As her husband George tore into the wrapping paper of his 50th birthday present, Anita Rydzinski tried to suppress a giggle.
She had spent weeks racking her brain over what to buy him. But how do you surprise your husband after 15 years of marriage?
A unique piece of artwork was just the thing, Anita decided. But as George pulled off the bubble wrap, it quickly became clear this gift was not your run-of-the-mill watercolour. It was a life-sized bronze cast of Anita’s bottom, in suspenders and a tiny thong.
‘George’s mouth dropped open, then spread into a huge smile,’ says Anita, 40. ‘He couldn’t believe it, but he did look at me and say, “Very nice . . .” Our daughter Chelsey, 19, thought it was fantastic, but our 13-year-old son George just stared and said, “What is that?”’
So what possessed Anita to commission such an intimate portrait of her posterior?
Anita, who lives in Wraysbury, Middlesex, and runs a turbo engine manufacturing company with her husband, says: ‘George is very difficult to buy for, so when I spotted Brighton Body Casting, it gave me an idea.
‘I wanted something a bit naughty, so decided on a cast of my bottom.’
Turning body parts or personal objects into art is becoming a major trend – over the past few years it has rocketed in popularity, particularly in showbusiness.
Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden recently admitted she has a cast of her bottom hanging in her bedroom – which was made at the request of her husband Chris in 2006.
Plaster casting has been used since the 19th century to create exact replicas of ancient sculptures, but it has now been replaced by alginate, a blue seaweed-based substance similar to the putty used by dentists to take moulds of your mouth.
It sets in two minutes, then turns rubbery, so you just pop a baby’s foot – or a woman’s bottom – into it then pull it out when it’s firm to form a mould.
This is then filled with the chosen material: brass, plaster, bronze, glass, fibreglass, silver or, if you have the cash, gold.
The key to the popularity of casting is preserving a physical memory forever.
Perhaps that’s why body casting has become so popular with women in their 30s, 40s and 50s, eager to capture an image of their body before age takes its toll.