You can never predict what comes your way as an artist and here is one of those happy surprises. After investing 10 weeks and several weeks of 3 other fabricators I finished a large private commission called “The Family”. I had no idea that I would be revisiting a piece that had consumed so much of my time and energy. What was a 9’ sculpture has been commissioned in a small edition in bronze and at 15”. I said yes of course to the commission without any idea of how or what was involved in casting the piece. My first foundry choice was in Berkeley CA but after some conversations I was told that this piece would be as difficult and close to as much work as making the 9’ version. This was information that I didn’t think was necessary for me to hear and I decided at that point that they were not all that interested in working with me.
After more looking around I have decided to work with Frostad Atelier in Sacramento which is an amazing foundry that was up to now located at the retired McClellan Airforce Base but has moved out and relocated to a new building the size of another aircraft hanger and they will be pouring metal in a month. This is just enough time for them to make the urethane molds from my wood maquette and get the wax ready for the edition.
It is really inspiring to be working toward bronze on this little sculpture. What draws me and I am sure other artists to bronze is that it was mankind’s first casting material used to make objects of importance and longevity. Before casting there was stone and that is why it was called the stone age. I like thinking about artisans of the past and how they didn’t even know that their efforts would become future study and that their work would be placed into their cultural history. So much of our history is connected to artisan materials or what we call today art supplies because when it is all said and done,,, what would you keep, a hand made art object or the famiies tax ledger? Another bit of trivia that the foundry pointed out to me was that the only difference from modern casting and the ancient method was that today we have gas. Took a few minutes to absorb how cool that is but I would like to add that we also have power tools but back in the day they had an endless supply of labor to pound, beat and polish materials into form.
I also like to think about my life and how it would have been lived in an early time with all of my artist friends around in a great bazaar hawking our wares while pounding urns or painting mosaic portraits and yakking on and complaining or being envious about so an so’s latest commission, some things I am sure will never change as an artist.
Here is "The Family" at 15” made from hobby 1/4" birch plywood and 3/16" basswood. Every part has been designed as an individual unit to eventually have a rubber flat mold made from it’s shape or if it is a 3D unit it will have a rubber 2 sided mold made from the wooden form. The smallest shape that I could go was 3/16” and still be able to push the bronze through the cavities of the ceramic shell.
The guy from Berkeley was correct in some ways, the wooden sculpture took way more time than I would have imagined and what was so ironic is that it had the same pitfalls in design and challenges in fabrication that the 9’ version had. This model is now at the foundry where mold makers will create urethane molds of all of the components. In a few weeks I will receive every form in wax that I will then do some minor scraping of details.
All images | Richard Downs © 2015