I’ve read Dickens A Christmas Carol nearly every year since my early teens. And as familiar as I am with the story, I still find it inspiring, revealing and reaffirming. It’s said that every generation gets the Christmas Carol they deserve. Looking over the many interpretations of this classic tale, I’m inclined to believe it’s true.
I’d thought about doing a set of figures based on the book for years. The “how” has gone through as many alterations as Scrooge’s “reclamation”. My first attempt was a full figure of Marley (1982). After I’d finished it, I realized there was something missing. Damned if I knew what. Could have been that I hadn’t really thought about how to work in the other figures, or how to hold them together as a group. So, I left it be for a few years.
I had a window of down time in 2007 and wanted to revisit the idea of a Christmas Carol collection. I reread the book, bought a couple of CD versions of it and immersed myself in the story and its characters. And, as I’ve freely admitted before, studied Rockwell, a lot.
I started with Scrooge. I knew once I had him, he’d lead me to the others. Of all the times I’ve read this story I don’t know why him having chin whiskers, or a “wiry chin” didn’t register. If I’d overlooked that, what else had I not picked up on? Aside from the physicality of the man, how was I going to revel his nature as being “a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone. A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!”
I played with a couple of clay studies until I found what I was looking for. Made a waste mold to wax and started the finish work.
There was a lot I wanted to include but hadn’t resolved how to do it. In one of those all too rare flashes of inspiration, the double sided base with the book ornament presented itself. With the two sided base, the three-sixty pivot just made sense.
The front of the base is an old style table-top book stand. The stand holds a sculpture of an open book, which can be removed and hung as an ornament. Since everything is tied to the book, I wanted it to play a significant role in the design of the line. Each ornament carries text from the book that applies directly to the character. The cover of the book is my interpretation of the 1843 first edition.
The back of the base is a set of stylized, parted bed curtains. Scrooge’s bed and bed curtains play a big part in the story’s unfolding. They were also designed to look like theater curtains, pulled back to reveal something relevant to the character the base supports. For Scrooge, Marley’s head glows like “a bad lobster in a dark cellar”.
I worked on Tiny Tim next. Same process as Scrooge; rough clay to waste mold to wax. Being at the end of the hand-me-down line, nothing of Tim’s outfit fits quite right or matches. The back of his base shows his crutch and leg brace, which is often overlooked in interpretations of his character. A big shout to Norm in helping me with Tim’s design.
The Ghost of Christmas Present was next. He’s’ described as being a “jolly giant” He’s the largest of the characters in the line and I had intended to make him larger still, but scaled him back a bit out of concern for context. The back of his base, “From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment. “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom.”
What I’d missed in the first Marley was the movement of his clothes and hair “for though the Ghost sat perfectly motionless, its hair, and skirts, and tassels, were still agitated as by the hot vapour from an oven.” In the rough clay I had his left hand pointing, palm down. My good friend and master sculptor, Tony Cipriano, suggested I open his hand and turn it palm up to show the duality of his mission to Scrooge. Great call, Tony. Thanks!
One of the most enjoyable things about sculpting Marley was getting to do his alternate head after he removed the “folded kerchief bound about its head and chin” so “its lower jaw dropped down upon its breast!” The back of Marley’s base shows the ringing bell that announces his visit.
The line has been close to being manufactured several times. When I first posted pictures of it in 2007, I’ve gotten, on average, a handful of emails each month asking when/if the line with be available. Well, it looks like 2013 will see The Christmas Carol Collection come to market, manufactured and distributed by Diamond Comic Distributors. To paraphrase Tiny Tim, “God bless them, everyone!”