Amsterdam native Mark Ho was at film school, working in stop-motion animation, when he built his first articulated metal armature. That project sparked his imagination with visions of a kind of “ultimate puppet” — an intricately jointed, fully poseable figure with all the grace and range of movement of a real human body.
After graduating, he apprenticed in the workshop of a veteran machinist for more than two years before starting work on his prototype. He began, fittingly enough, with the hands. Together, the hands account for 202 of the completed figure’s 920 parts. Once they were finished to Ho’s exacting standards, the rest of the body had to measure up.
Working primarily with a lathe and a milling machine, using a number of custom fixtures of his own design and construction, he spent more than six years refining the design before fixing it, in 2005, as Zoho Artform No. 1.
Made almost entirely of bronze and stainless steel, Artform No. 1 was produced in a limited, numbered edition of 25. Not counting its switchable magnetic display base, each figure weighs a bit more than 17 pounds, stands almost 17 inches tall, and has 85 moving parts, allowing remarkably lifelike and expressive postures. The piece was featured on the covers of Scientific American and Bright magazine, and earned Ho the distinction of being featured in Joe Martin’s Internet Craftsmanship Museum.
Following the success of No. 1, Zoho International has started production of Artform No. 4, a figure built to the same pattern as the first statue, but substituting anodized aluminum, in an array of colors, for the original bronze parts.