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Dave Gardner, waxwork sculptor at Madame Tussauds
Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a waxwork maker

Written by
James Manning

…according to Dave Gardner, 31.

The sculpting for all 24 branches of Madame Tussauds is done in London

‘Everything is made at our studio in Acton and each attraction orders the figures they want. Donald Trump is going to Washington, New York, Orlando and London. Michael Jackson and the Queen are our biggest celebrities: I believe they’re in every Madame Tussauds.’

It takes months to make a waxwork

‘One wax figure takes four to five months from start to finish. This Trump one went right up to the wire because we had to make four. Usually I get five weeks to sculpt the clay head. Each hair is inserted individually with a forked needle: that takes about four weeks. Then layers of oil paints are applied for the skin tone and the body is moulded separately in fibreglass.’

Most waxworks don’t have any feet…

‘With someone like Tom Daley, who’s wearing Speedos, we’d have to cast the feet and get them looking as realistic as possible. But with Trump, for instance, we use something that’s almost like a shoehorn to make the shoe look its best.’

…and their veins are made of silk

‘We use red silk thread to create the veins on the side of the eyes, and we insert them with this sticky wax that’s been combined with Vaseline. It’s not very pleasant to work with.’

Young faces are harder to make

‘Wrinkly faces are a lot easier because there’s a lot to grab hold of: there’s more character. When you’re working on a figure with a smooth face, like Gigi Hadid, it becomes more difficult because it’s subtler and you can’t get away with the odd craggy line. Trying to get Trump’s expression was quite fun. He’s almost like a caricature of himself, which made my job slightly easier.’

Donald Trump is on display at Madame Tussauds now.

Now discover the things you only know if you’re Lord Mayor of London.

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