Pirate Sculpture: 'The Indigo Corsair'

Having spent some time working on the pirate models for the Museum of London Pirate exhibition, I was itching to make a more intricate pirate sculpture and put in the level of detail that would have rendered the Museum of London figures far too fragile to be handled by children.

I made this as a gift for my cousin Samantha Higgs, who is a very talented professional photographer and who has kindly supplied me with images from time to time. The Sculpey model pirate is a cartoon version of Sam, with appropriately moody bucaneering expression.

I have been as authentic as possible with the leather tricorn and boots, the clothing and weaponry. The flintlock pistol and brass-hilted cutlass are both miniature copies of arms used during the Golden Age of Piracy. There were several cross-dressing female pirates recorded at the time, the most famous examples being Anne Bonney and Mary Read, whose story is definitely worth reading.

Pirates did dress flamboyantly, as the laws of the time were strict in making sure only the upper classes wore colourful finery, and pirate clothing flouted these laws.

Creating a likeness of Sam's face at such a small scale was a challenge, as the tiniest tweak makes a huge difference when working on a model only a few centimetres across, but I know her very well, and had photographs for reference. The sculpture was a surprise, so I couldn't ask Sam to sit and model for it, which would have been ideal. It is painted with acrylic, built up in thin layers to create a more realistic, less painted effect. The Sculpey I used comes with a flesh tint, so it keeps a bit of the glow of real skin.

Sam has always had a fondness for pirates, pirate garb, and purply blues, so a pirate sculpture dressed in indigo seemed like a perfect gift.