Battle of Britain Monument Home THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN LONDON MONUMENT Battle of Britain London Monument
The Battle of Britain London Monument "Never in the field of human
conflict was so much owed
by so many to so few
Site of Battleof Britain London Monument Work in Progress London Monument Site Drawing of Battle of Britain London Monument
Battle of Britain London Monument Home    

How the sculptor designs the monument

Interview with Paul Day - the monument sculptor

December 2004

What are the Sculptor's roles?
The Sculptor's role is to design and produce the main friezes of the monument. These depict the many scenes from the Battle. This is based on a lot of background research and generating lots of ideas.

He gets very involved with the Architects and the Foundry in the highest quality implementation in what is a very demanding design.

The ideas stage
The first stage in any project is for Paul Day to gather as much information as he can about the subject. In this project he tries to understand what people went through who actually took part in the battle. This research involves interviewing people still alive who took part, reading many books on the subject ­ particularly ones from people who took part and going through old photos and archives.

The main "understanding and ideas" phase took about 3 months but remains ongoing throughout the project.

The first sketches
Having immersed himself in the subject Paul then sits at his drawing board and starts to produce lots of small scale "thumbnail" sketches. These sketches are of ideas around important events in the battle ­ not just for the flyers but also for the support people and the civilians caught up in the battle. He aims to generate as many ideas around the subject as possible as part of developing a narrative (or "storyboard") for the monument. It is important that the monument flows with a story and is not just separate unconnected scenes.

click to enlarge

Detailed design and models
Paul then adapts the first thumbnail sketches and produces larger, more detailed, designs. From these he starts to build small clay models of key parts of the design. These models are called "maquettes". They are rudimentary versions of the final design which do not necessarily have full detail. They are there to help him see how the designs work in 3 dimensions, e.g. how light and shade will fall - basically enough to see how the ideas work.

The full design
Once he is happy with the concept designs he moves onto the full size designs. For this he produces detailed compositional drawings which are close to the final designs. He then starts turning the designs into full size clay representations. For the monument, he started with one of the 8 metre panels. These are about 1 metre high and when finished weigh about 4 tons! These are built on a large workbench where he constructs vertical wood boards to support the panel and build a wall of clay on these boards.


Once the wall of clay is ready Paul plots the position of the various elements on the wall, starting with the rough forms of the shapes and gradually starts to flesh out the detail in clay, in particular the "expressive" parts such as faces, arms and hands.

click to enlarge

He aims to finish this panel in sections about 3 metres long -i.e. a third of the overall panel at a time.

Before firing
Before the clay is fired to turn it into the solid "terracotta" that is the final design, Paul has to do a lot of preparation work. Since large pieces of clay cannot be fired successfully he has to hollow out all the pieces behind the raised parts. This includes cutting off all the heads, hands etc, hollowing them out and then re-fitting them. For just one 3 metre section just this hollowing out process took over 10 days.

The hollowed out sections then have to be left for at least 6 weeks to dry out properly before firing.

Finally any sections that stick out have to be cut off and fired separately. Up to 80 individual pieces are fired for each 8 metre section.

Firing the clay designs
Firing is the process to finally dry out and bake the clay so it turns into the rock hard "terracotta" we are familiar with in earthenware crockery. This takes place in a kiln. Since the pieces are so large and heavy this has to be done very carefully to avoid cracking.

The firing takes place over 2 days. It starts at a relatively low temperature for several hours to ensure the clay is very dry. The temperature is then gradually increased to 960°C for the firing time. The temperature is then slowly reduced and the kiln left to cool down over another 2 days to about 100°C.

The final stage
Once Paul is happy with the fired design he then has silicon rubber moulds taken of every piece. These mould negatives are the "master" negative design that are sent to the foundry for casting into bronze.

Any problems
The main problem to overcome is the large size of the pieces combined with very intricate detail ­ this is unusual for a design of this size.

The only "near miss" was a new kiln installed to cope with the large sizes of the pieces. Unfortunately the chimney didn't work correctly on the first firing and everything came out covered in black soot. However Paul managed to clean it all and everything was saved.

Next Steps
To see how the foundry turns these designs into actual bronze castings, click here.

back to Interviews index page

back to Project Progress index page

Battle of Britain Monument