Finding the eyes and mouth

Finding the eyes and mouth on a figure is one of my favorite parts of the whole process. It calls for a lot of concentration so I go to the workshop very early before anyone is there (they start at 7am), but after sunrise when the light is good and it’s still quiet and cool.

I cut black paper to a little smaller than the size of hole I think is right for the eyes. Then tape the paper eyes in place, moving them a millimeter this way or that. Getting them to look about right can take quite a while, even over a day or two, doing something else, coming back to look.

Once they’re in place, I trace the paper eyes and mouth onto the metal, remove the paper, then draw an inside line a couple of cm in. Then Pan Qiang drills a hole in the center of the eye shape and grinds out to the inside line. Then I erase the outside line and start to drill and file out the hole myself, taking my time, millimeter by millimeter, up and down the ladder a thousand times to look at the face from every angle, near and far.

The expression changes as I open up the hole, sometimes angry, goofy, alien, cross-eyed, sad… I talk to her, telling her it’s going to be all right. When it’s right the figure pops alive and she’s looking right at me from many angles.

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