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Interview with Rachel Williams

[ Conducted in October 2009 ]

"Create me a bunch of 12 inch tall Sasquatches for the Beastie Boys", not exactly a request you're likely to hear, but one that our next interviewee was given. So what's the story behind the 70x figures sent out to promote the Triple Trouble single? We chat to Rachel Williams to find out.

A Herd of Sasquatch

Let's start with your background. Is it making props?

Yes, I have a background in theatre design, but my talents really lie in the interpretation and making of other people's designs/visions. I have been a freelance props maker for a number of years and have been doing more sculpture of late. I've also been doing some backdrop painting recently, including a backdrop for Skunk Anansie's "Because of You" video; I try to cover a broad range of mediums to keep it interesting and to stay as versatile as possible.

How did you get approached to create the figures in the first place?

A friend of mine, Sean Walser, was approached by a marketing company called Rowleys London who were working for EMI in the UK. They were looking for an "off the shelf" Yeti figure to give away as part of a Beastie Boys press pack. Sean was running a web-based action figure shop at the time and Rowleys had found him on the Internet. Sean couldn't source a figure that was close to what they were looking for but suggested that another friend of ours who might be able to produce one. Sean approached Simon Benjamin, who was running a small production/marketing company at the time, and although he had never produced anything like this before, decided the opportunity was too good to miss and asked me if I could help him.

Were you the sole person who created them all or were other people involved?

No, there were three other people involved in the production, I dealt with the design and sculpture of the doll, and oversaw the artistic process. A friend who works in costume, Marie Kirkby, made the tiny waistcoats and aprons, and worked out the pattern for the fur covering. Simon acted as project manager, with Sean helping out with sourcing the packaging, and helping to assemble, package and deliver the finished product.

Were you given a blueprint or did you come up with design yourself?

There were no designs as such, I was given a link to watch the Triple Trouble video and decide how to take it. It could have been stylised more, but I wanted to make it look as true to the Sasquatch in the video as possible. I made a real scale drawing, which was approved by the Client, and then I began sculpting.

Were prototypes made first?

Not a full prototype no, but Rowleys were sent the master for approval before it went into production.

Were moulds created? What was the process involved in making one?

As with a lot of these things, it was cheaper to get professional mould makers in on the process, as they are set up for repeat work and do this kind of thing all the time. We all agreed to have them made in resin in the end, as we had considered vacuum forming which would have been less weighty, but less detailed and possibly very fragile. There wasn't an awful lot of money in the pot, so other processes were rejected as too expensive. I think we took the job on really, because we are all fans of the Beastie Boys and were excited about doing something with their name attached to it!

How long did it take to make one? (or the whole lot?)

It was quite a lengthy process. In all there were eight pieces of fur cut to cover each Sasquatch. Each piece was hand cut and stuck onto the resin figure. The aprons and waistcoats were all hand cut and sewn and then fine detailing like the eyes were added. I can't remember how long it took in total but it was definitely a number of days with four people working flat out.

They are really quite heavy. Are they solid?

Yes they are really heavy, we could have hollowed them out (by boring out with a drill) later in the process, but time was marching on. In hindsight this may have been preferable, but you live and learn!

Are they all identical?

They are identical in that they all came from the same mould, although the resin was tinted during the making, so the colour varies a little on each batch. Apart from that, for my own amusement I painted the eyes looking in different directions!

Was the size specified or chosen for a reason?

We were asked to make them 12 inches tall.

Did you put together the complete package (including the tube and background sheet)? And the numbering?

Yes, we created everything except for the card and sticker design, which was handled by EMI's designers. Simon organized the printing and sticker production. Sean and Simon finished assembly in the factory where the Perspex tubes were produced on their way up to a London logistics company where the figures were being shipped to various places around the world that day. The ends of the tubes are rough because the factory hadn't noted their request for them to be polished; one consolation though was that somebody had processed the wrong invoice, saving them a few hundred pounds. It was a race to finish packaging and get out of there before anybody noticed!

Are there exactly 70? Were there any more made that were un-numbered?

Originally, Rowleys had requested a larger number, around 150 I think, but because producing an original product was going to cost much more than something off the shelf, the number had to be reduced to 50. We decided to produce more because it was the only way we could make it profitable. We knew it wouldn't go down well but it seemed like a good idea at the time! We were asked to number the figures 01/50, 02/50 etc. but because we had been left the task of hand numbering and we were delivering on the final deadline day we numbered them 01/70 and so on knowing it would be too late to change it. It simply meant we had a few genuinely numbered figures to sell ourselves. In hindsight though, maybe a non-numbered figure would be worth more!

And finally, were any other ideas considered / rejected?

The only thing that we can think of would be ideas around packaging. Simon and Sean discussed how it would be packaged. They knew it should have a window so that the figure could be seen. Cardboard was rejected because it wasn't going to be hard wearing enough, eventually Simon suggested a clear plastic tube which evolved from thin flexible plastic to solid Perspex once we realized how heavy the figure was going to be!

To view our Sasquatch Registry to see where around the world various figures have ended up, click here.
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