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Prior to sculpting a piece for an institution, I spend considerable time studying each school's history and heritage, mapping out compositions, drawing, and designing a sculpture long before any sculpting actually begins. Depending on the size and complexity of the piece, sculpting can take anywhere from six to nine weeks to finish.
I work exclusively with Fine Art Plasteline. Plasteline is a non-hardening modeling clay made from clay mixed with oil and wax.
After the original piece has been sculpted, a mold must be made. I begin by painting layers of liquid rubber over the original sculpture. This "rubber glove", as 1 call it, captures the fine detail. After the rubber has set, a hard polymer shell is applied to create a rigid "mother mold" which provides structure for the form.
The mold is like a 3D puzzle as it requires that there be no angles less than 90 degrees.
Now, using the rubber mold made from the original piece, 1 will hand brush or pour molten sculpting wax into the hollow interior of the mold. The wax is allowed to cool before it is carefully pulled out of the mold, producing a highly detailed positive wax copy of the original sculpture.
Wax chasing cleans up air bubbles, seams, (from connecting areas of the mold), and any imperfections. Sprues, or air tubes, are added as outlets for superheated air during casting.
Additionally, I embellish and enhance each wax copy of the original sculpture, in order to bring additional character and individuality to the piece.
The sprued wax copy is then dipped in sew " liquid "slurry" mixture and sand to encase then dries and hardens. This "investment mold" ensures that the wax pattern and sprues are fortified by an outer ceramic shell that will become the final mold. The shell is then fired in a kiln to harden the investment mold and remove the wax. Hence why it called the "lost wax" process.
After the ceramic shells have been hollowed out, ingots of bronze are placed into a liquid state. The red-hot crucible is hooked to a movable crane and hoisted up to pour the molten bronze into the ceramic shells at 2000 degrees
After the molten bronze has cooled, the ceramic shell is removed through chipping and sandblasting to reveal the detailed raw bronze copy of the original sculpture. The sprue gates that we attached in wax (now converted to bronze) are cut off so that the metal chasing can begin!
Once the metal has been prepped, the piece is welded together into the final composition. Then, significant time is taken to chase away the weld and replace the texture in the sculpture. Pneumatic tools are used to restore detail, resulting in an exact representation of the original sculpture.
The final stage is patina, which is the coloration of the bronze brought about by the oxidation of the metal surface. This is achieved by first heating the bronze with a high-temperature torch. This allows the "pores" of the bronze to open up, allowing for the application of various chemicals and finishes to the surface of the bronze. This combination creates the desired color effect and those awesome school colors!
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