Brigitte is a Senior Sculptor here at Wētā Workshop and is responsible for many of the collectibles we’ve made over the past 20 years. Ringwraith, Elves, Hobbits, Dwarves; She’s done it all. Most recently, she worked on bringing our ‘Masters Collection: Escape Off The Road’ to life.
Born in Switzerland, Brigitte moved to New Zealand with her family in 1999 to work on The Lord of the Rings as part of the film’s art department. Once filming for the trilogy wrapped up, she began work sculpting collectibles at Wētā Workshop.
Her first project was a 1:4 scale High Elven Infantryman bust, followed by the 1:4 scale bust of Lady Galadriel. Along with some of her personal favourites, the Ringwraith on Steed and Dark Galadriel, Brigitte’s sculptural prowess is seen in the portrayal of good and evil alike, but just how did this all begin?
“After my apprenticeship in Polydesign 3D in Switzerland, I went travelling to New Zealand where I had my first sculpting job in Christchurch, carving props out of polystyrene for the Son of a Gunn Show.” However, “my proper sculpting career started back in Switzerland; working for H.R.Giger, sculpting furniture for the first Giger Bar in Chur, then for the sci-fi movie Species and lastly the arm/leg biomechanoids for the Zodiac Fountain.”
From there, Brigitte’s sculpting career continued expanding through film, TV, collectibles, public art, museum exhibits and private commissions. One such private commission left an indelible mark upon her. “My favourite project is probably a private commission; Hairy Maclary and Friends, a set of bronze sculptures [on display] at the Tauranga waterfront. I loved creating the 9 characters from Lynley Dodd’s books. Trying to capture the characteristics of each animal from her sketches and sculpt them life-size. Seeing the joy that kids have playing, patting, and climbing the sculptures makes me very happy.” When asked if she had a dream or goal she wished to accomplish, she simply replied “I would love to make some more large-scale bronze sculptures.” Here’s hoping we’ll get to see more of Brigitte’s enormous public sculpts in the future!
As the accompanying pictures show, much of Brigitte’s work is best viewed in full 360°, and not just one pre-defined angle. “Usually, I get given a concept drawing. From that I will create a maquette which will help visualize the sculpture from all angles. Then I can measure and build the armature for the actual sculpt.”
“[There are many] things I’ve learnt in my long career: Use criticism to help better your work, don’t be afraid to chop and change…” But she also refers to “…something Alan Lee once said when he was sketching for The Lord of the Rings… ‘Just feel it and it will come to life! Whatever you are drawing or sculpting.’ That is pretty much my mantra with whatever I create. I even use it when I cook.” Cooking is an important part of Brigitte’s life too, “Cooking is probably my favourite pastime; I love good food.”
While many envision the arts as a mental exercise, Brigitte insists the physical side is just as important: “The main challenge in a sculpting career is to keep the body functioning well. Shoulder, arm, hand and back problems creep in if [you] don’t keep up with a regular exercise program.” Indeed, some of her favourite ways to relax include: “Going for a walk with my dog or [a] hike in the bush, reading a good book, and again, cooking a nice meal.”