Artist Lisa Lichtenfels is acclaimed for pushing the boundaries of fabric sculpture. This soft sculpture artist creates the inner frame from wire shaped by heavy felt, muscles made of wadding and the realistic skin tones are achieved by using nylon. Photographs of her sculptures are often mistaken for photos of living beings.
Lisa Lichtenfels was born near Erie, Pennsylvania. After graduation from the Philadelphia College of Art, she joined Disney studios as an apprentice animator. While working with Disney, Ms. Lichtenfels began experimenting with stop-motion figurines with positionable bodies and nylon skin. Creating those simple, cartoon-like figures inspired her to attempt realistic sculpting in fabric and set into motion her twenty-year career. She has received numerous awards and grants; her work has been displayed in gallery exhibitions in this country and abroad.
The more realistic the superstructure is, the more realistic will be the figure, so, at each stage of construction, I try to use materials that are similar in density and character to the corresponding parts of the human body.
The skeleton is anatomically drawn before it is fashioned out of sculptural, aluminum armature wire, which is wrapped with yarn and then shaped to the proper thickness by sewing on compressed layers of white felt, which, as on the of the densest fabrics, is useful in simulating bone.
Where muscles need to be flexible, I will use elastic fabric, but for all other areas I use batting, which is a white, nonwoven fabric, that, when sewn onto the bones has much the same feeling as muscle tissue.
Fiberfill acts very much like fat, and can be slipped in between the battle and the outer layers of nylon, which makes wonderful skin. Delicate surface features can be brought up by sewing the nylon layers with clear thread.
Facial features of eyelids, brows, nose, lips and ears can be supported by copper wire scaffolding, covered with nylon and carefully needle modeled.