In and industry that’s seen both a decrease in demand and an increase in competition, it’s become increasingly important for artists and their partner foundries to get creative in cutting costs to win business. Outlined below are some of the ways we’ve been able to collaborate with our artists to both maintain the integrity of their vision and help them save their margins.
1. Make the switch from clay to wax. Yes, it will take some getting used to, and it won’t work for all projects, but with clay the foundry has to make a mold, which in most instances costs nearly as much as the casting itself. Wax, however, can go directly to shell, so by using it you’ll be saving the upfront cost of the mold, allowing you to defer that expense until after you’ve sold your first piece. It may not save you a lot in the long run, but getting your first 4-5 display pieces cast for a gallery, especially if you’re new to the industry and haven’t made a name for yourself, can be one of the biggest expenses you incur. Cutting those expenses in half by forgoing the mold making process, at least initially, can be the difference between being able to get into that gallery or not. Several good waxes exist for this purpose, but we’ve found Westech’s Revolution Wax to be the best as it was created with bronze artists in mind.
2. Consider perceived value. Fair or not, consumers perceive larger more complex sculpture as higher value, higher dollar work. A tall, thin, interpretive sculpture of a figure, for instance, might be perceived as “more expensive” than a traditional, proportional, figurative work. This isn’t to say you should sacrifice your vision for the sake of pandering to consumers, but do take the psychology of their purchasing habits into account.
3. Keep fabrication to a minimum. It’s simple, really. The more elements of your work that need to be fabricated, the more expensive it gets. Try to conceive of your piece as a cohesive whole. If you’re sculpting a man sitting in a chair, holding a cup of coffee, for instance, find a way to sculpt his shirt into the chair or the coffee cup into his hand. Often times the parts of the chair have to be cast as individual elements and then reassembled once they are cast in bronze. If all of these elements need to be fabricated separately, your costs go up and your margins go down.
4. Take into account the minimum casting thickness: 3/16”. If you’re sculpting a nimble ballerina with slender arms and legs that at their thinnest points have a diameter of less than 1/2”, chances are your foundry is going to have to do a solid casting of those thinner parts. And remember, more bronze equals more money. Once again, don’t sacrifice the artistic integrity of your piece for the sake of saving a few dollars, but do be cognizant of the implications of your decisions. This is where having a partner foundry is invaluable. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and run an idea for your next piece by them. They’re there to execute your vision as efficiently and effectively as possible. Any good foundry would be more than happy to consult with you on ways to streamline the production of your piece.
5. Make your choice of base a reasonable one. Having your 18” sculpture of George Washington stand atop a beautiful 12” bronze plinth certainly lends some gravitas to the figure, but that plinth could easily cost as much, if not more than the casting itself. A simple granite base will cost you far less and will still serve the same purpose, at a fraction of the cost, of that big, beautiful “hunk of bronze.”
6. Familiarize yourself with the art of patination. Too often we see artists settling for a traditional brown patina, and while some choose this color very deliberately, especially for public sculpture or well known figures, others make this choice by default. It’s what they’ve seen time and time again, and so for fear of breaking with convention they stick with what they know. Don’t be that artist. Nothing does more to augment the perceived value of a piece than a unique, sophisticated patina. Like you, customers see traditional brown patinas everywhere. Wow them with something different. A foundry with a good understanding of patina can help you identify a patina scheme that will enhance and enrich the beauty of the line and form you sculpted. Think of it as the frosting on the cake!