Angel of the North sculptor Antony Gormley has been wrapping 240 nude models in cling film, before making plastercasts of their bodies for his next exhibition.
Antony Gormley will cast 240 bodies
The volunteers - aged from five to 95 and of all shapes and sizes - gathered at the Baltic Arts Centre in Gateshead as the project began.
The casts will be turned into moulds by the artist's specially-trained staff and used to make dozens of carefully sculpted figures from stainless steel rods.
They will form a new exhibition, Domain Field, which opens at the Baltic in May.
More than one thousand people from Gateshead and Newcastle volunteered to take part in the project.
"I'm humbled by it", Gormley told the BBC's One O'Clock News.
"I think it is extraordinary that so many people are prepared to put up with this level of pain and discomfort just for the hell of it," he added.
The castings are being carried out under the public's gaze - although cubicles have been installed for the more private moments of the process.
It is time-consuming work, with only six to eight castings a day set to be completed.
Each sculpture will represent a living inhabitant of the North East.
Volunteer Joanne Harri said she thought it would be really "exciting" to be part of the production process of an art project.
Describing the experience as she was being wrapped in plaster, she said: "It's very strange, cold and wet. I'm sure there are more pleasurable ways to be immortalised."
The finished product
A spokeswoman said the sculptures were being made on site as the Baltic regarded itself as an "art factory".
Trial castings took place before Christmas, and included some of the staff of the centre, which is a converted grain warehouse which opened last year.
Gormley is best-known for the 65 foot-high Angel of the North sculpture, which overlooks the A1 trunk road near Gateshead.
His terracotta installation Field For The British Isles was recently shown at the British Museum in London.