This was my entry to the Calgary Stampede Western Showcase, which was awarded first place in the cake category. I was very happy to find a good opportunity to work on a story theme I have loved since I was ten and also learn so much about sculpting and painting at the same time. Here is a bit more about the story:
‘The Adventures of Strong Wanja’ is a story by Otfried Preussler, based on Russian and Ukrainian folktales, about a farmer’s son who gains the strength he needs to save the land beyond the White Mountains by lazing about for 7 years and eating sunflower seeds. Sounds quite humorous when summarized like that and is undoubtedly meant to be entertaining, but I always thought that various aspects of the story make it clear that to fulfill your destiny a great deal of inner strength is needed.
The silver three Kopek coin, that Wanja had in a leather pouch on a string around his neck, given to him by his mother, turned into the magical device that would show him the way at every intersection: number face means left while the other face with an eagle means right. I found a silver three Kopek coin from 1535 though that had a rider with a spear on the obverse, who according to one legend could be a likeness of the reigning tsar (!). The Russian word for spear (копьё) actually provides the name for the coin, Копейка. And after the spear Wanja acquires the horse Waron, who is faster than the wind, so it is a very fitting image, I thought and used that coin as inspiration.
It was fun trying to figure out what the clothing, weapons and other items important to the story might have looked like. A spear made of ironwood made in one seamless piece is one of the first items he needs to collect on the quest. That was not so visually interesting, so I decided to use a photo of a mediaeval Russian spear as inspiration.
The helmet, mail shirt links, cloth and lamellar cuirass found on the cake base are part of the legendary armour of the Tsar Iwan Wassiljewitsch that Wanja needs to recover from the stone-clad knight Foma Dragonsson. It is first hidden under rust and dirt but reveals itself as a magical glittering and reflective material. The designs are based on mediaeval Rus armour. The lamellar construction with additional decorative metal plates would lend itself very well to being glittery and reflective, even without magic.
The facial features, head and proportions are always a challenge. I am always glad when I get to learn a lot each time. Here I was also aiming for the moment he emerges from the underground fortress of Foma Dragonsson with the armour as the last item he needed to collect on his quest – ready to face the challenges in the land beyond the White Mountains.
It was the first time I managed to get a sculpture correct in proportions having made the eye balls first and then constructing the eye around it. Sorry, I had no time for work-in-progress shots, but he spent a day or two in the studio with a half finished face and naked eye balls. Freaked the family and me out a few times.
Monika Salkauskas, Twisted Tortes