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Grey Cross Studios
1920 4th St, New Orleans , LA 70113
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Raja's Tomb (COMPLETED)

Title: Raja's Tomb
Series: New Orleans Tomb Sculpture
Base Materials: Foam, tile, marble, ephemera

Raja's Tomb is 21st sculpture in the New Orleans Tomb Series. Each sculpture is handmade and one of a kind. Each sculpture is signed and numbered on the underside and comes with a certificate of authenticity which includes a short obituary/bio of those interred within the tomb. 

The concept of Raja's tomb is the one and only tomb where an animal is interred with his owner. Raja was a circus elephant in the late 1800's. He and his owner were together for 40+ years. When the owner passed, Raja passed within days of a broken heart. Both were brought home to New Orleans and buried in this tomb together. 

A complete obituary and bio will be created for the piece as its being created. 

You can follow the creation of the tomb on this page. New photos and descriptions will be added at each phase of its development. 

This is the prestart image for the tomb. 

What you see displayed here are the basic components for this tomb. A marble elephant which I think was originally a bookend was found at Goodwill, which is where I conceived the story of Raja and bought the fellow for $1.97. I began looking for elephant related ephemera to go with the piece. 

The tomb is a heavy Styrofoam. I often use this as a base because it cuts down on the overall weight of the final sculpture and it can be carved to look like granite or marble. The base is 12" tile to create a weighted bottom piece to keep the sculpture steady. 

The first stage of this piece was cutting a 4" deep piece out of the foam to place the marble statue within. I considered placing it atop the sculpture but was concerned about the stability of the piece. The marble statue is heavy and placing it on top may have caused problems later. Setting in the dead center distributes the weight more evenly. To either side are the sealed doors to the crypt. Almost all the components will be added on before painting begins so that the color scheme is uniform. 

Both the foam and the doors have been epoxied into place which takes about an hour to dry solidly. 

The front lintel had now been added. You would think this would be a simple add-on, but finding stone tiles that fit the space both between the crypt seals and with the elephant above was a challenge. Composed of six separate tiles each one had to be laid in and glued in place separately to get into place properly. 

In this buildout the tomb has now been black based to bring all the components into sync with each other. An elephant sigil has now been added to the crypt door also.

Shown laying in front of the tomb is the first of the sidewall pieces. These are etched panels which will be identical on each side. The elephant image is etched into the softer plastic tiles using a Dremel. Once completed and placed on the side of the tomb it will be painted black to fill in the etched areas and then overpainted in another color, leaving the black etched outline to jump out on the tomb.

Here is the first finished side panel for the tomb. I used three coats of pearl white and then used a stylus to enhance the etched lines of the elephant. The pearl white and copper will be the colors of choice for the whole tomb including the great elephant statue at the front. Second panel tomorrow. 

This panel is identical to the panel on the opposing side. For proper symmetry the etch work on a tomb would be the same on either side.

The second etched wall is now complete. The pearlescant white has now been added to three sides of the tomb and the front tomb work is now done in copper along with a pearlescant white sepulcher sculpture on the front door of the tomb. Next steps involve adding ornate pieces to the top and the back.

The final ornamentation for the front and top are now complete and the detailing has been done. Focus will now shift to the back of the tomb where an elephant surrounded by a lotus flower and two large angel wings will adorn the stone work.

The sculpture is now 90% completed. The back ornamentation has been added and the ground around the tomb has been danded with a white crystal heavy sand to match the pearl colors of the tomb. The final stage will involve some detail work including headstones with names of those interred in the tomb.  

The tomb is now complete. Final additions included three marble plates listing the name and death of both Raja and his handler Keith Heller. You can see a rather shaky video of the complete tomb here. 

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