A1 Retail Magazine featured Universal Display in their January edition, with an article on 'A Day in the life'…
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Adrian Coe walks us through a typical day sculpting mannequins at Universal Display.
I get to our studio and warehouse in North West London at 7:30 and first thing is tea with my assistant, Simon. I like to get in early so that I can answer emails and prepare for the day. I look over the analytic data for our website and advise the sales staff accordingly. Throughout the day I will go to my office to check for urgent emails, and keep an eye on them using my blackberry. I discuss with Simon and our colleague Paul about what I need from them for the day and they get straight to work.
I’m currently working on a reclining mannequin, and when I’m happy with it Simon will cast it in plaster to make a fibreglass master. Simon and Paul will then make a fully functioning master with all the fittings in place.
The MD of Universal Display, Jonathan Berlin, phones in the morning. Jonathan is based at our showroom in Notting Hill. We have a great working relationship where Jonathan handles sales and financial and I handle the creative and marketing. We discuss products in development, launches and technological innovations that we are bringing to market next year.
A 40ft container containing about 380 mannequins arrives from our factory in China. After a talk to our warehouse manager, Jacek, he gets down to work to deal with this with some help. Later we receive an air shipment and 30 figures for renovation, and everything that’s arrived needs to be logged. Luckily Jacek keeps this under control and I can focus on sculpting.
I begin sculpting in the studio at 9am. Taking the covers off the clay sculpt is an important time; you see yesterdays work with a colder eye. Mindfully engaging with what is being formed in the clay is very important. Sculpting constantly throws up questions in form that have to be dealt with, and once one area has been corrected you then notice other areas that need changing. One systematically works through until there is nothing else to correct. Sometimes I will take high-resolution photos to really see the clay from a different point of view.
A few years ago we sculpted a range of dogs. These have sold well over the years and many clients have customised them for their own needs. Recently we painted a Union Jack on in different colours for Thomas Pink, and today a makeup artist has come to paint 5 dogs for a client. We discuss the colour and spec needed, and the makeup artist gets down to work.
After this I go back to sculpting. I measure the clay, which is under sized so I add an inch on the bust. Once this is correct I check the sizing by putting a bra on the clay. Reclining and sitting mannequins are always problematic because of the need for the mannequin to be easily dressed.
After this, Jonathan phones to discuss the Retail Design Collective Show in New York. On the 7th - 9th of December we’re opening up our showroom as part of the ARE. I’ve designed the showroom to compliment our new ranges. We are launching 'Project', our new female range of mannequin, 'Heritage' bust forms and 'Project 9' accessory form. Jonathan has had a meeting with a client and they want us to develop one of our ranges with new positions of their own. We discuss a timeline for this and how it will be achieved.
Before lunch, Simon comes to the studio to show me the master he is finishing. Form and function is again of paramount importance, as window dressers may want to dress the mannequin in layers. Simon gets some trousers from our clothing rail, and we make sure the master dresses. It dresses well and looks good.
A break for lunch affords me time to work on a new advert and order some supplies. When I get back to sculpting I am able to assess the mornings work and make the necessary adjustments. The process of sculpting has changed little over the centuries. Sculpting by hand is such a visceral experience, and I have not come across a virtual interface that I believe can replicate the same depth of form created by the sensitivity of the human touch.
In the afternoon, Jonathan pops by for a design meeting. We are both excited as next year clients can specify our ranges in a new material - a fully recyclable plastic that is impervious to damage in normal usage.
I leave the office at 4:30pm, and at home I go down the studio. My wife, Karen, sculpts some of our smaller, highly detailed work, and has been sculpting a pair of hands. I’m delighted with her progress.
After dinner and a little reading I head to bed ready for another day!