Working with Bronze in the Studio

Working with bronze is a very exciting and rewarding adventure. From the concept to the installation there is discovery and challenge in every step of the process. I have learned a number of construction methods and the materials that I choose from depending on the time line and design demands. Water base clay is my preferred sculpting medium, but for larger and longer term projects oil base clay is better because it does not dry out and shrink.

For a project like the otters and the herons a metal armature is constructed to support the form during construction. A foam core may be used for larger parts. Oil based clay goes over the foam core for sculpting the detail. For the complex sculptures I will have the foundry make the mold and do the wax printing.

My wall hanging sculptures are originals. Many times people ask if they are body casts. My torso, face and goddess designs begin with sculpting an original sculpture in water base clay. I make a plaster mold and a rubber mold on the original piece. The plaster will be for my future clay work and the rubber mold will be for making wax prints for the bronzes.

By pouring several layers of wax into the rubber molds, a wax print that is about three eighths inch thick is made. These wax copies of the originals are sent to the foundry. The foundry makes an investment mold on the wax print and after the investment is dried the wax is burned out of the investment mold and bronze is poured into the space where the wax used to be. This is called the lost wax method. The investment mold is chipped off the bronze after it has cooled and the bronze is sand blasted and chased. The maximum size for the investment vats is about two feet square so larger sculptures must be cut into pieces to go through the foundry processes. For larger sculptures the parts must be welded back together as part of the chasing and cleaning stage. Then the final cleaning and patinas are applied.

The beauty, endurance and challenges of bronze art work are what make bronze sculptures so valuable. It is necessary to understand the processes to fully appreciate this art form. The creative process and skill of the creating artist is only as excellent as artistry of the foundry men and women. The team work that goes into each sculpture will be part what you experience as a viewer. It is my goal as an artist to involve the viewer in the excitement and fulfillment that inspires my work, as my creations stand the final test of the viewer's eye and psyche.