelwork, or were just covered in bare, untreated fibreglass. We spent a lot of time getting them to a standard that we liked.
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