Writings by Ms. Mongeon

Milling- An Additional Tool of Advanced Technology For the Traditional Sculptor
Created for Best of Artists and Artisans web site
By Bridgette Mongeon © 2008

In this column’s May 2008 article, “Using the Computer and Poser in the Sculpture Studio,” I spoke about using the computer program Poser and Daz 3D to create my presentations for a sculpture called Jenna.  I’d like to expand on that process to further assist the traditional artists utilizing technology in the studio.   Some sculptors are utilizing digital scanning and milling to help enlarge their sculptures.  I will expand on scanning in a later article, as there is quite a bit of information to relay about digital scanning.  For this article we will focus on milling in foam.

 If you remember with the sculpture of Jenna, both Poser and Daz 3D figures were combined to create several different visuals for the client to look at and approve.  From there we took the computer generated 3D pose and sent it to Blue Genie Art Indusries in Austin, Texas, for milling.  First we made sure that the mesh, the underlying structure in a 3D computer model that gives it its shape and form, was watertight.  This means that there are no holes in the mesh.  Blue Genie Art Indusries can examine files for an artist and provided this service as well.

Blue Genie Art Indusries then took the Poser file provided and sent it to the (CNC) Computer Numerical Controlled milling machine.  Here the CNC milling machine uses drill bits that move back and forth along the foam, carving out a foam replica of the 3d model that is in the computer.


Jenna file shown as mesh The dress featured in the approved pose was unnecessary for the form. I opted for milling just the body of Jenna.   I wanted to work the dress design in clay. Knowing most of the body would have a great deal of clay covering it, I had Blue Genie Art Indusries mill the body out of a less expensive polystyrene, and the hands and wings were milled out of a firmer urethane foam that would hold greater detail. 

There are many different options when having a sculpture milled.  The more detail the artist desires, the more passes the bits will have to make and perhaps even smaller bits will be utilized after a pass with a larger bit. With the extended time on the milling machine, the cost of the milling rises.

Many artists ask for a slight reduction in the size of the milled foam so that a thin layer of wax based clay can be added on top of the foam and detail can be added.  Some milling companies actually spray the clay onto the foam after milling for the artist.  

If a reduction in the foam is desired, it is important to understand that some areas like nose or ears can disappear in the reduction. Milled foam comes from Blue Genie Art Indusries in several pieces. The pieces are light and even monumental sculptures can be shipped long distances without a tremendous amount of money spent in shipping charges.  The foam pieces are secured using glue and pipe, or in the case of Jenna a few skewers was all that was necessary. The foam can also be reshaped with rasps if the artist finds modifications are necessary.

Milling foam for the traditional artists is rather new technology and will go a long way in assisting the traditional sculptor in the studio.  The 3D computer generated model of Jenna could have been enlarged before milling out to any size, even as a monumental size baby.  The use of digital millings offer the artist a less time consuming way of creating armatures for life-size and monumental pieces as compared to the traditional pipe, welding and rebar that has been used in the past.

Shipping a completed sculpture that was first milled in foam to the foundry is also much easier as it is lighter and easier to transport.  The foundry men seem to like the process as well, as the sculpture can be cut up for the mold making process quite simply with a knife without worrying about having to cut through rebar, wire, or pipe as they do with the creation and mold making of traditional sculptures.

Milling foam is a new tool that I will continue to use at every available opportunity. Personally I find the process of making armatures tedious and time consuming and milling in foam will relieve me of that task, leaving me with much more time to create. 

The video incorporates both the May article on using Poser and Daz 3d and also this months article on digital milling.

Bridgette Mongeon is a sculptor, writer and speaker residing in Houston, Texas and has created a workshop for artist to help them achieve their creative dreams.

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Ms. Mongeon is an artist and writer living in Houston, Texas. If you would like to use this article for your publication or would like Ms. Mongeon to write an article for your publication please fill out the contact form. Ms Mongeon is also available as a public speaker on this and other topics. A list of published works is available.

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