A trip to Brighton was the inspiration for sculptor Nick Boxall to develop a new technique — creating ‘bodycasts’ of anything from babies' feet to a full adult torso.

He calls his new business Exquisite Casting, and he hopes it will fill the gap between his sculptor commissions from wealthy individuals.

Now 54, he has had a long career as an artist, starting in his 20s working with John Buckley, the sculptor who created the Shark on the rooftop of a terraced house in Headington.

Mr Boxall's work has always contained a surreal element — he was responsible for the fibreglass clown which sits in a bath of ice at Café Coco in Cowley Road.

He said: “It was never designed to be in a bath, but it was there from the start of Coco’s.”

After supplementing his art with part-time work as a waiter at Browns restaurant in Woodstock Road, he became a full-time artist more than 25 years ago, with one-man shows in London and Oxford and exhibitions in Paris, Basle and Madrid, as well as at Heston Blumenthal's restaurant The Fat Duck in Bray.

Much of his work can be seen in the Sir Charles Napier restaurant, near Chinnor, which has proved a good source of commissions.

He has been bought by private collectors in Hawaii, Singapore, Spain, Germany and London, including clients such as motorsport boss Eddie Jordan, TV stars Carol Vorderman and Matthew Kelly.

A few years ago he was commissioned to make awards for a children's nursery group, which inspired him and his partner Stephie Messiou to think about casting babies’ feet.

He said: “It is very popular. I was in Brighton and I saw someone who was doing very well with it. People love having something to remember how tiny their baby was.”

He says the process is quick and relaxing: “like going to a beauty spa.”

He said: “You cast them using an alginate powder that turns to jelly when you add water. Dentists use it to make false teeth, and it sets in a minute. It is made from seaweed so it is totally safe. It is a wonderful way to capture the things we love in a simple procedure for babies, children and adults, capturing all stages of life. The detail is amazing: there is no comparison to the DIY kits you can buy.”

Do the babies complain at all?

“Some are wonderful, but others are more difficult,” he admitted. “We get them in the end, but they do say ‘never work with animals or children’.”

Plaster baby feet sculptures start at £45, while more expensive versions are available in bronze, silver or lead crystal glass. They can be mounted on velvet and hung on the wall or assembled on a plinth to be displayed on a shelf (or on the floor, in the case of larger bodycasts).

Small hands and feet take a few minutes and body sculpture up to 20 to 30 minutes.

So far, almost all the castings have been requested by people who heard of him by word of mouth, including one woman who ordered a model of her bottom as a 20th wedding anniversary present for her husband.

In a testimonial on Mr Boxall's website, she said: “It looked absolutely fabulous, more fabulous than I could ever imagined.

“The cast had been assembled on a stone plinth and I was able to turn it in every direction to see every contour. It now stands proud in my hall way and by the way my husband went wild when he saw it.”

Several pregnant women have ordered casts of their bellies.

“I do it in people's homes or they come to me in Littlemore and Stephie is there to reassure people, especially for the pregnant belly. It is a nice memento of your pregnancy."

He has also done intertwined hands of mother and child, and lips for Valentine presents.

The venture involves a fair amount of creativity on the part of the artist, he says. “There is quite an art to it.

“You have to get everything in the right place, display it on the right plinth. I enjoy doing it. I think they do become a work of art — your body is the work of art.”

Nick added: “Ballet feet are quite popular and they look fantastic. One couple got their daughter's lips done as a Christmas present.

“It is a unique thing. You can be holding hands with your loved one, take a cast of your lips for your Valentine or a romantic embrace.

“Some people have athletic poses and torsos. It is exciting and individual. The point is to have something captured in time for you to cherish forever.”