Pregnant masterpiece started as California fad

By Marlon Manuel

Cox News Service

ATLANTA -- Used to be, parents would bronze their baby's first shoes as a keepsake. But Lacy Lewis wanted more to remember her second -- and final -- pregnancy.

Her heirloom? Herself. The 21-year-old had a plaster cast made of her expectant belly.

"I thought it was a neat idea to capture that moment in time," said Lewis, whose second daughter, Sumiko, was born Oct. 28. "It's a physical cast of how big you were, what shape you were."


Lewis paid an artist in Cleveland, Ga., about $200 for the cast, made from surgical gauze and plaster. The result is similar to a cast doctors use to set broken bones.

Lewis isn't the only one who has commissioned a pregnant masterpiece, a plaster of parents. The belly cast started as -- what else? -- a California fad.

Marianne J. Legato, founder and director of the Partnership for Gender Specific Medicine at Columbia University, said when actress Demi Moore and supermodel Christie Brinkley posed for pictures while they were pregnant, the exposure helped expectant mothers become more comfortable with their bodies.

"These were women who thought their bodies were beautiful -- that their pregnant bodies were as beautiful as any other cover girl," Legato said.

The casts -- also known as molds or masks -- have been featured on "Oprah Winfrey" and the Learning Channel. The trendiness is marked by the availability of do-it-yourself kits on the Web.

"If a picture is worth a thousand words, what's a sculpture worth?" said Atlanta artist Mark Weber, who has made belly masks for about a year. "Two years later, a toddler could touch mom's belly and say, 'This is where I was.'"

After Lewis decorates her cast -- maybe in a Mother Nature motif of green leaves -- she plans on hanging her likeness in her bedroom or living room. She said her husband loves the idea.

"I wouldn't mind displaying it at all," Lewis said. "I'm proud of having my two little girls. I love being a mother. It wouldn't bother me at all."


Golda Kewsi, 30, of Atlanta is similarly proud. Made by Weber, the cast of her pregnancy with her first child, born this month, rests in a living room chair.

Before the child's birth, one of Kewsi's girlfriends had a "Blessing Way," a ceremony to celebrate the pregnancy. Friends signed the gold cast. So did her husband.

"This is where your head was," he wrote. "I love you."

"It was a lot of fun just having it done," she said. "It's a work of art you're going to have forever, just capturing that moment."

Making a cast takes about an hour. Gauze strips dipped in wet plaster mix are wrapped around the woman's torso, which is first coated with petroleum jelly. After about 20-30 minutes, the strips set and can be popped off.

"It lifts off in one piece," said Cleveland belly caster Bruce Lewis, who made the mold for Lacy Lewis (no relation). "You actually remove them from the cast."

Brandy Arroway has pictures and home videos from her childhood. Her newborn daughter will get something more, a three-dimensional view of mom the way she used to be.

"It will be hers," Arroway said. "She'll see what she was like before she was here."

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