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 Part 2 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.
"I'm probably just about the only person here at Designworks who didn't go to art college; I did a degree in drama and theatre studies as I wanted to make films first and foremost. After leaving university I spent a year or so doing a succession of really really rubbish jobs in special effects. To get better jobs I needed more commercial sculpting experience. So I joined Camelot Industrial Artists that did toys because I knew that I'd be sculpting all the time, and I've just stayed in the toy industry ever since."
"Initially I believe I was taken on as a bet," says Ed.
"The two guys that ran the company had a bet between them to see if you could turn anybody with a small amount of sculpting skill into a sculptor. The person that as a sculptor I learnt most from now works here at Designworks, that's Andrew Teal. Fans of the figures and of Doctor Who will be familiar with Andrew as he has a long-standing relationship with Product Enterprise; he did all of their sculptural work for figures such as Tom Baker. Andy has a whole host of techniques that have really sped me up. We take people from all kinds of backgrounds - for example, I've had a guy who has changed his career in his mid-forties from the computer gaming industry; he'd never sculpted anything physically in his life, but its one of those things that you can either do or you can't.
"Anything to make you better is generally subsumed under the heading 'process'."
"From Andrew Teal I learned a lot of process - techniques of working with materials so you get a better result first time. You are still using the same skills but a lot of it is to do with learning the appropriate material for the job. We've a lot of different things that we could use to produce a sculpt. For instance, if you are making a figure with a coat you don't do it with wax because you'd spend half your time destroying what you've already done simply in handling the figure. You make it out of a two part epoxy because you can roll that out in a sheet and create the basic framework of your cloth coat, harden it off and then carve into it the details and add other details such as buttons afterwards. Its all about the process."
Sycorax Warrior Approval Deco - All images exclusively approved for use only on doctorwhotoys.net by Designworks, Character Options and the BBC.
"Unfortunately I don't have time to do so much sculpting now myself. I've done three or four of the Doctor Who figures. I did the Sycorax Leader which later became legendary as the most expensive figure on the 'grey market'. But it was a nightmare to sculpt! When we got reference material in for the Sycorax we had some images of the Leader from the front, but the majority of the images were of the Warriors with their helmets on. We had no way of telling if the shots of the Warrior from behind were the same as the Sycorax Leader, so we actually went quite a long way down the wrong path. It was like that in the early days, the BBC were always trying to feed in information as fast as they could but there were sometimes gaps. That's not the figure I'm proudest of in my life!"
Neutral Ninth Doctor Original Sculpt - All images exclusively approved for use only on doctorwhotoys.net by Designworks, Character Options and the BBC.
"The neutral ninth Doctor was also one of the figures I did. I revised Christopher Eccleston's likeness for the 'straight' version rather than the 'disco dancing' one and prior to that the Judoon Commander - I've also done some sculpting recently, but I can't talk about that!"
Neutral Ninth Doctor Approval Deco - All images exclusively approved for use only on doctorwhotoys.net by Designworks, Character Options and the BBC.
"You find that sculptors have specialisations such as doing monsters, or doing men or female characters."
"When you work with sculptors for a while you just intuitively know what's going to be a good fit for them and a good project and what's going to trip someone up. I work with all the sculptors, everything goes through me first. Before even Al [Alasdair Dewar, Character Options] sees it I tinker loads, making suggestions about everything - expression, pose etc. That's where the relationship with me and Al works; I understand him very well and what he wants. We've got a very similar idea of what's good and what's bad. We share the same background love of Doctor Who and always have. I know from sitting in however many screenings or previews of Doctor Who episodes what we think is going to work and what's not going to work."
"The whole relationship with the BBC has evolved over the years because when we started out neither of us knew what the other one needed."
"So if you think back to the way the first figures Rose and the Ninth Doctor looked and why they looked that way its like another world from the way we work now. When we started off, the reference materials we were using were from publicity shoots, not special photographic sessions set up for gathering the sorts of images we get now."
Rose Version 2 Original Sculpt - All images exclusively approved for use only on doctorwhotoys.net by Designworks, Character Options and the BBC.
"There are so many factors that can influence the way that something looks that can trip you up in the sculpture process. If somebody's posed, the whole way that their clothes fall, the wrinkles on the clothes, its completely different to if they are standing neutrally and its the same with expressions."
"The highest level of 'A Grade' information that we could have is a full set of turnaround photographs. The relationship with the BBC now is at such a level that they know what we need and that's what we get. I have just taken delivery of 178 Gigabytes of reference material for the first 8 episodes of season 4. We get 24 shots of each character, minimum. You don't just have front, right profile, left profile and rear shots, you have 3/4 shots as well. The sessions are dual purpose; they are still doing the stuff for publicity, for the DVD covers and novelisation but at the same time they reel off 24 shots of the character for Designworks. They now have a unit photographer that is assigned to Doctor Who and this has helped us too."
Rose Version 2 Approval Deco - All images exclusively approved for use only on doctorwhotoys.net by Designworks, Character Options and the BBC.
Now Read Part 3: A Little History
Coming next in Part 3 Ed talks more about the early days of Designworks and reveals more of the real facts behind the legendary Doctor Who Action Figure line.
Part 1 Behind the Scenes at Designworks
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