Max the miracle dog statue has been unveiled!

Max the miracle dog bronze statue on a Honister slate bench in Hope Park, Keswick

Max the miracle dog statue and bench in Hope Park, Keswick

It has been wonderful to see people’s reactions to the sculpture of Max the Miracle Dog, now in situ on his Honister slate bench in Hope Park, Keswick.

I was absolutely thrilled when Kerry Irving, the owner of the world’s favourite Springer Spaniel, asked if I would accept a commission to sculpt Max. Kerry wanted to create a lasting tribute to the service dog that has been his lifeline and has since helped so many people.

Kerry set up a fundraising page and raised more than £26,000 in just one day. With £15,000 originally estimated for the commission to sculpt and then cast the sculpture in bronze, Kerry pledged any additional funds raised to the PDSA, knowing they would put the money to good use.

I was excited to accept the commission and work with Aron McCartney at the McART Studios, who would turn my sculpture into the beautiful bronze you can see today.

It has been quite a journey.

The commission…

I met Max for his first measuring session in Hope Park, I took lots of measurements and photographs, and even an outline of his ‘bottom’! Attention to detail and good reference is key!

Max the miracle dog sitting in Hope park Keswick
Max during his measuring session

I’ve been a figurative animal sculptor based in Cumbria for more than 30 years and I am used to producing incredibly detailed and realistic pieces.

This particular commission proved to be challenging in more ways than one, not least as it was overseen by thousands of adoring Max fans!  At almost every stage my work was exposed to the public and keenly observed. I not only had to sculpt an anatomically correct life size dog, but I had to produce a recognisable portrait of the famous ‘Max’. 
The small maquette of Max used for composition and proportions before starting the full sized sculpture

The Sculpting…

This level of detail and accuracy obviously takes a long time. It relies on the skill of the sculptor and of the bronze foundry. Both of us in this case have built up our skills through experience over several decades. There is no ‘manufacturing’ involved. There are no short cuts. Making a traditional bronze sculpture by hand from scratch is a very labour intensive process.

Detail showing the sculpting of thhe paws of Max the miracle dog sculpture
Paw detail from Max the miracle dog’s statue by Kirsty Armstrong

When ‘Max’ eventually emerged in the wax it had taken more than 500 hours to sculpt and I had eye strain and tennis elbow to cope with, as well as many sleepless nights! It obviously took a long time to sculpt but I hope you’ll agree that it was well worth it. The statue seems to have been very well received.

When I revealed ‘Max’ to Mr Irving he was very emotional. I hope that all the people who Max has helped and all those who donated money to make this possible will feel the same, as so many people have a very close affinity to this special Spaniel.

Max the miracle dog sculpture showing the back view in wax
Wax Max

So, you may be wondering what on earth I did for more than 500 hours?

•The collecting of reference (I met Max on many occasions for photographing and measuring)

•The design of the maquette (the small-scale model to determine the composition and proportions).

•The construction of the rigid steel armature (engineering!)

•The intricate sculpting (30 years’ experience)

•The delivering of the wax Max to the foundry (in a blizzard across the Pennines!)

The journey to the foundry with Wax-Max

•Further trips over to County Durham to work on the foundry cast wax in preparation for bronze casting, and of course, to see the finished bronze.

A long and involved process indeed. But I, Kirsty Armstrong, am so proud to have sculpted Max the Miracle Dog

Bronze casting…

Once the wax original of Max had been approved, I took it over to the foundry in Barnard Castle. There, the very talented Aron at the MCART Studios began the next part of creating the Max the Miracle Dog bronze statue.

Aron used the centuries-old lost wax process to convert my soft wax original into bronze.

Once Max had been cast, Aron began the task of adding the different coloured patinas, (a whole set of different skills are needed just for that process!). I’m sure you will agree that the colours Aron has managed to achieve on the bronze are amazing.

The newly cast bronze of Max the miracle Dog
Newly cast in pure bronze

The finished Statue and bench…

The statue is mounted on a specially designed slate bench created by the Honister Slate Mine, and a collection box has been situated nearby. Any money raised will go to towards the upkeep of Hope Park. Because the slate bench isn’t perfectly flat (and the bottom of the bronze is) a shallow rebated area was created for the statue to sit in. This is why the statue looks slightly smaller than the real Max; it sits lower down in this hollow on the bench! 

The upkeep of the bronze…

Bronzes in general do not require much upkeep, and this statue was initially waxed by the foundry when it was made in order to protect the patinas.

However, if a bronze is outside and subject to the touch of humans, various pollutants, and everyday weather, then it must be regularly maintained to protect the bronze from deterioration.

It should be dry brushed every year before a new coat of specialist wax is applied. I’m sure Max’s ears and nose will be well ‘rubbed’, however, thoseshiny bits’ are where the statue is down to pure bronze. The statue requires a re wax regularly to protect the exposed metal from corrosion. The clear specialist wax was provided along with the statue, and the maintenance is a quick job to do on a dry day.

The Max the Miracle Dog statue will be forever displayed in Hope Park, in the heart of the Lake District. It will commemorate ‘Max’. Aron and I hope it will give a much-needed boost to Cumbrian tourism as well as local businesses. I am honoured that Aron and I were commissioned to create this tribute to a dog who obviously means so much to so many.

Sculptor Kirsty Armstrong sitting next to the bronze statue of Max the miracle dog in Hope Park, Keswick
Kirsty and her sculpture of Max
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Kirsty Armstrong Sculpture