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INTERVIEW: FTN interviews Martin Ryan from D-Signs + Displays Ltd

December 22nd, 2012 by Owen Quinn Comments

With Heroes and Legends Belfast 2 just announced for February 16th and 17th, 2013 (full details here), we thought it would be a great time to talk to the man who runs D-Signs + Displays Ltd, the company that builds all the props and sets for it and the Invasion shows here in Ireland, Martin Ryan. We look at his new prized piece, the Goblin King from The Hobbit which will feature at W5 in February, the product of hours of commitment and good old-fashioned Nerd love…

FTN: Tell us about your company and what you do

MR: D-Signs + Displays Ltd. is a unique, creative and forward thinking company that design and manufacture a wide range of visual displays for the Sign, Display, Exhibition, Theatre & Film Industry. At the heart of our business is a passionate and up to the minute team of artisans and craftsmen, with innovative ideas and a fantastic attitude towards creating whatever you need. Our ability to produce bespoke Signs, displays, props & 3D Foam Products has earned us the respect and loyalty in business from a large number of corporate organisations, and hundreds of individuals.

FTN: How did the Goblin King project come about?

MR: The Goblin King project was born out of our love of The Hobbit book. The recent release of the Toys allowed us to see what this character looked like and pretty quickly we decided as an Art Team to try replicate the small toy into a full size 10ft beast. After some smaller test pieces we just decided to go for it and we worked on him for about 3 weeks.

FTN: How do you actually create a model of that scale?

MR: This particular piece was hand carved and sculpted in Polystyrene and then we coat the poly with a special hard coat finish to protect the soft material underneath.

FTN: Do computer graphics play a role in its creation in the respect of scale and 3d animation?

MR: The original outline of the beast is designed and drawn on computer within a graphics package and sent to one of our latest machines that we installed, a large format “Hot Wire” machine cuts the basic outline from a computer drawing. Then all the pieces are then hand sculpted with various tools from Chainsaws, Hot Wires and wire brushes to achieve the shapes and features of the character.

FTN: For a project the size of the King, how many people are involved in the sculpting process?

MR: The team consists of 3 artisans, the sculptural work took approx 10 days and then after a 3 days to apply all the hard coats and textures the specialisd painters step in to bring the character alive. Other features such as the leather and fabric work is then produced in house to add to the character.

FTN: How do you feel when a project of this scale is completed?

MR: Every project is unique and we feel very proud of each individual piece that we create. Its always a daunting task to start projects like this and we put so much time and effort into it. It’s very satisfying to the end job and its always amazing to hear fantastic feedback from customers and fans of what we do.

FTN: Have you ever scrapped a project which didn’t match your vision of it?

MR: No thankfully, that’s the great thing about what we do. Our Art Department is built on collaboration and each and every member of our team listen and work together to make sure we stay as true to each project as possible. If something is not working or is not looking a particular way it should then we make the changes there and then. All art is a work in progress from the the start and we find through direction, vision and collaboration we always produce the best results.

FTN: Were you influenced by the likes of Stan Winston and Rick Baker growing up?

MR: Yes indeed Stan Winston was one of my heroes! His work on films over the years inspired a generation. Ever since from a young age i always wanted to create monsters and spaceships just like what these guys did, and over the past few years i have been very lucky that i have got to do that. To which i am very thankful for.

FTN: You are also the brains behind the Heroes and Legends comic con, can you reveal anything about what’s in store for audiences next year?

MR: Heroes & Legends will be returning again to Belfast for its second year in February and i am very excited about that. We have been working very hard in the background trying to build up this wonderful event and give all the fans in Ireland a show that will become something to be proud of. The next show will have some fantastic new displays and features that fans and families will have a lot of fun!

FTN: What’s your ultimate sculpting wish list?

MR: That’s very difficult to pick just one, i would have so many wishes. But I think my ultimate wish would be for us to create a full size “Space Jocky” set from Alien.

FTN: Finally have you any projects coming up you can share with our audience?

MR: There are always projects on the go and with Heroes & Legends coming up we really want to create some replica sets and pieces from The Hobbit and also we hope to expand our wonderful Wizard World!

If you have a prop that you’ve always fancied owning or an idea for a show or event then check out Martin’s D-Signs site here

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Husband, dad and Ireland's hardest working author, Owen Quinn is currently knee deep in The Time Warriors, arguably the biggest sci-fi epic ever to come out of Ireland. He has an unhealthy interest in Doctor Who, classic TV and Star Wars, he also hangs around with the Emerald Garrison far toooo much. Is it any wonder he fits in at FTN so well? Find Owen at the