Sunday Day 2 bronze casting

I knew what my Celtic boar looked like because the bronze was poured yesterday - all it needed with a little clean up after I used a hacksaw to remove the cup and bronze channels from the base. My boar, I think, looks a lot like the photograph of the actual Celtic boar. Well, maybe the ridges on its back are a little larger and it is in a kind of mid twist posture. I like its snout - very pig like but longer, sawed off the extension on its tail that was put there to stabilize it. It doesn’t have a curled pig tail but something more like a very small beaver tail. It’s legs are sturdy and it has a rectangular base. Decided to keep it the blackish bronze color and just rubbed it with a little beeswax.

Before this, we went through the procedure of melting a couple of bronze ingots in the furnace in readiness for the pour. I had done a pour yesterday so didn’t feel compelled to do it again. Besides, Kate needed the chance to pour and so did Quentin. Kate’s kneeling mother goddess based on the Woman from Willendorf was poured first, then mine and she did an excellent job - very steady. It did help that the pouring cups for our hot ladies were much larger than our solid animals. After the pour, we had to wait until the bronze had cooled a little and then they were brought to the trough and sent sizzling into the water. When they had come out of the furnace, they were red hot - my little Egyptian kore was glowing. Kate’s mother goddess was solid bronze, mine was hollow with a plaster core inside it. Once the bronze had cooled, Mark took them out of the water trough so we could bang off the plaster/molokite covering to expose the bronze. They got another dunk in the water to further cool them off. 

Then it was Quentin’s turn for his bronze pour of the singing bowl except that there was a problem and the bowl never got to sing as a flaw caused the molten bronze to not fill correctly. Half the bowl lacked the bronze filling all of the lost wax space so there was no success. And there was so much bronze needed. However, he took it well and Mark offered to have Q take the mold home with him, make a new wax bowl and either end it to Mark for him to do another pour (maybe a sand casting) or for Q to come and do the pour.

I hadn’t realized how much work is involved in bronze casting especially when I started to clean the bits of plaster/molokite off my Egyptian priestess. A lot of pounding an iron piece with the hammer to try get it out of the crevices. Her hair was very intricate so that necessitated more work - Mark showed me different ways of cleaning her hair. Finally, it was decided to sand blast by hand both the hair of Kate’s figure (which turned out so wonderfully) and then mine whose nooks and crannies were filled and had to be cleaned out. So after Mark did some sand blasting, it was my turn in a small apparatus with a sand blast hose with plexiglass on top and two gloves to work my hands into in the box to hold the sculpture. She is very heavy!! Decided to leave in the plaster core inside because that would have entailed much more work. After sand blasting, even more chasing with a small drill like sander to get more detail exposed in between her braids, bracelets, snake on her chest and arms. 

The next step in the process was to take the bronze - for example, Kate’s geometric horse - and torch it after applying liquid lead? to darken it. That way the copper sulfate in water would have a base  darker than its original brassy bronze color to lend contrast to the eventual application of the copper for a greenish patina. So, blacken the bronze, heat and then brush on copper sulfate, heat again and work until the patina looked good. The green isn’t a solid color but has the look of an actual antiquity with the way it is applied and heated. Kate’s horse turned out absolutely amazing - great proportions, good color contrast - a great success. I decided to leave my Celtic boar its dark color without chemical intervention The image I had based it on didn’t have that greenish bronze color so I l decided to leave it untouched, just rubbed with some beeswax. My boar isn’t perfect, to quote Mark, it’s a bit wonky but I love it for its wonkiness and perfect imperfections.

For my priestess, Mark used a saw grinder to get the cup and channels off and then we went to another workshop where he had a belt grinder and I smoothed out the bottom after he showed me how. I love how skilled he is and how perceptive. He’s been making sculpture for over 30 years and also taught sculpture so he definitely knows his craft. I told the crew that my friends didn’t allow me to use power tools. Well guess, what? I have used so many power tools this workshop, I am astonished. Of course, Mark did help me at times when it felt like my arms were falling out of their sockets and my wrists tired. But I did do a most of the work on my bronzes especially the Egyptian kore. She was darkened and patinated, then scrubbed a bit to remove the most obvious bluish green from a little too much copper. We took a metal file brush to go over some of her surface and then a scrubber under water. In the end, I got her snake burnished a golden bronze color along with her bracelets and some of her braids. Mark was happy with it which made me feel really good. I want to get some of you over to Wales to go through this workshop with me. It was amazing to do a process from start to finish of casting a figurine in bronze. It made me understand the lost wax process in a way that I wouldn’t have gotten just watching YouTube demonstrations.


Mark was easy going but always keeping an eye out for our safety and lending assistance when he felt like we needed it. He told us yesterday that if he barked orders it was to keep us safe and it didn’t mean he was being mean or anything. He had my complete trust and I would follow his orders anytime in the studio. When you are working with very hot surfaces, molten lava bronze and furnaces, it is best to follow the advice of the experts. It was so refreshing to work alongside an artist. I really bonded with Mark as well as Caroline who is also an artist. In a way, I felt like I was in Michelangelo’s or  Brunelleschi’s studio. I can’t wait to show them off - the Celtic boar will live in my office at WCU and the bronze Egyptian priestess needs a place of honor in my “Egyptian” living room.

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