Queen Studios started creating Marvel silicone collectables in 2018. Since then, we've produced hyper-realistic silicone busts like Loki, Thanos and the Hulk. To produce this hyper-realism, our artist must use high-quality silicone. We often get questions from fans about whether a bust made of silicone can stand the test of time. Is it easy to maintain? Is it environmentally friendly?
To better inform you about Queen Studios' silicone bust products and the materials we use, we interviewed our Production Manager Eddy who oversees our silicone processing, and industry specialist Andy Wright, a sculptor of people and things to get their thoughts on the silicone they prefer to use and what insightful information fans should know before they buy, or if they want to enter the industry.
EDDY LI - QUEEN STUDIOS' PRODUCTION MANAGER
WHAT ARE THE KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE SILCONE QS USES AND ORDINARY SILICONE?
A difference during the molding process:
There are a few differences between the silicone that Queen Studios uses for collectibles, and ordinary everyday silicone. Most notably, the main difference is the moulding process, and how the silicone behaves over time.
Although ordinary silicone is non-toxic and tasteless, over time, (if the product is not maintained ) it will turn yellow, or dark lines will appear. On the other hand, the silicone we use is imported silicone consisting of two-components. These two components are then combined in a 50/50 split to create a high quality silicone, unlike other silicone which requires a 10:1 split. Once the silicone is mixed, it is then put in a vulcanizing machine until it is ready to be shaped. In all aspects of performance the silicone we use is superior to ordinary silicone.
From the scope of application:
Ordinary silicone is mostly used in environmentally friendly industrial supplies, auto parts and electrical accessories. Our silicone is widely used in medical and health supply industries, or in culinary industries. The requirements for these industries are much stricter, as these chemicals and products need to follow strict regulations and abide by environmental laws.
A practical performance distinction:
Ordinary silicone's stability performance is also quite poor. The application temperature range is usually small, over time it discolors abd the surface is easy to stain. Some low-cost ordinary silicones even have a pungent smell.
The silicone we use has excellent electrical and chemical stability, it's non-toxic and odorless, corrosion-resistant, aging-resistant, and can be stored at room temperature for over 25 years (the actual storage time is mainly affected by the product storage environment).
WHY DO YOU USE THIS SPECIFIC SILICONE?
As the first company to obtain the licensing rights from Marvel for silicone busts, and the first company to acquire similar rights from DC in China, Queen Studios has rose to prominence through pioneering hyper-realistic collectibles and laying a path for similar companies to follow.
In order to live up to the expectations our fans expect, we have high demands on product quality. All Queen Studios hyper-realistic collectibles use the highest quality silicone. The silicone we use has good fluidity and an elongation rate of up to 900%, so it maximizes the look and movement of individual characters during the production of the peice. At the same time, after vulcanization the silicone replicates the softness of human skin. Subsequently bringing fans the most authentic experience!
ANDY WRIGHT - INDEPENDENT SCULPTOR
What factors should be taken into consideration when taking care of silicone, in the short term and long term?
Keeping the silicone away from UV light is the most important factor when taking care of these products. Pigments in the silicone become distorted by UV rays which can result in fading. If your paint product uses mineral pigments, they should be stable. If you’ve used artificial pigments, they may change if left in the sun [fade – reds particularly]. So best to keep things out of direct sunlight for long periods of time. Otherwise, store them at room temperatures, there isn’t much more you can do to lengthen their longevity. That would be more to do with the manufacturer's silicone, this quality plays a huge part in the life span of a silicone product.
When should an aspiring artist move from the preliminary designs to sculpting in silicone?
I would say you need to learn to work with silicone. How to make moulds, how to cast without air bubbles, how to paint. I would start small [say half scale or 2/3rds scale] and try things out. Once you have everything working with no issues, and your sculpting is up to the level needed. Then you can move to life-size or whatever without wasting a lot of money and resources.
What paints and materials, other than silicone do you prefer to work with?
Polyester and fibreglass for moulds and castings. Dental acrylics, human and other natural hair types.
What materials should beginners start working with?
For small things, start with sculpting, polymer clays. Try making some small figures and bake in an oven, to harden it. You can get ones that have a flesh base tone. Then try painting in thin layers or washes, to replicate skin tones. Water based clay is cheap to sculpt life size pieces while learning and is easier to shape more quickly than oil/wax-based clays. A simple mould can be made with a hard plaster with scrim reinforcement. You could sculpt a face in wet clay on a waterproof board, make a plaster mould of it, clean it out and cast in a silicone and try out painting techniques without a lot of money being spent.
What is the most difficult thing you have created with silicone?
I wouldn’t say it is one specific thing. I would say making the moulds than can sometimes be challenging. I’m always thinking “what is the best way to do this?”. Silicone casting from these moulds will always require minimal clean-up and no horrible seams visible prior to painting. So, making seamless moulds, or making something that needs to join without much of a seam being evident is rather tough. However, it makes your life easier when the piece comes out of the mould.
When using silicone, what are common mistakes people usually make?
When using silicone – their cure can be affected by several things. Latex gloves - you don’t want to use with anything that silicone touches [vinyl or nitrile only]. Resins not fully [or even fully] cured can affect some silicone, leaving a sticky or tacky surface that will never go away. You need to test each thing in your process for compatibility before you use it properly. Some platinum silicones are “touchier” in their cure than others. I’ve used a few that just didn’t like resin moulds. The ones I use now are pretty good with that sort of thing.
What is your current passion project?
I’m more in to sculpting people than monsters/creatures. Not that monsters aren’t fun - I like doing them every now and again, as it’s easier. But people are harder to get right, and you never stop learning anatomy or subtle things that make up a face or expression. There will never be a day when you will say “There, I’ve learnt it all!”
What do you want to make the most out of silicone?
To make sculptures that have a definite personality. They must look good, but more important they need to seem alive.
Any advice for collectors who want to become sculptors?
Start sculpting. You can never start too soon, and you will never stop learning. Learn/practice anatomy, sculpt some faces, sculpt some expressions. Just get sculpting and keep at it, as there is a lot to learn and that will never stop.
Do you prefer working with statues and busts or movie props/prosthetics?
I like making busts and statues of people and characters, so they seem alive and have a presence/personality.
Could you tell us something about the industry most people would not know?
How much time it can take to sculpt/create something from the beginning. I’ve worked on statues that have taken well over 3 months just sculpting, and that wasn’t the end. A lot of people I make things for, have no idea how much time you put into things. I think a lot think it’s a lot quicker than it is. Tens of hours, if not hundreds of hours. They just see the result. If they had any experience to try it themselves, they would quickly find out how difficult, tedious, and maddening it can be.
That's it for this week! If you want to learn more tips on how to maintain a Queen Studios silicone bust, you can find out more by clicking here! Hopefully we've cleared up any misconceptions about the silicone we use and you've gleaned some useful tips and tricks for looking after preparing your silicone collectables. If you want to see more of Andy's work, head over to his Facebook and Instagram for more.
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Post by Luke Wainhouse