Mold Masters, Paint Masters and Counter Samples
The creation of a Harbour Lights lighthouse was very complex and consisted of numerous steps before each new release was brought to the marketplace. In this tutorial I will explain three of the most important of these steps.
Before any collectible can be produced, an artist needs to make a clay sculpture of the piece. Harbour Lights used a number of artists throughout the years and because they released a number of lighthouses simultaneously, would often use various artists throughout the world working on different pieces. In later years, Harry Hine, son-in-law to Harbour Lights founders Bill and Nancy Younger, became the art director and designer for all Harbour Lights and other Younger and Associates collectibles.
To begin the process, the Youngers would provide to the artist certain specs that needed to be adhered to, (mostly sizes of footprint and height restrictions). The artist was encouraged to add his own little details, such as bicycles, barrels, open windows with curtains hanging out, etc. Each of those details, (plus another we will discuss in another tutorial), is what set Harbour Lights apart from all other lighthouse collectibles.
Each artist had his own method of creating lighthouses. In Harry Hine's case, I know that he is adamant about getting blueprints or design drawings of each lighthouse, ship, or lens that he creates. He also tries to use various photos taken from different angles of each piece, if possible, to help him get each detail just right. It sometimes means that he has to visit the site and take photos himself.
When an artist's sculpture has been completed, a silicone rubber mold must be made from it. From that mold two resin castings are made. These castings become the mold masters.
Two of these mold masters would be created by the artist. They would then be shipped to HL corporate offices for approval. If any corrections needed to be made, one of the Youngers (usually Harry), would notate the necessary corrections and send the pieces back to the artist who would adjust the sculpture and recast two more pieces. Once the mold master was approved, the piece would be signed off on. Two more mold masters were then created in order to be used as paint masters..
When the factory received their mold master, they also received from Harbour Lights a paint master. The paint master was created by a Habour Lights painting artist working at the corporate level using exact color specifications. Paint masters were not completely finished pieces, (no felt, metal work, etc.). They were simply the original resin pieces that were painted.
The final step before full production would be the counter sample phase. Two complete pieces would be created by the factory. These counter samples would reflect exactly what the final production piece that customers received would look like. Felt would be added, trees and metal work attached, etc. Upon receipt of these two counter samples, HL executives, (Kim or Harry, usually), would inspect each. If all was perfect, the piece would be approved for production. One would remain at Harbour Lights and be used as a quality control master for all subsequent production pieces. The second would be sent back to the factory with the "go ahead" to begin mass production.
For the most part, the mold masters, paint masters, and counter samples are now "one-of-a-kind" pieces. As all of the factories that Harbour Lights once hired out to do their productions are now out of business, it is very likely that the factory pieces have been lost or destroyed and no longer exist. There does, however, exist a small number of pieces in which a second counter sample or paint master had been retained by the company. Usually that meant that multiple factories were contracted out to produce the same lighthouse or Anchor Bay ship. Though rare among the Limited Editions, this usually occurred with Open Edition pieces such as GLOWS or "Little Lights" that had no limit to the number made.
As you can well imagine, the creation of a Harbour Lights collectible took quite some time from start to finish before it hit retailers' shelves. Averaging well over a year from the time it was begun until it was ready to be sold, it was not unusual for a lighthouse to be in the planning stages for years before a collector could get his/her hands on one.