Step by Step:
The Process of Creating a Fontanini Figure

The creation of a Fontanini figure spans two continents, from the suburban Chicago headquarters of Roman, Inc. to the rolling hills of Bagni di Lucca in the Tuscan region of Italy.
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A brainstorming session at Roman headquarters helps the Fontanini team choose the best ideas for new figures, buildings, and accessories.
The Idea
Ideas for new pieces come from a variety of sources:  a Fontanini family member, Master Sculptor Elio Simonetti, a Roman employee, a Fontanini Guild Dealer, or even a member of the Fontanini Collectors' Club.
The Fontanini Team evaluates the current product selection and gathers historical research to come up with a long list of potential new pieces. When this list is narrowed down, an artist sketches the first figure.
The Clay Sculpture
Master Sculptor Elio Simonetti has been sculpting Fontanini figures for over 40 years using the same process. With the artist's sketch as a starting point, Simonetti creates an actual-size clay sculpture. At this stage the art is still in its most malleable form, and changes are easily made.
The Wax Sculpture
After the clay sculpture has been approved by the Fontanini family, Simonetti prepares a highly detailed model in beeswax. This substance is much harder than clay and makes the perfect medium to create the master molds.
To create the beeswax model, a clay sculpture is placed in a glass enclosure, and liquid rubber is poured around the sculpture. After several hours the walls are removed, the hardened rubber is cut in half, and the clay piece inside is removed. The rubber halves are then joined again and placed inside the enclosure.
The hollowed-out rubber form is filled with beeswax mixture. A vacuum removes air bubbles that might be trapped inside. Inside the form, the beeswax conforms precisely to the imprint left by the clay. The end result is a wax model which will be used to create highly detailed figure molds.
process7.jpg (13527 bytes) Making the Mold
After the wax sculpture is completed, Simonetti's youngest son, Raffaello, begins the mold-making process. He positions the wax model against a piece of clay that will form the base of the mold. Raffaello then encases half the figure in clay or liquid rubber. He reverses the figure and repeats the process to create the second half of the mold. Upon completion of this mold, Raffaello creates a plaster figure for the final production molds. The final molds are made from either metal or rubber. Metal molds are used to produce the 2", 5", 7 ", and 12" figures.
Rubber molds are used for the 20", 27", and 50" figures. Both processes are identical until the completion of Raffaello's first plaster figure. A single mold can take up to two years to complete and cost thousands of dollars. This metal mold is then used for figure production. Over time, the mold may undergo some refinements to ensure quality. When refinements can no longer be made, the mold is retired.
Casting in Polymer

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With the master molds ready for production, the figure can be cast in polymer. This unique compound captures every detail of the original, yet it is extremely resistant to chipping, nicking, or breaking once hardened. Polymer's durability ensures that these exquisite figures are rugged enough to be handled by children for generations to come.
To create the figure, liquid polymer is forced into the carefully crafted mold at high temperatures and pressure. After an initial cooling period, the figure emerges from the mold still warm and pliable, and it could warp if not cooled properly. A two-hour bath of continuously running cold water cools the figure.
process1.jpg (14044 bytes) Hand-Painting
Artisans work from their homes in Bagni di Lucca, Italy to hand paint the Fontanini figures using skills that have been passed down from generation to generation. In some cases, grandmother, mother, and daughter work side by side in the family home, applying hues from the rich Tuscan palette. In general, several pieces are painted at the same time.
The women line the pieces up on large tables and paint a single part of every piece. For example, first they will paint all the pants, then all the shirts, then all the shoes, and so on. The only part of the figure that they do not paint is the eyes. A different group of painters detail the figures' faces so that the desired expression of awe and reverence is captured.
process9.jpg (10839 bytes) Patina Application
Patina is a dark brown compound of burnt oils, oil, burnt earth, lime and other ingredients. This compound is applied to the figure with a brush, covering it almost entirely. The figure is  wiped with a cloth and placed in a tub of special soaps. Finally, it is removed from the tub and carefully wiped dry.
As the patina is applied to the figures it bonds with the material and cannot be removed, making the figure non-toxic and great for families to enjoy. The completed figure is then inspected, packed, and sent to Roman.
The Story Card
To allow the new figure the fullest opportunity to tell his or her own story, the Story Card is not written until after the figure is sculpted. After researching ancient Bethlehem and considering the existing cast of Fontanini Nativity characters, the Story Card author composes a tale about the new figure that will enchant collectors as it teaches them about real life at the time of Jesus' birth. The Story Card is the last step is the process of crafting a Fontanini figure. Click here to read more about the story cards.

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