Q & A with Emily Pooley – Creator of Anne Boleyn Waxwork

Welcome to On the Tudor Trail Emily! Could you share with us a little about yourself and your background?

Where to begin!? Hello, I am a soon to be 22 year old Technical and Special Effects artist from East Sussex – don’t worry no-one knows what it is either! Basically I sculpt and make props, which are used in film, adverts, theatre or events.

I would say that sculpting is my passion, but it has become more of an addiction as the years go on. I started off as a kid digging up clay by a stream down in the woods by our house and shaping into animals or objects from my favourite T.V show – Buffy the Vampire Slayer. My parents named it ‘mud monstering.’ Little did I know there was a real profession out there somewhere.

At school, it was a toss up between becoming a respected vet and taking home a decent salary or continuing with making a mess and filling my parents house with odd creations from art college… to my parents despair, I chose the latter.

I soon applied for a place at university at Wimbledon College of Art so that I could at least gain some credit as an artist. Happily, I managed to bag a First Class BA Honours Degree in Technical Arts and Special Effects and a wealth of knowledge and inspiration!

You recently made a life-sized waxwork Anne Boleyn figure that is now on display at Hever Castle as part of the ‘A Royal Romance’ exhibition. Why did you choose Anne as the subject of this project?

Anne Boleyn waxwork, Hever Castle

The disgusting and humorous facts within the pages of the Horrible History books were my first taste of the exciting and entrancing world of the Tudors. Along side ‘mud monstering’, as a kid I had a love for history and as for many other young girls, castles were of real interest. One weekend, after making everything possible from Art Attack or Blue Peter and exhausting all of the loo rolls in the house, my parents decided to amuse my brother and me by taking us half an hour down the road to Hever Castle. It was love at first sight. A petite castle hidden away in the country – I had to know who lived there. And this is where my relationship with Anne began. Hers is a story of ultimate girl power, holding her own in a male dominated age and I found myself buying every film and book I could find on her.

In the back of my mind, I had always wanted to make a piece of work based on Anne and her story, so when 3rd year at university came around and we were permitted to explore our own areas of interest, Anne’s was there – waiting patiently. I have always been inspired by the Madame Tussauds exhibition in London and the mash-up of history and special effects art, so I looked to her for inspiration and the rest, they say, is history!

Please tell us about the process you followed to make Anne Boleyn.

As with any sculpture or piece of artwork, you have to know your subject and even more importantly – understand it. This meant months of research before any clay was even touched! I focused on Anne’s story and how she has been represented throughout the centuries, from historical accounts of her appearance and personality (notoriously difficult in Anne’s case) to modern day depictions of her through films like ‘Anne of the Thousand Days’ and ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ and other artworks based on her image from Madame Tussauds’ waxwork to Royal Doulton’s toby jug. After attacking my 5000 word dissertation on this subject – writing has always been my nemesis – I settled on Holbein’s sketch of Anne as it has always been my favourite, and is by far the mostly realistic reproduction, in terms of skill, of her image from around the time.

The next stage is to choose a model as, of course, I could not simply ask Anne to supply me with her measurements – séance’s are scary business! Luckily, my friend at university looked remarkably similar to Holbein’s sketch. Numerous photographs were taken from 360 degrees around the model and hundreds of measurements recorded using calipers, so that the sculpt can be as accurate as possible.

And finally, the real work can begin. An armature is welded together to support the sculpt and the figure is slowly built up over a few weeks using clay– referring to the images taken and scrupulously following the measurements taken from the model.

Anne Boleyn

The head is removed in the final stages (many a laugh was had in Anne’s case) so that the portrait can be refined and the real ‘character’ of the model can be worked on. The body would take roughly 10 weeks – quite a long time, as many of us had never sculpted a life-sized piece before – and the head would take about 5-6 weeks.

The next stage is the scariest and messiest – moulding. A plaster waste mould was used for Anne’s body and a fiberglass body was cast out of it. For the head, it was a more challenging process of a silicone jacket mould – a soft mould which allowed the delicate wax head to be removed with ease. The wax is poured into the head and hand moulds, the eyes are then burned into the head and the eyebrows and eyelashes are punched in by hand. The head and body can then be reunited again ready for painting!

Finally, the waxwork is coming together… and it’s dress up time! For my original university project, I made Anne a Tudor corset and shift (which were most definitely incorrect for the time as my knowledge of costuming is extremely limited). However, she is now rightly dressed in a stunning coronation outfit at Hever, which suits her a lot more!

Anne Boleyn by Emily Pooley

Did you work collaboratively with other specialists when reconstructing Anne’s coronation gown?

Anne’s coronation gown was an independent project commissioned by Hever that I did not have a part in. But it is absolutely gorgeous! She looks so regal and elegant in it that I wish I came up with the idea myself! For my own show, I depicted her in her undergarments to show a more private and personal view of her. I used symbols to portray her story and reflect the concepts of Tudor portraiture and accompanied her with her very own handmade pomander beads (Tudor perfume.) But I absolutely love the gown they have created for her at Hever. It accurately replicates the outfit worn for her coronation and shows her off at the height of her life and I feel very privileged that my waxwork has her very own custom-made outfit – it’s like having a life-sized Barbie! If you fancy checking out the original outfit and exhibition, pop to my website www.emilypooley.co.uk.

What were the most challenging and rewarding parts of this project?

Many of the processes were extremely challenging, as this was the first time I had ever attempted anything of this scale, and only the second time I had sculpted a figure! However, Anne’s life is so enchanting that whenever I had a bad day sculpting – she was always there to help me through, be it through a film or a trip to Hever.

At one point, when Anne’s body was safely out of the mould and ready to be fixed up – she was left standing up whilst I popped back home, 10 minutes down the road. I heard the doorbell go and there was my friend who worked behind me at uni: “Don’t worry, it can all be fixed.” My heart sunk as I learned that Anne had been knocked over and the cast was damaged. Alas, it was fixable but I soon learned to look after her, laying her down and covering her as if she were my own child!

Moulding was the stage I liked the least as you effectively destroy the weeks of hard work put into your sculpt in order to gain a hard copy of it… many a sleepless night was had at this point as you are never quite sure how it has turned out until you open the mould.

Anne Boleyn and her creator, Emily Pooley

The final moment and most satisfying for me, was placing Anne Boleyn’s infamous ‘B’ necklace around her neck. I had vowed that I would not put the necklace on her unless I felt my work was worthy of representing the infamous Anne Boleyn. “Yes!” I had finally completed my yearlong affair with Anne.

The cherry on the cake was seeing my work in Anne’s childhood home and the place I have adored since a child… I remember telling my mum and dad on about our 5th visit that I would get my work in even if I had to smuggle it in! It is a real honour to bring Anne Boleyn home.

Who are your favourite Tudor personalities?

It goes without saying that Anne Boleyn has been a complete fascination of mine for years now – it amazes me that she creates so much intrigue centuries after her death! But putting Anne to the side, I would have to say the Tudor artists are a real inspiration. Hans Holbein is one of the most iconic portrait artists of the time and for me, his work is truly stunning. It is through his eyes and his paintings that we can step back in time and meet the characters that we all love. Because of him, we can stand face-to-face with history.

Do you plan to make any other life-sized waxworks?

I think I am all waxworked out for now! It takes an incredible amount of stamina, time, patience and elbow grease – not to mention about £1000 in materials alone- to create a life-sized piece. Luckily, I have landed a dream job thanks to Miss Boleyn with a company called Artem Visual Effects. This means I get to create many weird and wonderful creations and satisfy my ‘mud monstering’ inner child on a daily basis. My favourite job recently was working on the animatronic Chruchill dog for the car insurance adverts starring Martin Clunes. A dream job.

I am however in the middle of my own personal project of creating a ball-jointed doll based on Thomas Hardy’s character Tess of the D’urbevilles (I must have a fascination with doomed female figures!) Hopefully, if I am happy with the outcome and there is a demand, I would love to sell some dolls at some point.

And there is definitely room for an Anne Boleyn porcelain doll – I don’t think I am ready to let her go just yet…

Thank you for your time!

Thank you! It’s lovely to get the chance to talk about your work.

(Photos published here © Emily Pooley)

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Comments

  1. What a fabulous piece of work! And so glad that the Holbein portrait was chosen as a basis for the modelling. It is always fascinating when one genre of the arts inspires another – ie drawing to sculpture – and even more so when it spans the centuries like this, 16th to 21st.

  2. Anne Barnhill says:

    What a fascinating interview! I absolutely love the sculpture and wonder how close it might be to the real Anne–so hard to know. But to see in 3 dimensions as wonderful! THanks so much.

  3. What a beautiful interpretation of Anne, she is so life-like, well done Emily.
    Is it my eyes, or have you put the much debated ‘sixth finger’ on her hand?

  4. Hello Dawn – yes that is indeed an extra finger. As this piece was more about telling a story through symbols and suggestions (the conceptual side for my university degree), I decided to add it to portray the vicious rumours circulated shortly after her death and to symbolise the many ongoing speculations about her image. She was also holding a real Tudor rose – the petals pinned together – to symbolise her hold over Henry (intentionally or not) and her powerful position at the time, which also mirrored her alleged portrait where she is also depicted holding a rose. There were a few other hidden symbols which you can find described on my website if you have too much time on your hands haha!

    Personally, I don’t believe she had an ‘extra finger’, if anything she would have had a small impediment which was exaggerated and used against her.

    Hever wasn’t keen on it – neither was I particularly! But it makes her stand out from other depictions I feel.

    Thanks for the comment, it’s great to hear from people – you are all very kind :)

    xx

  5. Thanks for your reply, I’m sorry I only just caught up with it, been a busy summer!!
    I hope you are still around to read this…I 100% agree with you that Anne would have probably only had a small blemish on her finger that was used by her enemies as a sign of her ‘wickedness’.

    Personally, I think it was a great idea to show the visual aspect to the rumour that has only been spoke of before. It underlines just what a contraversial and individual woman she was..and still is, a strong statement to my mind, well done.

    One more thing the Real Tudor Rose, is there such a thing, I’m a very keen gardener, and have always thought, and told there is no such thing, but a combination of 2 put together as a symbol, am I wrong , I hope so because I would love to have the bush.
    Though I do have a rose called ‘Anne Boleyn’, a lovely soft pink, with a light perfume, it has flowered for months despite the wettest summer for ever!! Anyway good luck with your future projects, you are a very talented young lady…

    • Just spotted your reply! Lovely to hear from you :)
      Unfortunately, there is no such things as a real Tudor rose (in the sense of red and white petals) that I am aware of… although there may be one that shares the name? I have heard of the Anne Boleyn rose, I myself do not have a garden but if I did, I know that it would be crammed full with Anne Boleyn rose buses haha!
      Thanks for your comment, it is so good to hear from people with similar passions :)
      All the best!

  6. Great job on your sculpture it is magnificent. How amazing it must of been to visit hever castle. GREAT ARTICLE NATALIE

    • Thanks Laura! It was amazing to walk amongst the offices behind Hever… I had always dreamt of visiting the old private buildings as they are not open to the public – so it was the cherry on top of the cake for me!

  7. Deniz Askin says:

    I am so amazed with your work! I have posted your link on my Facebook page so people can appreciate your artwork as much as myself. I am a huge Anne Boleyn fan, and have been for a while. I love and appreciate history all around the world. I truly hope that you will be doing more work like this and bring history to life. Absolutely breathtaking!
    -Your newest fan from California.

    • Thank you so much Deniz! Your words are so kind, I will try and track you down on Facebook. It is so lovely to hear from others who enjoy Anne and her story as much as myself.

      All the best,

      Emily.

      • Deniz Askin says:

        Emily please do add me on Facebook! I would love to talk about Anne! Such fantastic work, I hope I can see it if I visit England again!

  8. Amazing, amazing, amazing work! She is such a great historical woman and her daughter as well. Fan of both. Such a rich and great history for you all. Beautiful work.

    From Buffalo NY.
    Faith

  9. Lady Sabina Heywood says:

    What a lovely article! it heartens me to know that there is someone so passionate about art/sculpture and choosing to sculpture the awesome Anne Boleyn one of my favorite and one of the most deeply tragic heroines her life subject to the whims of someone she didn’t even want in the first place! She was faithful and didn’t deserve to die in that way! I think that the sculpture is an accurate reflection of how she would have appeared and it is absolutely brilliant! I’m pleased to hear you decided to follow your heart & passion in the art route! I will be travelling down that same route soon too.

    Good luck for the future!

  10. I came upon Anne Boleyn at an early age, television movies at night. Should have mentioned these were few and far between in the period of 1955-57. The movies and high school plays later introduced me to religion, historical perspective and fashion. Anne Boleyn’s live has been sometimes, I should write, very wretchedly written and portrayed depending upon the author’s religious and historical advantages taken from limited research that the Catholic Church held and proceeded to feed to the bashing of a unusually lovely individual such as Anne Boleyn.
    Your art work and sculpting is fascinating for its loveliness and not prone to harsh conceptions of Anne B. Thanks for giving the public an opportunity to see your development as a sculptor. Mrs. ATK

    • Thank you so much Mrs Annette.

      I wrote my dissertation on the different portrayals of Anne both from her own life time, following her death and throughout the ages. It’s fascinating how every individual has their own Anne Boleyn – so I thought I would make my own!

      Much love,
      Emily

  11. What a beautiful sculpture. I have been fascinated with Anne Boleyn for some years and you have brought her to life. Thank you. X

  12. Sheila Thomas says:

    I will be visiting London in October and plan to go to Hever and see your work. You have done a beautiful job and I love the sixth finger!! I am an American but have read every book I could find on Anne Boleyn.

    • Hi Sheila,

      Thank you for your kind words. I had to remove the 6th finger for the exhibit , and unfortunately my model is no longer dressed as Anne Boleyn, but another later household member – so dont be disappointed if you don’t spot her! Hever is gorgeous though, you’ll find lots of treasures :)

      Em x

  13. What an incredible job you did – she is absolutely beautiful! I can see why Henry was so enthralled by her! I was just at Hever this past October – was she there then? I recall a few wax figures in the long gallery, depicting Anne accepting Henry’s proposal, but there were so many people there I wasn’t able to linger over the display as I wanted. At any rate, she is gorgeous. Best of luck to you with your “mud-monstering”!

    • Thanks you so much for your kind words.

      Hever have their own resin figures of Henry and all his wives in the long Gallery, my waxwork is no longer on display – however, last time I visited her, she was in one of the downstairs rooms dressed as someone else! A woman of many faces indeed.

  14. I was notified of your work via a cousin of mine who was amazed at the resemblance of your Anne Boleyn piece to my wife, Jennifer. The resemblance is uncanny. I would say spooky even. It is like you have taken my wife’s image and recreated her perfectly. I would love to send you a photo so you can share the extraordinary inexplicable resemblance. If I don’t get the chance to do that, I would still like you to know how wonderful this came out, and commend you on your gifts and talent!

  15. I went to Hever today. Beautiful. The figures they have there in the long gallery of Anne Boleyn are not a patch on yours though, where has she ended up? X

    • You are very kind.

      The lat time I went was a year ago and she was dresses as someone else and put in one of the downstairs rooms haha! I’m not too sure where she has been put now or whether she is in storage.. She’s just as much a mystery as the real Anne!

      Thanks again,
      Emily.

  16. Emily,
    I went to your website – your work seems to the centerpiece of all those projects you’ve worked on! What an incredible artist you are. I am honored to be able to see it, yet Anne remains my favorite, followed closely by Kate Moss. Wow!

    Ok,so here’s the real question: you mentioned an Anne Boleyn doll. Any thoughts as to when you might have time? Your creation of her is definitely my favorite depiction of Anne. She looks like a friend!

    Best,
    Laura Baxter Cannetti
    The Woodlands, Texas

    • Thank you so much Laura.

      Your message has just brightened up my day and your words mean so much to me. So thank you.

      Unfortunately, my hectic life as a Special Effects Artist has meant my Anne doll got put on the shelf a while ago – which saddens me greatly. Hopefully I will get around to making her but all my spare time gets snapped up by my painting an drawing commissions!

      I’ve also seen Anne as a close friend which sounds bizarre, but she’s always been someone that has been with me and since making my own depiction of her, being published in a book and being welcomed so kindly by her community of followers – I feel a particular closeness and a small part of her story.

      I do have the original mould of her face which I was thinking of creating cast from as it seems a shame there is only one of her out there, but I’m not sure how many people would like a bald unpainted Anne Boleyn face haha.

      However, if I do get round to completing her, I will keep you posted on here.
      Thank you again so much for your support, it’s surs me on.
      Much

      Emily xx

  17. Ian Skipper says:

    Just seen your wonderful Anne Boleyn , such a strong beautiful face. Many congratulations.

  18. Catherine says:

    Your work inspires me. I love the figure and am sorry to hear that she is dressed now as a household member which I would assume means servant. There is a story in there somewhere! A special message of some sort perhaps? I hope Hever Castle paid you well and it sounds like that this figure is now their property. I’m sorry to hear they have not kept her Anne. It feels like a slight injustice to you as an artist! I am a Californian and recently became very interested in Anne because of the series Wolf Hall. Could you talk a little about the hair? I have read accounts that Anne wore her hair down at her Coronation. I wonder what that symbolized for her as woman becoming Queen in a time where it seems that woman otherwise hid their hair? I want to think perhaps that there was some symbolism of the Virgin Mary in there somewhere by Anne herself.

  19. “For the night is dark and full of terror.”

    Sorry I couldn’t resist! A little Game of Thrones love. 😛

    Very cool though!

  20. She looks a great deal like those sketches by Hans Holbein the Younger that are labeled Anne Bullen, and dated 1536, but the subject of some discussion as to who the subject actually was. Look at the eighth picture in the Gallery here. The resemblance is remarkable, particularly the nose and mouth.

    The girl in Holbein’s sketch looks young and a bit innocent, and this Anne older and sad, but you can easily see the same person in both.

  21. Maureen says:

    Amazing! Have you done any others?

  22. Cynthia Ganga says:

    Exquisite!

  23. Dorayne Demoore? says:

    From the photo of yourself that was included in the fascinating article, I would say that you much resemble Anne. Karma?

  24. Howard Jones says:

    Hello Emily, I have just seen this for the first time. So a few comments,
    The Holbein drawing from Weston Park does not portray Boleyn, but I believre the young Lady drawn by Holbein was Catherine Howard, Anne’s cousin, and Henry’s fifth Queen.
    Paintings called Anne Boleyn, and based on this Holbein drawing, are shown wearing a studded or jewelled bodice, a fashion popular at the time of Catherine’s short reign which began in 1540.
    The Toledo portrait by Holbein also appears to show Catherine although this appears to have been made after her fall from grace and after she had been stripped of her title of Queen.
    Is there any chance you could make a similar sculpture of the Holbein drawing inscribed with Anne’s name which is often described as a lady in her nightdress.
    If you could I think this would put another major problem for Tudor portraiture to bed.

    • Hello there,

      Thank you for your comment. I think however you misunderstand my reasoning for making this sculpture. I am not a historian, nor am I a reconstruction artist.

      I simply made this piece as my own representation of Anne. As a piece to represent the portrayals of Anne, the myths, the legends, the discussions. It was designed to continue the debate, to get people interested and asking questions. It was made to represent my own story with Anne from my childhood.. a personal representation of stories I grew up with. I know the Holbein sketch is not ‘accurate’. I have done a whole dissertation on the subject. My piece is about how Anne has been portrayed, both during her life, shortly after, and of course across the years through popular culture. The sculpture itself was within an exhibition, which used multiple props and symbols to tell a story. She held a Tudor rose, for example, to symbolise her strength of holding the Tudor dynasty in her hands.. also pointing towards her future child Elizabeth and her use of symbols within her portraits. I also gave her an extra 6th finger.. not because I did not do my research, but to describe her story, to describe the rumours, the debate which keeps us all so interested in this – still to this day – mysterious Queen.

      I could NEVER make an accurate sculpture of Anne. That is impossible. I wouldn’t even attempt it.

      This is an artistic piece for a university course. I wrote an entire concept and brief behind it – of course I don’t expect people to understand this. I expect people to question me on its ‘authenticity’.

      This was what I was after – so thank you!

      Any other questions, fire away :)

  25. Ian Skipper says:

    Hello Again! Have you considered completing a sculpture of Boudicca? Would love to see that. Go on, you know it makes Sense!! Best wishes.

    • Hi there,

      My friend Siobhan actually created a waxwork of Boudicca for her final year piece!
      You can read all about it and look at pictures here: http://siobhanodwyer.tumblr.com

      I myself won’t be creating anymore waxworks in the foreseeable future. I am still in the early stages of creating a doll, however my full time job keeps me extremely busy!

      Thanks for the comment!

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