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From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

100 Years in the Making: Sabin Howard

CN PodcastLogo Final gray lowerOn January 25th's edition of the WWI Centennial News Podcast, Episode 107, host Theo Mayer spoke with memorial sculptor Sabin Howard. Mr. Howard caught us up on the technical progress of the sculpture itself and reflected on the process of 21st-century, technology-assisted sculpting. The following is a transcript of the interview, edited for clarity: 

Theo Mayer: For this week's segment of A 100 Years in the Making: the Insider Story about the Creation of the National World War One Memorial in Washington, DC, I had a chance to chat with the memorial sculptor Sabin Howard as he was getting ready to jump on a plane for the UK to launch the next step, scaling up his one-sixth size Maquette, as he heads for one of the only foundries in the world that will be able to cast the full size sculpture. Since developing the Maquette, you've been through some other steps in the development. Could you outline those?

Sabin Howard: Yeah. I developed the Maquette in New Zealand last year, and in February the Maquette got mailed to the Commission of Fine Arts. And we went to a meeting and we did not pass, and so then we continued to make presentations to incorporate the sculpture show would fit better into the park. And from that we finally reached an agreement in July with the Commission of Fine Arts, that we needed to now make a second Maquette that would fit onto a pedestal. My client, The Centennial Commission had some ideas about historical correctness in the uniforms and very, very few edits. But now we are going to go back with the same composition, but just I need to do some historical modifications that are minor.SabinhowardSabin Howard

Theo Mayer: There's another big thing that happened- you guys started searching for a place that could possibly cast this thing. How'd that go?

Sabin Howard: That was a process and epic unto itself, because I spent four months traveling the United States looking at foundries, looking at enlargement systems, looking at tech companies, because the issue that we have at hand is, this is a really large project with an incredibly small space of time to produce it. And so, technology comes into solving that problem. And most of the foundries that I found in the United States were smaller by nature, maybe 20 employees, and the last month that I was doing my search for where do we get this done, and what's the best process to use, I was looking on Instagram and I came upon a friend's sculpture of a bear that is in Rhode Island. And Nick Bibby, he's a British sculptor, I looked at this bear that he had done, and I looked at the foundry, and I was like, "That's where I need to go look." So this is a 200 employee foundry. It's one of the largest ones in Europe, and what makes it even funnier, Damian Hurst is one of their major clients who has invested a tremendous amount of money for them to cast his own sculptures, which he did this big show in Venice at the Dulgana, called the Wreck of the Unbelievable. Those were these massive pieces that he cast there, and many, many of them too, and then he also did a 65 foot high resin sculpture that was installed into a pallazo in Venice inside the building. And so, there were all these other technical issues of engineering, and weight, and transportation that require an infrastructure, and a company that has really strong logistics and brilliant technicians, and I'm like, "Alright, Eureka."

Theo Mayer: I saw some pictures of this new photogrammetry rig that they put together, which is basically, for our listening audience, is a giant 3D scanner, if you want to think of it that way. And they just finished a brand new one that's quite unique.

Sabin Howard: Yeah. Photogrammetry is, you have an object or a model in the middle, and then around you have these almost Christmas tree rigs that might have 10 cameras from ground to 12 feet up in the air. So then, you might have a dozen of these that are all mounted around and pointed towards the central space where the model is going to be. They all go off at the same time, the cameras, and then they continue to move taking shots, thousands of shots. All this information then gets fed into a computer, and the computer assembles the data, and makes a object which is the model. The model then is in the computer, it's almost a scan of what's there in reality, it's a life cast, let's call it. The life cast then can be milled out passing the information to a CNC machine that  routes it out of whatever material you need. So, that's my very accurate armature that lies underneath the surface of where I apply the clay. And so Pangolin in conjunction with this photography studio that's right there on sight, Steve Russel Photography, decided after they had come over and met with Daniel Dayton and the Commission, it was like, "Yes, this is a very good fit," and they went back and they amped up their system. So this is now the best photogrammetry system in the whole world because now we're up to, I believe, 160 cameras, all incredibly high level, and there's no other system in the world that can capture this much detail with this much resolution, and this much depth.

Theo Mayer: Well, so, you're heading over to the UK coming up shortly, what's the purpose of this first trip over?

Sabin Howard: I head over on Saturday, and I'm bringing over five models from my initial drawings and photography that I did with the cellphones here in New York. And what we're going to do is, we will pose them in the exact same positions that we had in the relief, because the next steps will be that that milling out of the foam will then get shipped back to my New York studio, probably by summer, and then those models then will be posing for me live as I continue to work traditionally. macquetteA scene from the National World War I Memorial Maquette

Theo Mayer: Now, this is all to scale it up from 10 inches tall to full size, right?

Sabin Howard: Yes, right. The Marquette gets amplified six times, and so you're looking a height of around seven-foot-six. There might be some corrections for scale, so maybe eight feet max. From there the styrofoam that is milled out has to be assembled with a seal armature so you can take it apart, not only for being able to sculpt behind the figures in parts, but also for the next process down the road, which will be the molding of all these parts. And the little model had 120 molds made of it. This one will probably have 120 molds as well.

Theo Mayer: Well, a fascinating process. Sabin how are you feeling about the whole thing? I know that this is a pretty monumental project, all pun intended.

Sabin Howard: I'm very excited on one side, and on the other side I also have a little bit of a pang of regret because we're not sculpting this traditionally because of the time frame. It's very exciting in some way because it's kind of like a new step in my own life, because here I would spend maybe two years on a sculpture, a single figure, and I might work with a life model for 3,500 hours on one single piece. But now, it's like I have 38 figures to cover, and a lot of people saying, "We want this right now." I look back that the renaissance and I'm like, "Wow, that is really a thing of the past at this point because of how technology has stepped in to replace almost half of the grunt work in the middle."

Theo Mayer: What you're saying are the same words that you will hear from people who moved away from cutting negative and film, where the time that it took and what you lose is the reflection time, the think space.

Sabin Howard: Yes, that's a good way of putting it. It's like the think space is gone, the time spent in process is gone, but maybe now I'll be making four or five of these before I end. Who knows.



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