I love to watch how my creation turns from a plasticine figure into a beautiful bronze cast sculpture. The transformation is astounding and it never ceases to amaze and intrigue me.
Bronze casting is a 5000 year old art and the basic formula has more or less always remained the same throughout that time. The materials may change but the basics are the same.
Once my plasticine original is complete, the delicate task of getting it to the foundry without damaging it is a test of my driving skills. It is a 120km journey and the foundries are usually along for little dusty and bumpy farm road.
The foundry process is the longest and most labour intensive process. There is a definite technology and skill that these foundry owners and workers have gained over years and years of experience. It is truly something to behold and the whole casting process takes between 4 and 12 weeks to complete.
Once the silicone mould has been completed a wax positive is cast from it. I then go back to the foundry and check the positive and repair any imperfections before the crusty mould is started.
Then the wax positive gets repeatedly dipped in a slurry and then rolled in a fine grain sand until a thick crust has been formed around the wax positive. This is then placed in a kiln over night to melt the wax out and leave a void with an exact imprint where the wax once was. This is called “The Lost Wax Process” or “Cire Perdue”.
To avoid cracking the crusty mould, the molten bronze is poured into the mould while the mould is still hot. It’s a very precise and exact action.
After cooling naturally, the mould is carefully chipped off and the solidified bronze is exposed. The gates (type of vent for making sure the molten bronze gets in everywhere and there are no air locks) are cut off and the piece is sand blasted to remove all the stubborn bits and pieces of the mould.
This is the point where the finishing of the piece actually starts. A decent sanding down of the piece is necessary to make sure the surface that the artist wants is achieved. Once the surface is nice and smooth, the patina will be applied. The patina is also an in itself. It is a mixture of chemicals that are applied to the bronze surface while the surface is being heated with a flame. Depending on the type of chemical used, the surface then changes colour. There are many different patinas that can be achieved by this process.
Once the patina is done, the final touch is mounting the piece, if that is what the buyer is looking for. I like to mount my pieces on rare and exotic wood. I use a master carpenter that shapes and finishes the bases for me as I believe the base is a feature in itself.