Traditional techniques & modern materials
I use sculpting and casting techniques that artists have used for centuries, along with the very best modern materials. This blending of traditional techniques with modern materials is at the heart of my work. I will show you what is involved in making one of my bonded bronze plaques.
The photo at the top of the page gives an idea of the various steps I go through to make a new sculpture. I work from my own photos and sketches to design a piece, then sculpt the original, generally out of polymer clay or plastilene. This time-consuming and painstaking process produces a beautiful, highly detailed original, ready for reproduction.
At right is the original sculpture for my Hawaii plaque. I often use different color clays when sculpting, and I work one layer and one section at a time. The low angle lighting helps reveal the intricate surface detail. I spent approximately 100 hours to sculpt this piece.
|Mold making is an art all by itself
I then make master molds from the original sculpture. These molds are made of silicone rubber, a wonderful material that captures the finest detail, but it's quite expensive. I have used other mold materials in the past but only this rubber mold technique captures all the fine sculpting work I put into the original piece.
At left is a close up of the mold. You can see the same detail as the sculpture but as a negative, meaning that was high on the original is now low, creating an exact reverse copy of the sculpture. The orange color on the edge of the mold is residual bronze material.
Making a mold such as this requires patience and being comfortable with chemicals and exact measurements. The material must be mixed precisely, poured over the original in just the right way, and allowed to cure at a certain temperature for just the right amount of time. Any mistake here and the entire mold is ruined.
The casting process is very meticulous and time consuming
Next I make a small number of castings, one at a time, by hand. As with making the mold, the "pour" is an art form all its own.
The casting medium is precisely mixed and carefully poured into the mold. Factors such as temperature, humidity, expansion rate, set time, proportion, and many others must be considered, and a tiny variation in any one of these can ruin the casting.
For this bonded bronze plaque, three separate pours are required. The first one uses only pure bronze, the second is a bronze/urethane mix, and the third is mostly urethane along with ground stone. These three pours must be done in quick succession or the casting will not come out right.
I can only make a couple of castings each day since the mold needs to "rest" between pours. Each mold only gives between 30 and 40 castings before it begins to lose detail and must be destroyed. That's the trade-off for the exquisite detail that rubber molds offer.
|Now for the finishing steps
After allowing the piece to cure just the right amount of time I remove it from the mold. Excess material must be removed by hand. Then the piece is washed to remove any mold release and skin oils.
Next I gently buff the surface with steel wool to bring out the natural bronze shine. This material ages like bronze and can even be given a patina.
Now I perform finishing steps such as adding hanging wire. Some of my pieces include figurines, which are cast separately and attached at this point. In the case of my limited edition pieces, the plaque is mounted on an original oil painting on board and then framed. Finally, it's done!
To see more photos of this piece please go to the Hawaii Bronze Plaque page. To see all my currently available plaques, check out the Bronze Plaques page.
|My work can only be reproduced with these precise methods
I have worked in bonded bronze, alabastrite, hot-cast bronze, silver and gold, bonded porcelain and marble, expanded foam urethanes, and other casting media. The detail in my work simply could not be captured in traditional hot-pour bronze. The pieces on this web site are all made of bonded bronze or Alabastrite. I love these materials: it holds the finest detail (right down to my fingerprints in the oil on the surface of the original if I don't wipe it down), it's tough, lightweight, and fairly affordable. This is a wonderful medium that allows everyone access to fine sculpture.
I really love sculpting and casting. I am always looking for ways to improve my work, whether by using a new sculpting technique or experimenting with different materials. I have been an artist all my life, and a professional sculptor since 1993, and I hope to be able to do this for many years to come...