The Artistry of Breyer

By Stephanie Macejko

 

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Sketches for possible poses

To bring our model horses to life, Breyer works with the best equine artists and sculptors, the most talented innovators in manufacturing technology and the most-respected equine and wildlife organizations in the world. I'm incredibly proud of our staff and all the people it takes to take an idea and bring it to life - and it's a pretty complex process! Let me share a little bit with you here. 

 

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Totilas schooling a piaffe

Determining a particular horse, breed or pose is challenging for Breyer because we've done a little bit of almost everything and we want each piece to be unique, new and fun. When working with the owners of Totilas, for example, did we want to portray him standing proud or in one of his expressive gaits? Would we accept using a base if the horse was on two legs? After much review, the Traditional model of Totilas was decided to be in his distinctive extended trot. Once drawings and photos confirmed the position, our artist then crafted a wire armature to confirm the pose and overall sizing. (The armature is much like the one in our Breyer Deluxe Sculpting and Painting Set.) The actual sculpting process usually takes about three months, although some artists are faster and others need more time. Their materials and techniques also may vary quite a bit.

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A clay sculpture in progress

Once a clay horse is finished and has gone through all approvals with the owners, the next step is to cast resin copies. These copies are then used by the injection molding tooling engineers to determine how to build a nearly 2,000 lb. copper or steel tool that must withstand hot molten plastic over a course of many years of use. We also use the resin copies to create paint prototypes for catalog photography and preview displays.

The actual pattern making and casting of both the concave and convex halves of the injection molding tool can take four to six months. New tools then need to be "groomed" and tweaked so that all parts are functioning smoothly enough to begin production. This is also the time that our prototype painters receive the first injection-molded pieces in the cellulose acetate (CA) material.

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Two molded halves

With the exception of Stablemates® which are solid, all Breyer models are cast in two halves. These two halves are then cooled to keep their parts straight and in place on special boards custom-made for each model. (Sometimes, Breyer model legs can warp or bend even after proper cooling and handling. If you have one of these, it's an easy fix. Heat the leg with a hair dryer until warm, and gently bend back into correct position. Then, run under cool water to set.) After cooling, each half is placed on a soaking fixture to soften and coat the edges of plastic. A custom press fixture then applies pressure to bond the two halves together. Once this is finished, the models cure for at least 24 hours before they are cleaned.

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A seam prior to cleaning

A very heavy bead of excess plastic runs along the seam of the model, and many other areas also have to be sanded and washed away during the cleaning process. Each model has its own unique areas for cleaning, and after watching our production staff dremel and wash hundreds of horses each and every day, I've come to truly appreciate the time and effort involved to make a horse that had two halves (and sometimes separate manes and tails and even legs or heads!) look like one cast piece!

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Part of the cleaning process

After final washing, the model then goes to the paint department where most likely ten unique painting stations await. If the horse has white markings of any kind, masks are painstakingly applied. Next, big gun sprayers add just the initial base coat - often a golden tan under a bay or chestnut, or perhaps a plum or blue under a black. The colors are custom mixed daily for each model on the production line. A second gun spraying station will then add sweeping shading to bring out muscle tone and depth.

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A large airbrush provides the initial coat

 

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Detailing the eye whites

If dappling is applied, only the best painters with the steadiest hands are employed to dapple hundreds of horses in any given day. I am so proud of their talent - it is not easy to be soft and subtle from horse number one to horse number 100, but they do it so well! Like any hand-made item, each horse is unique and variations do exist, but the consistency is astonishing.

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Soft shading and subtle leg stripe details

Additional shading with smaller spray guns usually follows. Here, the mane, tail and lower legs are shaded - sometimes with multiple colors. Fine details such as the muzzle pinking and shading, eyes (have you ever tried this with a spray gun? Mine looked like a raccoon when I was finished!), ear tips, and any special marks such as leg stripes or a dorsal stripe are added. Hooves are then painted at the next station whether they are grey, black or tan; and with or without the ermine spots and hoof striping. Finally, paintbrush details are finished such as chestnuts, tri-color eyes, brands, Indian markings, halters or harnesses.

 

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A soft pink fleshtone is shaded on the muzzle with a fine airbrush Hoof striping, silver shoes and chestnuts are all additional details on "Sprinkles"

 

Packaging is next, and each package is custom made for the model, including writing the text for the box, choosing the photographs or images needed, having the model itself photographed, and finally the master carton configurations which then protect the model from factory to warehouse, and from warehouse either directly to you or to the retail store!

The results of our efforts are models of so many poses, breeds and real horse portraits that truly come to life! Breyer is an exciting place to work for a horse person like me. Keep all of your great suggestions coming!

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Detailed complex Appaloosa spotting is hand airbrushed through several stages and no two pieces are exactly alike!

 

 

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