Exclusive Interview with Edmund Barnett-Ward, Director of Sculpting at Designworks Windsor, the company that sculpts Character Options
Part 1 Behind the Scenes at Designworks
Welcome to the first part of a multi-part 10,000 word series describing in detail the making of Doctor Who Action Figures and including 63 exclusive new images of the figures in various stages of production.
The Designworks HQ is located in a modern industrial unit beneath the historic walls of Windsor Castle. With the runaway success of their Doctor Who toy designs the Designworks team are making history of their own. Contemporary Knights of the Round Table, these hand-picked sculptors do battle with monsters in thermal polymer clay. As a result, Character Options' Doctor Who Action Figures are the most phenomenal figure line since Star Wars. Their success is already legendary.
Designworks' contemporary version of Merlin is modern Arthurian alchemist and Director of Sculpting Edmund "Ed" Barnett Ward who granted doctorwhotoys.net exclusive access to Designworks' closely guarded workshops to unravel some of the many mysteries of the sculpting trade.
Designworks story begins in 1991 when it was founded by two visionary designers, Peter Rickett and Jeremy Gardener. Peter was by training a cartographer with incredible illustration skills, and Jez a talented designer himself who left their old jobs together to begin an exciting new partnership.
Currently Designworks employs well over 30 people and is growing all the time. There are around 22 in the workshop and another 12 in the design studio. There are 7 permanent sculptors and a handful of freelance sculptors. In addition there are 6 Model Makers, a Head of Casting and Model Making who has an assistant; and, a Head of Finishing who is responsible for doing all of the decorated samples and approval samples. Within the workshop there are divides between sculptors, model makers and the guys in charge of replication, that's to say making a mould of the object once its finished, and casting it.
Inside the Designworks Windsor Workshop - All images exclusively approved for use only on doctorwhotoys.net by Designworks, Character Options and the BBC.
Amongst their first commissions, and one which everyone knows, was a restyling of the classic Buccaroo game for toy company Hasbro. So the company has been involved in the design of toys right from its inception. Today around 70% of their design work involves toys.
Designworks is divided into four main areas - design, prototype, sculpting and manufacturing solutions. Their biggest manufacturing client is currently Clarks Shoes for whom they make all the electronics modules that fit inside the soles of shoes to make sound and light effects. They also produce the range of toys that, as all kids know, fit inside the Clarks shoes. This is possible because of their close partnerships with manufacturers in China. Designworks has an office in Hong Kong and has recently opened another branch in Australia. Says Ed "We can literally take any product from a blue-sky idea all the way to a final manufactured product, if a client requires".
Version 2 Captain Jack Harkness Digital Sculpt and Reference Comparison & Final Approval Decorated Sculpt- All images exclusively approved for use only on doctorwhotoys.net by Designworks, Character Options and the BBC.
Ed Meets Al
Designworks relationship with Doctor Who toys stems from Ed's relationship with Character Options' Alasdair "Al" Dewar. Al's a sort of 'King Arthur' figure to Ed's Merlin role. Ed and Al have been working together for the last ten years. "Al fundamentally decides which figures are made (with occasional suggestions from me). He's the Head of Research and Development so it's ultimately his call, but basically we work together with the BBC".
Rose Version 2 Approval Deco - All images exclusively approved for use only on doctorwhotoys.net by Designworks, Character Options and the BBC. Says Ed "The turnarounds of approval samples are taken to record every detail of the sculpt so that if the sample is lost or damaged it can be recreated and if there are elements that need amendments then the BBC can refer to, draw or make notes on the images to clarify the situation".
"So far", says Ed, "we have done 100 contemporary 5 inch Doctor Who characters as well as the 12 inch figures. We've done 37 Micro Universe in the first wave and we've just completed work on 12 more. For Sarah Jane we've done 8 figures. For the Classics we've done 19 figures now. And for Primeval we've done 9 humanoid figures from the first season plus creatures to go with them, and for the second season 6 humans and even more dinosaurs. All that's just for Character Options. For Corgi, last year, we did 28 3 3/4 inch Harry Potter figures. We are also involved with the Torchwood figures and we did the die-cast Cyberman and Dalek for Sci-Fi Collector."
Martha Jones 12 Inch Original Sculpt - All images exclusively approved for use only on doctorwhotoys.net by Designworks, Character Options and the BBC.
"I believe that the products that we produce speak for themselves in terms of their quality".
"The first project Ed and Al worked on jointly, when Ed was with the now defunct Camelot Industrial Artists, was the Star Wars Episode 2 Chess Set. Camelot was, at the time, Lucas Films' approved European sculptors. Says Ed: "Probably half the people who now sculpt for me came to it through Star Wars. It's defined my career. I had a childhood fascination with how Star Wars came to be made, as in analysing how special effects and sculpts for the screen are made. This gave me an interest in creating sculpture for myself."
"When I was at school one kid had pretty much every single Star Wars figure produced" continues Ed. "I could only afford to collect little areas of the Star Wars figures - when I was a kid I, that's to say my family, could never afford them all."
"I made a promise to myself that when I grew up I'd do my best to have them all."
"So I made a decision, when they started re-releasing them in around 1997 that I would get as many as humanly possible. I'm as much a sci-fi/fantasy fan as anyone - Star Wars, Doctor Who and Indiana Jones. Sometimes I like to just wear my fan hat too and that 'fandom' is what informs the attention to detail in our work".
Andrew Teal Sculpting the Ninth Doctor & The Ninth Doctor Sculpt - All images exclusively approved for use only on doctorwhotoys.net by Designworks, Character Options and the BBC.
Werewolf In Progress & Hoix Approval Deco- All images exclusively approved for use only on doctorwhotoys.net by Designworks, Character Options and the BBC.
Now Read Part 2
Subsequent parts describe in detail the creation of the Doctor Who figure line from its early conceptual beginnings right through the sculpting processes, including digital sculpting, the sculptors, their techniques and the approval process - in short everything that goes into the making of Doctor Who Action Figures.
Part 1 Behind the Scenes at Designworks
This interview is Strictly Copyright © doctorwhotoys.net, All Rights Reserved; may not be reproduced in full or part. All images are for the exclusive use of doctorwhotoys.net approved by and copyright © Designworks Windsor, Character Group plc and the BBC
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