From beautifully detailed cosplays to intricate clay polymer statues that bring the characters to life, Aishwarya Tennekoon, an architecture student at the University of Moratuwa dreams of directing and supplying SFX props and costumes to the local film industry. Having made statues since he was a child, in 2017 he started his own workshop where [...]


Enter Lord Thranduil and then there were more


From beautifully detailed cosplays to intricate clay polymer statues that bring the characters to life, Aishwarya Tennekoon, an architecture student at the University of Moratuwa dreams of directing and supplying SFX props and costumes to the local film industry.

Having made statues since he was a child, in 2017 he started his own workshop where he sells his creations. Here he talks of his passion for both cosplay and sculpture.

Q: What sparked your interest in cosplay?

Actually I was a passionate sculptor, prop and model maker. I’ve been making models for commissions for years. And then after all these comic conventions came up, people started commissioning me to make cosplay costumes and props for them. So after I started making costumes  it sparked my interest too. So for the first time I cosplayed back in 2017 as ‘Lord Thranduil’ from ‘The Hobbit’ movie trilogy.

Q: How did you get into making statues? Did your cosplay experience influence this?

Actually my sculpting and prop making experience is what influenced me into making cosplay costumes.

Since I was a child I was eager to do handcrafts, drawings and paintings. I also enjoyed watching movies and cartoons a lot. As a big cartoon fan, I wanted to collect action figures of those characters I loved but was unable to afford them back then. So eventually these two interests got combined and I started making them by myself (models and statues of characters, buildings, vehicles, terrains) that appeared in my fav movies, video games and cartoons. So that’s how basically I got into making statues and models. I started this when I was 8 years old. So I’ve been doing this for almost 15 years now.

As requested by many, back in 2017 I started my own workshop (TENAI Workshop) and began selling my creations. Then back in 2016 people started commissioning me to make cosplay costume too. Ever since I also specialize in making costumes, props and armour for cosplayers and for the local film industry. And now I’m selling these to both local and international clients. Very recently I made costumes for an upcoming film by one of Sri Lanka’s pioneer film directors as well.

Q: Describe the process and materials involved

So the basic process for model making and sculpting is, first you need to have a proper idea about the details, proportions and colours of the character/model you’re going to make. Because we are going to create something 3D. To do that I collect as many photographs or videos of the character (front, side and back views) So after going through all the photos and taking a clear understanding of the design, we can go ahead and make an armature (if it’s a statue). Armature is like a supporting stand which we can use to sculpt the character around it using clay. Once the armature is ready you can start sculpting by referring to those photographs. If it’s a model of a building or a vehicle you won’t need an armature, instead you can make the templates and start building it.

And when it comes to cosplay costumes and props, again you need to gather as many images related to the design. And then you can start making templates for the costume. I normally make my own templates according to my measurements from scratch. But if you’re not good at creating them on your own some templates are available online too. And then you can choose the materials and start to make the costume using the templates.

And normally when it comes to sculpting I mainly use either polymer, clay or papier mache. For cosplay costumes and props I mainly use EVA foam and fabric and sometimes rubber, fibre and cardboard as well. For the paint job I mainly use acrylics and spray paints.

Q: What prompted you to make the sculpture of Princess Hemamala and Prince Dantha bringing the Sacred Tooth Relic to Sri Lanka?

I’ve been making polymer clay statues for almost five years now. And all this time I sculpted characters related to Hollywood movies, animations and video games. So I wanted to do something different. Something of ours. And then suddenly this painting came into my mind. It’s one of my favourite murals since childhood. So starting another chapter, I decided to give life to the famous mural which depicts ‘Princess Hemamala and Prince Dantha bringing the Buddha’s Sacred Tooth Relic’ from India to Sri Lanka for safekeeping, which is painted at Kelaniya Temple by renowned artist, Solias Mendis.

Q: Tell us about your other creations – any particular favourites?

So far my favourites are the Tower of Sauron replica from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Road Runner vs Wile E. Coyote’ diorama. The Tower of Sauron replica was the turning point of my life. It’s the first replica I exhibited at a comic convention. And then I got recognized by the Sri Lankan geek community. Besides I’m satisfied with the outcome. It’s a 1m tall replica made out of cardboard, papier mache, plaster and wooden sticks and took me more than three months to complete.

And then the Road Runner diorama is the best statue I’ve sculpted so far because of its unique armature design made to express the anti-gravity poses of the characters. I even got a lot of  feedback from international sculpture artists for that piece. Besides I personally loved how it turned out, with good proportions and colour composition.

Q: How do you balance your architecture studies with your hobbies?

Well, there are times that I get super busy with my course work. At such times I’m holding all the other work back for a while and give the main priority to it. Other than that I spend whatever free time I get making stuff.

Q: Any special dreams/ ambitions related to your passions?

My main dream is to give my service to the local film industry in terms of directing and supplying special effects props (for SFX) and costumes. This technology is not being practised much in the local cinema industry yet. So I’m hoping to develop that and use it for local movies in the future.

Q: Is there anything you would like to add that I haven’t asked you about?

Many who are interested in getting into sculpting and prop making keep asking me for advice. I would like to say, as a beginner don’t try to start big. Just start with what you have. Start right now. And make sure you keep practising and don’t give up. Because practice makes you perfect and doing something for a longer period of time will definitely make you a skilled and an experienced person in the field. Also do it with passion- that will result in creative and unique creations.

See Aishwarya’s work on FB and IG pages (TENAI Workshop):

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