Crone went to see Jersey City's Linda Rea, a 31-year-old artist and mother of one, who began making the sculptures three months ago.
"My experience with pregnancy changed my life," said Rea last week. "I was fascinated with the changes my body was going through. I explored natural methods such as midwives to enhance the experience, and within that, I became extremely moved by the entire idea of pregnancy and birth. Focusing on bringing up my child made me strive for an artistic outlet that would embody motherhood. In viewing The Baby Story on the Learning Channel, I began to be interested in this particular form of expression in preserving a moment in time within a woman's life that can't be re-visited."
Three months ago, Rea began advertising her service in Lamaze classes, childbirth education sessions, and with childbirth assistants. The price for the sculpture starts at $75. The artist either meets with the subject in her own home in Jersey City, or will travel to the home of the mother-to-be, subject to the latter's preference.
The sculpting is done with the subject siting on a chair or high stool, surrounded by pillows for comfort.
The process begins by first applying heavy amounts of moisturizer to the body. The body is then measured from the neck to the end of the abdomen. Strips of plaster are applied to the measured area. The first layer is given time to dry, then the second layer of strips is applied. The whole process takes about an hour. The cast is carefully removed and set to dry for about a day.
"There is no uncomfortable feeling," said Clara Calienes of Bogota, who was sculpted last month before her baby girl was born. "When it starts to dry, the cast begins to separate from your body on its own. It leaves very little effort in removing the entire cast at the end."
After the sculpture is complete, it is designed in various different ways specified by the customer. Some of the ideas that the artist has come across are to write the child's name across the mold of the stomach, or when the baby is born, have him or her put hand or foot prints on it.
Monica Crone gave her reasons for wanting the sculpture.
"When I was pregnant with my first child, Nicholas, I didn't really do anything like this," she said. "Maybe I took one picture. This time I wanted to preserve and remember the way I looked, and what better way? Now that the baby is here, I can't believe it. It's neat to see how your body changes when you're pregnant."
Crone said she would recommend the sculpting to all pregnant women. "It's such a nice memory," she said. "You can't experience that time again, and it's so much more than a picture because it's dimensional. I wish I had done it with my first child as well."
But the sculpture is not just for mommies. Gary Crone, Monica's husband, said he liked the idea.
"I find my wife very attractive when she's pregnant," he said. "She's beautiful. It's a great reminder of just how beautiful she is."
Robin Petrick, a Jersey City resident and a childbirth educator at Saint Mary's Hospital in Hoboken, supports the idea.
"I wish I had done something like this with all of my three children," she said. "Then I could compare each pregnancy."
Hoboken resident Rochelle Batty, a first-time mother who is taking Petrick's child education classes, said she was thinking about the idea. "It's interesting," she said. "I would do it. It's a good momentum to have. I would have everyone that visits the baby sign it."
"The ending result is a beautiful piece that will serve many purposes," said Rea. "It helps you to remember the changes that your body went through, and in the future can serve as a personal bond between the mother and child as a keepsake."
For more information contact Linda Rea at 459-1617.