Tennis girl pin up is immortalised in life-size sculpture
Last updated at 2:28 AM on 23rd July 2011
The famous 'Tennis Girl' poster has been immortalised in this life-size gold sculpture - using the original model who posed in the photograph 30 years ago.
Mother-of-three Fiona Walker was just 18 when she hitched her skirt and exposed her buttocks during a photoshoot with her then boyfriend Martin Elliott.
The image was first sold in poster shop Athena in the 1970s and went on to sell two million copies worldwide, earning Mr Elliott an estimated £250,000 in royalities.
Fiona has remained in remarkable shape over the last three decades and her vital statistics have barely changed.
She has now posed as a model for the 6ft golden sculpture, spending seven hours having plaster casts made of her body.
Sculptor Ben Dearney, 47, then spent seven months carefully creating the artwork using direct measurements from Fiona's casts.
His final design was made from fibreglass and covered in 23.5 carat gold leaf paint alongside a tennis racquet which is held in the sculpture's hand.
Ben, of Bath, Somerset, said Fiona, now 52 and married to a businessman, is in 'great shape' and her dimensions have barely changed since her teens.
'It has been an incredibly fun project to work on,' he said.
'It may be 30 years on but she still is the same body shape, she is in fantastic shape.
'I took a death mask of her face and took a few years off it, but still kept the features of her face.' Fiona was an 18-year-old art student called Fiona Butler when she agreed to pose for her then boyfriend.
Original cast: The original Athena 'Tennis Girl' Fiona Walker has a cast taken for a gold statue, 30 years after the picture that made her bottom famous
Martin studied at the Birmingham School of Photography and he took the image at the uni's tennis courts in Edgbaston.
It was first published it as part of a calendar for the 1977 Silver Jubilee - the same year Virginia Wade achieved the Wimbledon ladies single title.
The gold statue was commissioned by Chris Nightingale, who brought the famous picture to the public's attention after selecting it for the 1977 calendar.
Sculptor Ben said: 'Chris Nightingale was the director of the original photograph and he approached me with this concept to make the iconic photograph into the gold sculpture.
'He was still in contact with Fiona and so I said that for authenticity I would like to use her to model. He asked her and she was up for it.
'We went up to her place and covered her in plaster and did seven moulds of her body.' The casts were taken at the house in Stourport, Worcs., where Fiona lives with her millionaire Ian Walker.
Nice work: Artist Ben Dearney adds the finishing touches to the life-size mould before it is coated in gold
Chris is now writing a book about the image's incredible popularity and will use the sculpture as a way of telling the story.
He said: 'The secret smile of the model can now be revealed after years facing the many student bedroom walls.
'I feel the time is now right to set the record straight and to give everyone the real story.' The model was launched at the Saatchi Gallery on June 30 and will now tour galleries around the country.
Ben Dearnley has produced a collection of sculptures of celebrated Olympians and Paralympians, which will be shown at Salisbury Cathedral during the 2012 Games.
He is currently creating a twice-life-size torso of Olympic swimmer Mark Foster for the City of Bath's Art at the Edge project.
Photographer Martin Elliott died peacefully aged 63 at his home in Perranwell Station (corr), near Truro, Cornwall, on March 24 last year after a ten year battle with cancer.
Finished: The talented sculptor stands by his masterpiece
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