History of KP-0619
A long time ago, in a place far, far away (but within 20,036 kilometers of you Earth based readers, guaranteed!) . . .
I have been obsessed with Stormtroopers since seeing them pour into Tantive IV in 'A New Hope'. I was only 4 years old then, and the movie was already several years old, episode VI was about to come out. One of the very first dreams (a lucid dream at that) I can remember, I was in this scene and able to shoot back at the Stormtroopers. Unrelated, the first time I ever swore in front of a parent was also watching this movie, where I said 'holy shit' in front of my dad, who seemed not only to understand the necessity to say it, but respected that I did.
Fast forward a few decades and several plastic Stormtrooper figurines later, we arrive at 2016 where KP-0619's story started. Over the summer I had begun looking into having a stone Stormtrooper built for our courtyard. I reached out to a few folks I found online and got zero responses of any kind.
In December of 2016, I attended a private dinner at Skywalker Ranch (That is a story in and of its own... that alone was really amazing, as I have zero affiliation or exposure to Lucas Films, Skywalker Ranch, ILM, etc.). And there, while enjoying some of the delicious Skywalker Wagyu and drinking the Skywalker Vineyards Pinot Noir, I was also able to tour some of the private areas. Skywalker Ranch is covered in some of the most amazing art and statues you'll ever find (Most of it not Star Wars related). I vividly recall the giant Skywalker angel that stood towering in front of the Vineyard main building, and the Yoda statue in front of one of the houses, surrounded by a very tranquil water feature and a copse of trees. I looked at the back of the Yoda statue, and there was a stamp on it. It said "Noble Studio".
Noble Studio Yoda #6 of 6
After about 6 weeks I finally got around to processing the photos from this trip. I looked again at the Noble Studio stamp and decided to look him up. First result on google, Noble Studio. I sent Lawrence Noble an E-Mail on January 28th, 2017, to get his advice on how I might get my Stormtrooper made. I automatically assumed there was no way he'd be able to make one for me, due to time, cost, legal issues, etc. Lawrence E-Mailed back 4 hours later, on a Saturday. He suggested we talk on Sunday and that he might be able to help. I remember telling my wife how crazy that was. We had a long discussion on the phone on Sunday and learned of his background, working on original Star Wars posters, collaborating with and being personal friends with Ralph Mcquarrie -- he has had a long and fascinating history with this world. We discussed a few ideas, and he explained that he works exclusively in bronze. My mind instantly was perfectly OK with working in bronze and not stone. By January 31st, we had a letter of agreement a price set.
I distinctly remember seeing the price and thinking 'I don't know if this is good... or bad'. So I called my wife and said "How much do you think a lifesize bronze Stormtrooper should cost?" She gave me a number, which was about 2.5x higher than what Lawrence was quoting and I said to her "Oh, GREAT news! It's way less than that... That must mean it's a deal right? Can I have one?" and she said "If it makes you happy... but why a Stormtrooper? Why not one of the heroes or BB-8 or R2D2? " Funny, because Lawrence also asked "Why a Stormtrooper?". Lawrence explained how most of the emotion and story in a figure is conveyed in their facial expression... which is white plastic on a Stormtrooper. He explained in this case it has to tell the entire story in its head position, arms, and body. I told my wife about my dreams as a kid and how I just like Stormtroopers.. and how I didn't want anything from a newer movie, and I didn't want any actors face.. As handsome as Harrison Ford is, I don't know if I need to see him every day in my house. I gave a cliff notes version of that story to Lawrence as well. I sent the check, the signed contract, and a Kotobukiya ArtFX+ Stormtrooper statue to Lawrence, which he confirmed he received on Feb 7th, 2017. By Feb 19th, he had 3 potential poses and drawings over to me.
By March 1st, 2017, we all agreed that we liked pose #1 the best and Lawrence set off to draw pose #1 with more detail. On March 17th, he delivered the final drawing.
Final drawing before clay work
We all approved the final drawing right away and Lawrence began on the clay work. His method began with building a 45" tall version of the Trooper in clay, which would then be laser scanned. The scans would be used to create life-sized molds. Watching Lawrence work with the clay was amazing. He had sculpted most of it by June 28th, and only had the arms, hands, holster and weapon to complete. It was incredibly exciting, seeing photos of this work in progress!
The only portions that weren’t done in clay were the weapon and the holster. The holster was made of sheet wax, and customized for our right handed storm trooper, with the name KP-0619 on the back. The blaster was hand made out of wood and metal. Lawrence finished hand crafting the weapon on July 16th, which was a beautiful process in itself as well.
Once Lawrence finished the rest of the clay and wax work, he brought Form 3D in to laser scan the pieces. These 3D scans were incredible in their level of detail, and we were one step closer to our Stormtrooper!
Close up of hands/blaster laser scanned
Seeing the laser scans really gave me a more concrete idea of how this guy would look. I still had no concept of what the patina would look like. We had agreed early on to let Lawrence be the artist and we'd roll with whatever he wanted to do. We also didn't want to rush or push him at any point, because it's art, and best not done under pressure. We also decided after seeing the blaster, that we really wanted to own the original art for the blaster and a second copy of the blaster in bronze, so we contracted that. We did not contract the rights to the actual trooper itself. While ours is unique in a couple of ways, Lawrence could make more of them. In a way, it would be kind of cool to see something we commissioned and helped design end up in other places.
At this point, the only thing left was to turn these laser scans into a full sized, 400 pound, 6' tall bronze Stormtrooper. They took the laser scans and used voxeljet printers to make molds for pouring the bronze. This is essentially the lost wax process, only done with 3D printed plastic instead of wax. Voxeljet prints are made with a fine acrylic powder mixed with something similar to super glue. This is a fairly new type of process and it worked amazingly well. Lawrence had used it once before on the massive Skywalker Angel at Skywalker ranch.
KP-0619 was cast at Parks Bronze in Oregon and done in several pieces which were welded together. Lawrence sent me some photos of the bronze pieces and I have to admit, I kept thinking “Wow, I really hope this comes together.” Having never seen a statue being built before, and having never worked with bronze, I wasn't quite sure what to think at this point. It was such an intriguing process — watching it go from digital to solid.
The final bronze casting was finished on October 2nd, 2017. The next steps were to get it assembled and over to Artworks Foundry in Berkeley, CA for the patina process, turning it from bronze to only-Lawrence-knew-what-color. We scheduled the patina application for October 30th, 2017, with delivery to my home on October 31st, 2017. However just a few days prior, Lawrence called and said “Could we deliver it November 1st instead? We'd like to display it in the lobby at Lucas Films / Industrial Light and Magic on Halloween.” I thought for about 5 seconds “Hm, KP-0619…on display for the employees of ILM/Lucas Films…and I'll have photos of him standing with R2D2 and the Deathtrooper that are there…” and immediately said “Sure, can I come too?” And Lawrence said sure!
So up next, patina process. My wife and I arrived at Artworks around 10am on October 30th. We came around the wrong side first, and ended up seeing KP-0619 through an open door...
It was incredible seeing him assembled and standing there. He was HUGE…and gold. Was this the evil C3PO? It was such a thrill to see him. This made the entire process super real and it was just awesome to see him there. The detail was absolutely breathtaking.
First look at KP-0619s name on the holster
At Artworks, we met up with Lawrence and Aiya, the amazing artist would who apply the chemicals in the patina process. Lawrence's wife, the foundry owner, and a host of other folks were around making beautiful things out of bronze. So many people were interested in KP-0619 and kept stopping by to look at him. Lawrence, Aiya, my wife and I had spent some time looking at different patina concepts, and Lawrence also had a Yoda that he had sourced some ideas from. We eventually came up with a sort of 'desert' look with a hint of brown and darkness toward his bottom half, with the patina getting a bit whiter as you went up. It actually gave him a very stone look, to the point where several people asked if he was made of stone.
Watching the patina process was magical. It took the better part of the day. Aiya started by darkening him a bit from head to toe, and then brushed on bismuth to give him the white tone. She also used a mix of other chemicals that I didn't catch the names of. She darkened his eyes a little, darkened the blaster, with the entire statue requiring several coats.
Half way through first coat
first coat mostly complete
dark eyes melt your heart
Lawrence and Aiya doing some tweaking
After patina, start waxing.. start with the butt.
Now that the patina was done and the wax was drying, we started on the second blaster. The second blaster is the same size as the original wood model. We decided to do this piece in a more traditional bronze looking color and it came out fantastic.
darkening the handle and sparks
After the blaster, we were done. Everything was technically finished and KP-0619 was ready for prime time. KP-0619 was wrapped in padding, and Lawrence took him to the Presidio to be put on display the next day.
When I arrived at the Presidio, there was a parking pass and badge waiting for me. As I approached the ILM front doors, passing by the Yoda fountain, I could see KP-0619 through the door, and a big crowd of folks near him, with Lawrence talking up front.
KP-0619, Lawrence and ILM employees
It was fascinating listening to everyone and hearing their questions at ILM. I think the most commonly asked question was, "Where is he going to end up?" to which Lawrence would answer "In a private residence. That's why he's here today, so people can see him before he's gone into private". They would often respond with surprise, not expecting that it was a private commission. Lawrence was also often asked if it was made of stone.
There was one girl dressed up for Halloween as Waldo from Where's Waldo? She had very flattering comments and really seemed to love KP-0619. It was really moving to see all of the ILM/Lucas employees who just really enjoyed seeing him and taking photos with him.
It was quite the experience and a fantastic 9 months from inception to delivery (hm…babies and statues, same time frame?). KP-0619 is a beautiful piece of art that we will have in our family for generations, unless our offspring tries to eBay/Craigslist/FB Shops/Amazon/however you sell stuff in the future him for $30 and a 6 pack of PBR.
Where is KP-0619 located? In a private residence.
What is the significance of the designation KP-0619? It's not the password to our superannuation.
Why isn't <Insert thing here> exactly in location <Insert other detail here>, this thing would never pass in the 501st! This is art. This isn't a scale atom for atom replica of a Stormtrooper.
How much did this cost? It costs more than the Kotobukiya ArtFX statues. You can get two of them for less than $100 on Amazon.
How did you come up with this patina and coloring? He could have ended up green, bronze, black, or just about any other color you can think of.. There is a chemical of some kind to make anything you can dream on bronze. We collectively couldn't picture him dark and Lawrence had some beautiful prior art done in this desert / gritty kind of style. KP-0619s patina makes it look like he's been out in the sand for days.
When will you complete KP-0619s squad and get 8 more crafted? I'd recommend you and 7 friends get one built and we can truck them altogether for a photo op of their squad.