One of the most important parts is the research and design. For example when doing animals the anatomy is very important and limbs should be in proportion as should muscles. For this I use the internet and have several wildlife films and books for research. It is no use making a sculpture of a cheetah and putting a lion tale on the work as someone will always spot it even if you think it looks right.
For the armature I use aluminium and metal coathangers. These can either be welded to form the shape or bound tightly with copper wire and screws. To keep the weight of the piece down I would use chicken wire for the rib cage filled with newspaper. This keeps the margarine from going inside and therefore the weight down. I always try to avoid external armatures as the works are for centrepieces. When making a piece with a leaping antelope for example I would always build a tree stump into the piece to hold the animal in place.
If the armature is wrong the law is that the sculpture will also be and there is no way to build round it. Any defect is multiplied by the build up rather than covered so this stage is crucial.
When ready to start I leave the marg out of the fridge for 24 hours to soften it but then with each lump I work it between my hands to soften it more. This is built up over the frame in an initial shape before any detail work is done checking for scale the whole time. I work on a turntable so moving the whole thing is a lot easier. It is better to leave a piece overnight sometimes and come back to it as any mistakes become evident more readily.
Finishing the piece
To finish the detail on a piece I would use either a small knife or sculpture spatulas. For the final finish a gloss shine I blow the piece with a hairdryer quickly.
The pieces are quite happy out of the fridge and will last for 4 or 5 months. They can be made to any height or design.
Simon Smith on This Morning
Talk to Simon about making your event, night or holiday into a gastronomic extravaganza