A new store at Scottsdale Fashion Square is blending technology and creative art and selling the result to shoppers at prices between $19 and $380.
Making Faces primarily turns three-dimensional digital photographs of people into epoxy-based busts.
It also creates objects such as pen and business card holders, hearts or other gifts from three-dimensional photos.
The process of turning photos into sculptured busts is the brain-child of Paul Elio, 41, a mechanical engineer and owner of the new store at the mall at 7014 E. Camelback Road.
"There is not another company like ours anywhere in the world," said Elio of Ahwatukee Foothills. "We’re the first to make digital sculptures. . . .
Our goal is to create busts of people who could never afford to have a sculptor make them and to offer them something that will have lasting meaning to their lives."
The store, located on the second floor next to Robinson’s May, opened in January and welcomes adults and children.
Basically, the process works this way: Customers sit on an adjustable seat and are surrounded by 15 high-tech, digital cameras.
They are asked to sit still for a few seconds until the cameras flash. A threedimensional image of their head and shoulders is recorded in a computer.
The image is transported to a Z-Corp Rapid Photo Type machine-printer located at Elio’s company, ESG Engineering, 9830 S. 51st St., Phoenix. The machine-printer uses a plaster-based powder and a light adhesive to create a three-dimensional bust inside the printer. The bust is filled with epoxy to make it more durable.
The final step is removing the bust from the machineprinter and painting the bust a variety of colors, including a choice of metallic gold, hammer gold, metallic silver, hammer silver, copper, blue, bronze, white and green.
The final product can be a complete, three-dimensional bust, showing head and shoulders; a profile only; a partially slanted image; a facing forward only; or a mask.
The photo process takes about 10 to 15 minutes to collect the final image, and the completed epoxy bust can be finished and ready to take home in 7 to 10 days.
"People who would have to pay between $10,000 to $15,000 for a sculptor to make a bust can now have a lifelong bust for prices they can afford," Elio said.
He said families, including children, are among many of his customers who are having their busts created. Photographs are taken only of individuals. Thus a family group can be connected only after each individual photo-bust is created, Elio said.
"Recently, a family brought their young daughter who had leukemia and had a bust created of her," said Elio. "It beats just having a photo of her."
Elio said his company’s target is to open three Making Faces stores in the top 20 retail markets in the United States for a total of 60 in the next three years.
Customers must come directly to the store to have their photos and busts created because the image must be taken directly from the subject and can’t be reproduced from a flat photo image.
One of the technical challenges, too, is that hair often does not reproduce completely in three-dimensional photos. As a result, a gel and light powder sometimes is applied to the subject’s hair to create a complete look for the computer to reproduce, Elio said.
He said the process can also be used by forensic criminal investigators who may want to create a full-image of a victim from photographing only partial remains. Or it can be used to reproduce bobblehead dolls for people who want to re-create their favorite sports or celebrity figure.
"We can even make a bobble head doll out of you," said Elio, whose 2,500-square foot store is filled with epoxy busts of customers, their children and himself staring out at the mall at curious shoppers who often stop and wonder what Making Faces is all about.