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Model-making process

Model-making process:

In response to David Neat´s article about model making:

The process I´ll describe, is useful for any creative work.

Hamlet by W. Shakespeare


1) The sketch.  It shows the general idea and the atmosphere you want to create.  This has to be done observing the real proportions of the theatre or the place it´ll be performed in, at least for the drawing´s outline.  It´s the expression of the general concept, the way to convince other people that your design is proper to communicate the director´s idea.  It´s not a painting or a common drawing, it´s based on a careful analysis of a text (play, script or any composition).  The more realistic, the more accurate to the final result.  1:25 is a good scale for the sketch.


2) The draft model. It shows the main shapes whit no detail, to preview the structure and how it works in the 3D space.  Done from the real theatre´s (or set´s) plan, it helps to settle the main measures and to review the shapes.  Before this step, it´s necessary to make some plans by hand, not definitive, but tentative.  This pre-model will be not for hand-in, but for self-study, because in general, it´s a fast and rude work.  1:50 is enough.


3) The plans. They have to be very clear, because trough them, the design will be built.  All the designer´s skills are shown at this step, because the creative side has to go always with a realistic point of view.  The sketch and the model doesn´t show how the structure will be built and its measures.  The plans are the document that make our design possible.  1:20 or 1:25 are good enough to display a stage design plan.

4) The final model. It´s important to model, first of all, the structure of the place we´re working on.  (In this case, I´ve made a stage with 2 revolving circles, because my design is divided in two structures that turn and connect each other through “bascule bridges”).


At this step, we have to be craftmen.  Detail and ingenuity are the keys.  It´s not the real design; we don´t use the real materials, so we replace them for others that have the same appearence in a lower scale.


For example, in this case all the structure has to be built with iron strips, but in the model, I´ve made it with wood strips.  The grille in the real world, is an iron one, but in the model, I´have applied a open-weave fabric, because wire mesh hasn´t the tough appearence I´d expected.


The model materials provide the texture and the color, so it´s important to select them very carefully, because any detail is noticed.  We´re too close to the model, we cannot trick as in the stage, where the audience sees from the distance.


The structure must be very precise to reach a realistic result.  It´s important to include a scale character to show the proportion and also to improve the appearence.

Moreover, not less important is to take good pictures of our work.  A bad one will ruin it all.  Finally we can enjoy comparing the sketch with the model and applying different color lights.



14 thoughts on “Model-making process

  1. Julia – this is a fantastic post. You explain the process very well, its a great insight into your work and your models and renderings are beautiful!

    Posted by martin | July 9, 2009, 2:14 pm
    • Martin, thanks a lot for your comment. I´m glad you like it. You really cheered me up.
      On the other hand, thank you for what you´re doing for this online society. This is a great website (highly functional and aesthetically beautiful); there´s nothing better for stage designers on the Internet. It´s a pleasure to post here.

      Posted by Julia Clavell | July 11, 2009, 10:12 am
  2. Hi Julia,

    I love the design. The model photos alone make me want to see the design realised and used in a production. I think it’s because of the various angles you’ve used and the lighting.

    I’m glad you wrote down how important it is to take good photos of the model. My set models usually end up getting broken down and recycled as storage can be a problem. The photos are the only record that the model ever existed.

    Posted by davidsamuel | July 11, 2009, 4:47 am
    • David, thanks a lot for your comment. I´m glad you like the design. You´re right, they´re fragile and easier said than done to preserve the models intact. It´s a pitty but I have all of them broken into pieces (but I won´t discard them! =) ). Thank you because I didn´t take into account the photo as a record.

      The truth is that the picture is finally more useful to show the design; you can´t carry the model one place to another. For that reason I insist in taking good ones as a fundamental part of the design. You can have a beautiful design and a great model, but people would never appreciate it in a lackluster one.

      Posted by Julia Clavell | July 11, 2009, 10:56 am
  3. Hi Julia,

    Your post is the ”abc” of the first part of set – designer’s work! Bravo!

    Posted by Aliki | July 13, 2009, 5:03 am
  4. Julia your writing is fine – we would have never know english was not your first language?

    Posted by Office | July 13, 2009, 5:11 pm
    • Hi!, no, I speak Spanish cause I´m from Argentina. For me it´s a really huge effort to communicate with you. I continue studying English nowadays, so happy to know you appreciate my writing. It´s a very important achievement. Thanks!

      Posted by Julia Clavell | July 13, 2009, 9:41 pm
  5. I m also surprised that english is not your native laanguage!
    Your post is, really, a great guide for anyone, who wants to work as a designer 🙂

    Posted by Aliki | July 14, 2009, 4:33 am
  6. Julia – Well i’m very impressed with your written English. It’s excellent!

    I think you would be surprised to find that it’s better than most English peoples!

    Posted by Office | July 15, 2009, 4:23 am
  7. julia, esta muy bien explicado, me encanta la claridad que tienes, felicidades,

    Posted by rodrigo | July 15, 2009, 11:24 am
  8. A fantastic, professional and very impressive work.

    Posted by Gassim | July 15, 2009, 2:44 pm
  9. A very well deserved wiiner. Congratulations.

    Posted by Martin Morley | September 15, 2009, 10:53 am
  10. I have to say, whenever I think about putting into words model making techniques step by step, its no easy feat! You have done an brilliant job!

    If anyone is to ask me in future how we go about it, I will be pointing them in the direction of this page!

    (I adore you sketches!!!!! They are so lively and atmsophereic, just seeing them makes me want to go and draw some more-right now!)

    Posted by Maria Sarah | September 18, 2009, 5:03 am

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