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How are Madame Tussauds’ wax figures made?

Madame Tussauds has amazed people for over 200 years with lifelike wax figures of historical and modern personalities. 

Ever thought about how they make them? 

Each figure is crafted with great care and precision through a seven-stage process, taking about three to four months. 

Skilled sculptors, colorists, hairstylists, and wardrobe specialists work together to bring these wax figures to life. 

Let’s explore the detailed process behind creating these lifelike statues.

The Posing or Sitting Session

The first step, called “the sitting or pose session,” is crucial in making a Madame Tussauds wax figure. 

The person to be modeled meets with the team, including sculptors and photographers. 

They gather detailed information about the person’s appearance and personality and even take over 200 measurements. 

For historical figures or those unavailable, the team uses photos and videos. 

This process lays the groundwork for crafting an incredibly lifelike wax figure.

Sculpting Stage

After “The Sitting,” the ‘Sculpting’ stage begins with three steps: Clay Sculpture, Review and Refinement, and Creating the Mold.

Clay Sculpture:

– A steel skeleton supports clay molded around it.

– Sculptors shape the clay to match the subject’s body and face.

– It takes weeks to capture every detail accurately.

Review and Refinement:

– The clay sculpture undergoes a thorough review.

– Feedback from the subject or the team may suggest adjustments.

– Sculptors refine the sculpture based on this feedback.

Creating the Mold:

– After approval, a mold is made by covering the clay with plaster.

– Once the plaster hardens and dries, it’s removed, creating a detailed negative imprint of the clay model.

Pouring of the Wax

The “Wax Pouring” follows the “Sculpting” stage, where a plaster mold of the figure is made.

Preparing the Wax:

– They start by getting the wax ready.

– The wax used is a mix of beeswax, Japanese wax, and other elements chosen for specific qualities.

– The wax is heated until it becomes a liquid.

Pouring the Wax:

– Once the wax is liquid, it’s poured into the plaster mold made in the previous “Sculpting” stage.

– This mold is an exact negative copy of the final figure.

– The wax must be poured evenly to replicate all the details captured in the mold.

Cooling the Wax:

– After pouring, the wax cools and solidifies.

– Careful control is needed to prevent bubbles or cracks in the wax.

– Depending on the figure’s size, the cooling process can take hours or days.

Removing the Mold:

– The plaster mold is delicately removed once the wax is solid.

– Since the mold is like a copy of the sculpture, the wax figure has the same size and details as the original clay model.

At this point, the wax figure has its basic shape but lacks colors, facial features, and hair. 

It moves on to the following stages for careful detailing, adding hair, coloring, and finally dressing to bring it to life.

Getting to the Details

After the “Wax Pouring” stage comes “Detailing,” where they refine the figure’s features and add lifelike details. 

Let’s take a closer look at this stage:

Eyes and Teeth:

– First, they put in the eyes and teeth, usually made from acrylic, carefully matching the person’s features.

– Specialists ensure that details like eye color and tooth shape closely resemble the original.

Adding Texture and Details:

– Artists add texture to the wax, creating lifelike features such as wrinkles, freckles, veins, and even the illusion of pores.

– If the figure has wax hair, artists sculpt it; otherwise, natural hair is added later.

Skin Coloring:

– Layers of oil paint are applied to mimic the varied tones of human skin.

– This task requires skill as colors are built up slowly, layer by layer, to capture the subtleties of different skin tones.

– Special attention is given to areas where the skin might naturally be redder or darker.

The “Detailing” stage is crucial for making the wax figure as lifelike as possible, and a lot of time is spent to ensure everything looks just right.

Inserting the Hair

The “Hair Insertion” stage is vital for making lifelike Madame Tussauds wax figures. 

This happens after the “Detailing” stage and has four steps:

Choosing the Hair:

– They pick real human hair that matches the person’s hair in color, type, texture, and thickness.

Insertion Process:

– Selected hair is inserted into the wax figure, strand by strand, with a special needle.

– It’s a meticulous process, ensuring the hair grows in the same direction as natural hair.

Cutting and Styling:

– After all the hair is in, they cut and style it to match the person’s look.

– The hairstyle is crucial for making the wax figure easily recognizable.

Facial Hair:

– It’s not just head hair; eyebrows, mustaches, and beards are added, each hair inserted individually for realism.

This process is time-consuming, taking up to six weeks for just one figure, depending on the hairstyle and body or facial hair. 

After this, the figure moves on to the final stages of “Finishing” and “Dressing” before being exhibited.

Makeup and Coloring 

The “Finishing” stage in making Madame Tussaud’s wax figures is essential for making them look natural and alive. 

Let’s see what happens in this stage:

Fine-tuning the Skin:

– First, they perfect the skin details added earlier.

– They might touch up some areas or make final changes to the skin.

Coloring:

– Next, artists put on more layers of oil paint, adding different shades to copy human skin’s complexity.

– They add subtle color changes to make the wax figure look more authentic.

Makeup:

– If the person being made wears makeup, artists apply it using oil paints.

– They closely follow photos to get the makeup right, down to lipstick color or eyeliner shape.

Final Hair Styling:

– The hair, cut and styled before, gets its final look.

– This might involve using hair products or adding accessories like hairpins.

Nails and Teeth:

– Final touches like painting nails or fixing teeth are done.

– Everything is made to match the person as closely as possible.

The “Finishing” stage is about making sure the wax figure not only looks like the person but also feels like them. 

After this, the figure goes to the last step: “Dressing,” where it gets dressed in outfits often given by celebrities.

Outfits 

The “Wardrobe” stage, or “Dressing,” is the last step in making Madame Tussaud’s wax figures. 

Here’s what happens:

Choosing the Outfit:

– They pick the right clothes for the figure, matching the person’s style or a famous look.

– Sometimes, celebrities give their own clothes for their wax figures.

Dressing the Figure:

– Once they choose the clothes, they dress the figure. It’s tricky because wax figures can’t move, so the clothes might need adjusting.

Accessories:

– After dressing, they add accessories like jewelry, glasses, handbags, and hats. These are carefully chosen to match the person accurately.

Footwear:

– The final touch is the shoes. They choose shoes that match the person’s style or an outfit they’re known for.

Final Adjustments:

– After dressing up, they make any final adjustments, like smoothing a jacket or fixing a necklace.

The “Wardrobe” stage is super important for making wax figures look real. 

Attention to detail, especially in stages like this, helps create the lifelike figures Madame Tussauds is known for. 

Once the “Wardrobe” stage is done, the figure is ready to be shown and admired!

Creating a wax figure at Madame Tussauds combines art and science. 

This detailed process, taking lots of time, turns wax into a spectacle that keeps people fascinated worldwide. 

So, the next time you see your favorite celebrity’s wax figure at Madame Tussauds, remember the many hours of hard work and skill put into making each one.

FAQs

How are Madame Tussauds’ wax figures crafted?

Wax figures are made through a meticulous process involving sculpting, molding, pouring wax, detailing, hair insertion, finishing, and dressing, showcasing a blend of artistry and precision.

What materials are used in Madame Tussauds’ wax figures?

The figures are primarily made of wax, with steel and plaster supporting structures, while real human hair and acrylic are used for added realism.

How long does it take to create a Madame Tussauds wax figure?

Crafting a figure can take around three to four months, with the intricate detailing, hair insertion, and finishing stages contributing to the timeframe.

Do celebrities donate their clothing for the wax figures?

Yes, some celebrities contribute their actual clothing, enhancing authenticity in the wardrobe stage of the figure-creation process.

How is hair inserted into Madame Tussauds’ wax figures?

Real human hair, matching the depicted person, is individually inserted strand by strand during the hair insertion stage.

Can Madame Tussauds’ figures be customized?

Each figure is customized to capture the individual’s unique features, style, and iconic looks, making them instantly recognizable.

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