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Collecting The Precious – Interview with Sculptor Tim Miller

February 20, 2012 at 8:56 am by elessar  - 

Time for another artist interview! This is one of my favorite sculptors creating items that I personally collect. The sculptor is none other than the massively talented Tim Miller of T.K. Miller Sculpting. This talent is one who folks most likely have an item or two within their The Lord of the Rings collections and for sure if they collect items from the MARVEL Universe. I wanted to take the time for you all to get to know a little more about this great talent, especially since he truly knows how to bring Middle-Earth to life.

As I said, you probably have items from sculpted by Mr. Miller within your collection of The Lord of the Rings. Tim has been responsible for bringing to life characters such as Gandalf the Grey, Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee, and my personal favorite, dwarf Gimli, son of Gloin. These items range from Sideshow Collectibles 1:6th action figure line to the new statue line. The latest item from Mr. Miller is the Gimli, son of Gloin statue which we just reviewed recently and is a great example of Mr. Miller’s skill.

1. Tim, Can you tell us how you got into sculpting and what do you enjoy about being able to make these pieces feel as if they’re part of the real world?

It was a total fluke. Bear in mind, I never took any art classes in school, but I was constantly doodling. My senior year of college (B.S. in Biology) I was working every campus job available including the art gallery on campus. I’d helped with an installation of Americana through Puppetry, and during the opening of the show, I met a bunch of puppeteers and special effects artists from ILM, CWI, and M5. I started hanging out with a few of them, got involved with the local puppetry scene, and shortly after college I got hired by a small effects company and sculpting house as a shop monkey. I saw that the sculptors had the coolest gig, so I’d go home after work and play with Super Sculpy. Five years later I went freelance and almost immediately began doing a large portion of the portrait work for McFarlane Design Group.

As for what I enjoy about the work, I’d say it’s the whole process. I especially enjoy problem solving, and figuring out weird engineering of a piece is a joy. My wife would tell you I’m notorious for taking on complex projects and Gimli is an excellent example of this.

2. Can you point to any one particular artist who has most influenced you, or the direction your career has taken? And which of your contemporaries would you list amongst your personal favorites?

Kamela Portuges. She’s a co-owner of the small shop I got my start in, and she was sought out by companies like Galoob for her ability to translate celebrity portraits into a Barbie style. She’s the sculptor responsible for most of the Spice Girl dolls or the Pamela Anderson Barbie. She was merciless in her pursuit of perfection and really drove me to accept nothing less the sublime in my own work. It’s probably for this same reason that I’m never truly satisfied with any of my pieces.

I’ve always had a great respect for Clayburn Moore, and Mark Newman and Trevor Grove are also big favorites. Brandon and Jarrod Shiflett are amazing, and Jordu Schell is awe-inspiring. I won’t mention Randy Hand, because he’s not worth mentioning. ;)

3. The Lord of the Rings has been around for over 50 years now and has become a major part in many fans lives. When did you first become familiar with Middle-Earth and what have you taken away from reading or watching the happenings in that world?

I’m not sure if it was third or fourth grade, but a teacher played the old Rankin/ Bass Hobbit movie in class, and I was hooked. I must have read all of the books by the time I was in seventh grade, saw the Ralph Bakshi film when it first hit theaters, I was a total nerd for LOTR as a kid, so getting to work on Sideshow’s line has been an absolute joy. I told my wife if I were offered a sculpting gig on The Hobbit she could at least come for a visit in New Zealand.

4. Tim, You’re well known for sculpting HFB (Hot Flossy Babes) but have also done several items from The Lord of the Rings (Sam, Frodo, and Gandalf the Grey 1:6th figures). However, Gimli is your first statue from The Lord of the Rings. How much more complex was this piece to do than your other projects from Middle-Earth?

Gimli is probably the most complex piece I’ve ever sculpted. EVER! There were times that I’d contemplated growing my hair just to pull it out. He wasn’t without his missteps either. At one point, I’d toyed with the idea of doing the chainmail and the leather braiding as texture pads, or even as casted bits to lay up over and over. I never got it to work though so everything had to be done by hand, link by link, and braid by braid. It was extremely time-consuming.

5.  Is there one character among all the amazing characters in Middle-Earth you want to get your hands on? Who is this character and why are you looking forward to sculpting him/her?

I’d LOVE to sculpt the Mouth of Sauron! I’m not really sure why, maybe it’s because I’ve got a big mouth and feel some affinity for him.

6.  There is an obvious challenge in doing HFB making sure they look good and capture what needs to be captured. Is the pressure similar in anyway or how different is it to do so with something like Gimli?

I think there’s just as much pressure with fan-favorite characters like Gimli, maybe even more. Let’s face it, there are plenty of poorly sculpted female figures out there, but as long as there’s a pair of boobs (or sometimes more than just a pair) and a booty, someone’s going to buy it.

With characters from film, there’s always going to be a level of scrutiny that’s sometimes nearly impossible to stand up to. For example, when Sideshow first put up pictures of the Kit Fisto I sculpted for their Star Wars line, someone on one of the online forums had put up comparison shots of the actor in makeup next to photos of my sculpt within ten minutes of it going online. Fans can be brutal if a sculptor doesn’t get everything absolutely correct. So yeah, the pressure’s on.

7. Tim, What is the hardest part for you as a sculptor in order to bring these characters to life? Do you do anything to help make it easier? Say, watch some of the movies, read the comics to get things down.

I think sometimes the hardest thing about the work is recognizing that I’m not going to ever be completely satisfied. Good reference helps though. We had great material directly from Newline Cinema, but while working on Gimli, I probably watched each of the movies all the through at least ten times, oftentimes pausing on a particular shot for hours at a time. I once watched all three movies back to back just to see what the tread of Gimli’s boot looked like.

8. One of the great things about the statue line is they don’t capture exact screen captures of the characters. How does this aide you as a sculptor in anyway or does it actually make things harder for you?

I’m sure for many sculptors it’s a boon to have the flexibility of not doing a specific shot, but I like having an absolute to work from. Many times I’d be thinking, ‘Okay, so if he’s in this kind of pose, how is this particular element of the costume going to react, flow, drape?’ When you’re working from a screen-cap, the math is done for you.

9. What is it like as a sculptor see something you’ve created be so loved by the fans of that license? Gimli has been well received and we know folks love your HFB.

It’s a relief.

10.  Finally, If you could be any character from within Middle-Earth whom would you choose to be? Following that up why would you choose to be this character?

Duh! Aragorn of course, because he’s the king!

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Check out Tim’s work at his website tkmiller.com. Many of his pieces can be found at SideshowCollectibles.com.

Posted in Collectibles, Collectibles, Lord of the Rings, LotR Movies, Movie Fellowship of the Ring, Movie Return of the King, Movie The Two Towers, Sideshow Collectibles on February 20, 2012 by Collecting The Precious – Interview with Sculptor Tim Miller | Discuss