Hamish Mackie Octopus Sculptures in Bronze, Titanium and Gold
April 4, 2022

In 2021, I was commissioned to make a bronze Octopus sculpture by a client with a passion for sub-aqua sport. It was to be an anniversary present made for a specific place in their house.

It presented me with all sorts of challenges. Not least because we were in the midst of a pandemic, so I couldn’t travel to research the octopus in some wonderful exotic location! I had to be content with obtaining a frozen octopus from a fishmonger.

As well as needing to get to grips with their strange anatomy, I also wanted to understand more about the octopus’ amazing intelligence, so that I could convey a real sense of these fascinating creatures.

Share

I was greatly helped by the 2020 documentary film, “My Octopus Teacher” which I watched during lockdown as a great source of information. It helped inform my awareness of the octopus’ immense intelligence, as did Peter Godfrey-Smith’s brilliant book, Other Minds.

Godfrey-Smith calls cephalopods – octopuses, squids and nautiluses – “an island of mental complexity in the sea of invertebrate animals.” He explores how they have developed on a completely different path from humans. If we can make contact with cephalopods as sentient beings, it is not because of a shared history, not because of kinship, but because evolution built minds twice over. This is probably the closest we will come to meeting an intelligent alien.

I loved finding out about these extraordinary sea animals. Approximately two thirds of their neurons are in their arms not their brain, and they have the highest brain to body mass ratio of all invertebrates. As a result, they are excellent problem solvers and can use tools. They also have three hearts pumping blue blood!

I made the original octopus sculpture out of plasticine over a complicated armature which I could lock in any position to enable 360 degree sculpting. This helped me to work on the 665 individually made suckers of different sizes. Before the silicone mould was made for lost wax bronze casting, the original was scanned to make a digital file of the 3D object. This could then be re-sized to any scale, which was hugely helpful. There was no way I could make 665 suckers at the 15cm scale of the Titanium Octopus with my fat fingers!

I was really pleased to work with the Digital Manufacturing Centre to make the smaller octopus in titanium. Here’s what they had to say about the process:

“British sculptor Hamish Mackie’s incredible bronze Octopus has been recreated at a smaller scale in titanium using advanced additive manufacturing, or 3D printing as it is more commonly known.

With a ‘bed’ of titanium powder, powerful lasers melt very specific areas, building up the sculpture layer by layer. With intricate details, organic shapes and complex textures, producing the new version using this method was incredibly difficult …”

“Mackie’s technology partner, the Digital Manufacturing Centre, used its engineering design expertise to hollow out the “head” of the design, reducing its weight while also integrating an internal lattice structure to retain the sculpture’s strength.

Ordinarily, the DMC would be making parts for race cars, rockets, aeroplanes and other leading-edge projects. In this case, however, the DMC team worked with Mackie to preserve the features within the sculpt while also showcasing its new titanium aesthetic and colour.

The result is a stunning new edition of the Hamish Mackie Octopus that is around one-fifth the size of the bronze version while retaining unbelievable detail, including Mackie’s fingerprints from the original clay sculpt.”

 

I enjoyed the contrast of using the ancient art of lost wax bronze casting – which is 6000 years old – with cutting-edge Formula One racing technology!

Over the years, I have sought to combine traditional methods with modern approaches and materials. This can really push the boundaries of what is possible creatively, and move my sculpting in new and exciting directions.

For example, scanning the plasticine original of the bronze octopus sculpture allowed us to produce CGI renders of the Gold Octopus. This is one of my most exciting projects to date. The available technology enables me to offer a beautiful custom-made treasure, which can be made with or without blue sapphires in each sucker.

It is no wonder that there are many fantastic stories of the octopus going back to mythological times. It appears as the Kraken in the folklore of Scandinavia, and as the Akkorokamui in the tales of the Ainu people. I think the octopus is one of the most interesting creatures on our planet!


If you’d like to visit his Oxfordshire studio to see the Hamish Mackie Octopus sculptures, please use the contact page to make an appointment.

Share

Sculpture Collection

Hamish has a substantial range of sculptures for sale. All of which are listed on this website. If you see something you like that is labelled as sold, feel free to get in touch with Hamish directly to discuss a private commision.

Newsletter Sign Up