More About Universal Statuary Corporation
"Came across your article on Universal Statuary Corporation- I apprenticed at Universal from 1970 thru 1984 and continued working for the Lucchesi's for nearly 20 years afterward on a free lance basis. There are several inaccuracies in your article that I can clear up. For example, Universal was started in 1921 by Jack and Leo Lucchesi's father. In childhood the boys helped their father sell plaster figurines on street corners thru the depression. At the time they mostly sold religious figurines, cast in plaster, from molds made of gelatin."
"I actually made this sign for the pilaster beside front door at the Ogden facility... the number 9 appears damaged... I found this picture posted on the internet... I have no idea how the guy who posted it got the sign...."
"During the war Jack and Leo both served, Leo in the Pacific and Jack in Europe. It was not until their return after the war that the sons took significant positions in the family business. By the 50s they were producing plaster figures in latex molds, and bringing over Italian craftsmen from the area around Lucca. It was under these master Italian moldmakers and sculptors that I apprenticed. By the mid 1960s Universal had moved into the new materials of urethane and silicone molds and were pioneers in the casting of urethane and fiberglass resins. By the 1970's they were producing in urethane foams, and a new process using electroplated nickel and aluminum molds to rotationally mold figurines in vinyl... these products were marketed as "infrangibles" because they were nearly impossible to break. The Lucchesi's even had a partial ownership in Dutchland plastics, a rotational molding facility in Wisconsin. Universal made not only small decorware, but also quite a few large scale items and many display or advertising promotional items, such as the Hawaiian themed decor for Untied Airlines departure lounges ranging from fake bamboo frames to 6 foot tall tikis."
"One of their items that is still often seen in film and Television productions is a large plastic chair shaped like a human hand. It has since been pirated shamelessly... but all the chairs that have this distinctive base were pirated by taking molds from one of Universal's original chairs."
"They were a full service statuary and would make just about anything, for just about any client. Many of their most popular items were sold exclusively thru various marketing companies such as Home Interiors, Inc. They made items as diverse as classical columns for pedestals to 50 five foot tall urns for a Vegas casino. Many sculptors worked there over the years... Gino Boni, Vittorio Bocchetta, Vaughn Kendrick, William Marotta were the ones most active in the time period your site covers. And, later, me. Leo had daughters, who married professional men with no interest in running a statuary, and Jack married Conchita late in life, and they had no children. As a result, they eventually sold the company and Leo retired to a farm in Illinois. Jack, however, continued in giftware and, in the late 1980's started another company called Castagna. Castagna made mostly smaller resin sculptures of animals cast in a talc and calcium carbonate filled polyester resin... at the time a new material being cast by several companies in the Tuscan hills near Bagni di Lucca, Italy. today, almost all small figurines are made in this material. Castagna's products were mostly sculpted by me and my apprentices, and manufactured by an Italian company called Farmet. Jack also transferred many of Universal's older rotationally molded figurines to Farmet, who manufactured and distributed them thru Europe. Many of these items were still being manufactured in Italy as of 1999."
"Jack died a number of years ago. and Leo must have gone as well by now. But it was a great place to work... I learned everything I needed to know to make a living as a sculptor in the five year apprenticeship I served there. Besides training under Gino Boni... I learned moldmaking from Aldo Gregori and Vergilio Bonifazi and, of course, Leo Lucchesi."
"If you ever have any items you have specific questions about... don't hesitate to drop me a line."
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