The Making of Bronze Statues
Bronze is a very durable metal that is composed of various ores, such as tin, copper, lead, zinc, as well as others that are of miniscule amounts. This particular metal has been utilized throughout the ages for various applications, such as creating tools, functional pieces for the home, sculpture, and jewelry, to name the least. The resilience that this amazing metal offers is matched only by its aesthetic beauty, which begins with a rich, warm, almost golden appearance, and evolves into the deep, rustic brown with hints of red and patina. The after-effect of the bronze is actually more sought after by many individuals, and some artists even artificially age the bronze, through a chemical process, to achieve the desired effect. However, this elegant material, and form of art, have not been so successful based on looks alone. Bronze offers the artist a medium that is not only durable, but also highly manipulable. In fact, this metal can be worked into gravity-defying sculptures, which seem to capture a figure or form in mid-movement, in a way that natural materials cannot. A wonderful example of a bronze sculpture that exquisitely captures movement is the Jete, which was created by Enzo Plazzotta, and is located in London. In this particular sculpture, a dancer is caught in a mid-air stance, and is supported by, what appears to be, a simple piece of falling fabric. The strength of the bronze material allows the sculptor to use one, small support for the entire piece, where as sculptures made from natural materials, such as marble, require multiple points of support.
Bronze sculpture has long since been revered for the various qualities that the material, and the overall pieces, offer. Amazingly, just as the art of bronze has persevered through the ages, many of the key parts of the actual process, of which the most popular is the 'Lost Wax Casting' technique, of creation have as well. Several pieces of art that have been discovered in different regions of the world depict the intricate process of working with bronze. These artifacts not only provide information on how ancient cultures brought the work of art to fruition, but also how the process of working with bronze has remained, on the most basic level, the same. Our History of Bronze Statues article offers more information on the rich background of this form of art. Of course, some of the tools and techniques that are used to work with bronze in this age have evolved, the actual process that the bronze is worked with is actually very similar to that of previous eras. While the process has remained the same, overall, that is not to say that it is easy to create one of these astounding works of art. Bronze work is, arguably, one of the most difficult forms of art to master, and the process itself involves not only hours of labor, but various steps, any of which, if done incorrectly, can send the entire piece to the scrap heap. Not only are the correct tools and techniques required, but also a keen artisan skill that, often, must come naturally to the sculptor.
So what exactly is this mysterious process? Below are the basic steps involved in the "Lost Wax Casting" process.
Making the Mold From An Original Work of Art:
This step is, by far, the most difficult and critical. The detail of the original sculpture must be captured in this mold, so the initial piece must be, more or less, close to perfect. Depending on the size of the sculpture, the mold is usually cut into two or more sections for the casting.
Making the Wax Casting:
Molten wax is poured into the mold to form different layers of wax. The wax model is an exact duplicate of the original casting.
Chasing the Wax:
The wax is pulled from the mold and hand chased, which means re-detailed by a skilled artist. Even though the artist reproduces the original artwork, each piece may be slightly different from the next.
Wax rods and a pouring cup are attached to the wax casting in just the right place, which allows a full pour.
Casting the Ceramic Mold:
In a temperature controlled climate of 72 degrees Fahrenheit, the wax casting is dipped a few times into investment liquid. First, the wax casting is dipped in a very fine powder. Next, the wax casting is dipped in course ceramic sand. This step is repeated several times, each increasing the coarseness of the material to create the ceramic mold. Between each dip, the ceramic layer must cure, which means dry or harden completely, before another layer can be applied.
The ceramic shell is placed in a kiln and fired. The shell bakes and the wax is melted, or 'lost', from the shell. This creates a hollow ceramic shell mold. This is where the term "Lost Wax" comes from.
The ceramic mold is removed from the kiln and immediately the molten bronze is poured into the shell. At the time of pouring, the bronze must be 2100 degrees Fahrenheit.
After the casting has cooled for several hours, the shell is carefully broken away, leaving the unfinished bronze exposed.
Any fragments of the ceramic shell are sandblasted away. The sculpture is now inspected to see if all is correct and even. At this time all the pieces of the sculpture are assembled, or welded together, by a skilled artist. This step requires keen precision, otherwise the entire affect of balance throught the piece may be lost. This is because if a piece is not attached correctly, the seam will be uneven, which usually cannot be corrected, and the part that is attached unevenly will appear unnatural in comparison to the the rest of the sculpture. This is especially true for realistic sculptures, or pieces that are not abstract in nature.
All the weld marks are chased and re-detailed.
This is similar to sandblasting; the glass is extremely fine to ensure an even bronze finish.
The raw bronze sculpture is now hand polished in preparation for the patina.
The bronze is first heated. The patina chemical is hand applied by a skilled artist.
The wax is hand applied with heat to ensure a beautiful lustrous patina.
This is the basic steps involved in creating bronze statues today. The actuall process, as mentioned before, involves countless hours of labor to ensure every step is correctly followed, for the best result in the sculpture. For those who would like more information on the ordering process for the statues, or tips on how to use memorial sculptures, the Statues FAQ page offers vaulable information in regards to ordering a statue. These breathtaking works of art are perfect for placement in public areas, such as parks or infront of commercial buildings, or even for private use, such as at a grave site or in a home garden. Regardless of where they are placed, they will surely create a peaceful and elegant atmosphere for many generations to come.
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