Having been in the foundry business for quite some time, I’ve come to witness a lot of failures as well as successes when it comes to sculpting. As you know, we work with some of the most renowned artists in the industry and over the years, we’ve come to realize that reproducing a sculpture is not only a meticulous process but when it comes to executing, it all comes down to the collaboration with the foundry to help you produce the vision, not interpret it. It’s about working with the artist’s vision and taking them step by painstaking step through to their final goal – an accurate reproduction of their work.
This is the reason why I decided to launch the American Fine Arts Foundry blog. From my personal journey in this business as well as years of experience working with a wide range of artists, there is a lot to be said when it comes to helping the artists move beyond their vision to create their masterpiece. My ultimate goal in using this platform is to not only define and educate on industry best practices of sculpting but also to inspire and transform the way you move beyond the vision. This blog will be used as a sounding board to bring you all the latest trends, tips and tricks but we’ll also bring in key artists’ insights into the fold. To kick things off, I wanted to start with a topic to help you avoid the many pitfalls of sculpting with a few steps that could be the difference between a masterpiece and average art work.
How to Move Beyond the Vision:
- The original sculpture- This is where the process starts. The artist’s original sculpture is generally made from oil or water-based clay, stone or various other materials.
- The rubber mold- The first active step the foundry takes is creating a rubber mold with a fiberglass or plaster case in order to make a hollow wax impression for the following steps. Artists are encouraged to inspect the mold prior to commencing the reproduction process.
- The wax positive- The foundry then pours three to five coats of heated wax into the mold. Temperature and timing are essential to obtaining the proper thickness and to reflecting the original’s details.
- Chasing and gating the wax- Wax chasing prepares the wax positive for the rest of the process. The foundry removes the imperfections and seam lines to ensure the best possible casting. Gating is the process of attaching wax rods to the wax positive, which allows the molten bronze to flow correctly and also allows air to escape.
- The ceramic shell- The wax model is dipped in an insoluble solution and coated in sand everyday for up to two weeks.
- Pouring the bronze-After the wax is melted from the ceramic shells, the bronze and the shells are heated. When the temperatures are right, the metal is poured into the heated shells.
- Chasing the metal- The artisans then remove the bronze from the ceramic shell, clean it, examine it, and weld together any parts. They then “chase” the piece to ensure that the finished detail is exactly like the original clay model.
- The patina- Patinas are done by applying layers of oxidizing chemicals to achieve various colors, patterns and effects.
Rushing through any of these steps could result in poor castings, unhappy you, the artist, and wasted time and money. We always encourage artists to actively participate in the process by checking the mold, the wax, the metal and the patina along the way. The more involved the artist, the better the final result. That’s why choosing an experienced foundry that you can communicate with is of utmost importance to the starting artist, since it’s a long-term relationship, akin to a marriage. The better the communication, the better the teamwork.