"Sugar Babe" the bronze and the original in driftwood at The Eden Project. For sale, check availability.
Not everyone has enough space to accommodate a full-size horse sculpture
but this scale is perfect for small town gardens or large interiors.
The Story of Fine Bronze.
False gold exists because of the real and so it is with bronze too. There is a great distinction between fine bronze and so called cold cast bronze, which is in fact resin with a small quantity of bronze powder added. There is no comparison between the two things. The production of fine bronze is a highly skilled, complex and labour intensive process that results in the highest quality bespoke art work, an investment that will last for centuries and grace any landscape.
Original sculptures for casting can be made from anything so long as the material used is strong enough to withstand being coated with liquid latex. Mainly I use wax, differing sorts of clays and also driftwood and cork but making a fine art bronze from driftwood is probably one of the most complicated challenges that any foundry can face and only a few have the necessary skills. Simon Allen and the guys at http://www.sculpturecastings.co.uk do an incredible job for me every time. It's always exciting to see driftwood transformed into bronze.
Here is a brief description of the processes involved.
The original driftwood sculpture is taken to the foundry where it is photographed minutely before it is deconstructed into separate pieces for individual moulds to be made. Each piece of wood is photographed and numbered. The number of moulds varies with each horse, in the case of The Young Arabian,139 separate moulds were needed but the average is closer to 80.
The Young Arabian
When all the moulds have been made the driftwood pieces are returned for me to rebuild the sculpture. Often the pile is daunting.
Once I am satisfied, the finished horse goes back to the foundry to act as a guide whilst we weld the cast pieces together. The image below shows the original Young Arabian rebuilt (except for the tail) on the right and the bronze on the left.
MAKING THE MOULD.
The form is painted with liquid latex which has an accelerator added to it so that it becomes semi solid. For simple forms it is often a two-part mould, like two halves of a walnut shell.
The moulds are destroyed after the specified limit has been reached. Each bronze will have the edition number shown on it next to the artist’s signature e.g. number one of twelve will appear as 1/12, number two as 2/12 and so on.
Liquid wax is painted onto the inside of the shell until it is several millimetres thick. The latex is then peeled off and the two halves stuck together. Wax “straws” (in fact solid stick of wax added to act as breathers or air holes for gas to escape at a later stage. Next a wax “core” or funnel is added.
THE INVESTMENT: FILLING THE GAPS.
Most bronzes are hollow. This means that the middle of the waxes must be filled with ceramic granules a bit like grains of wheat or rice. Once this has been done the whole thing is encased in Plaster of Paris, a process known as investing.
LOSING THE WAX.
The first stage of firing. The wax, encased in plaster, is put into the furnace where it quickly burns off leaving a cavity ready to be filled with bronze.
Chunks of solid bronze are put into a crucible which is placed in the furnace to be heated until molten. Things then have to happen fast whilst the bronze is hot enough to pour easily although a skilled and practiced team make it look like a leisurely process As the molten bronze is poured into the mould the gases escape from the air holes, the whole thing is then left to cool before the plaster casing is broken off. The bronze emerges from the plaster a dusty white and appears to have branches sticking out all over the place. These “branches” are where the wax “straws” or “breather tubes were.
After the branches are cut off the bronze pieces are ready to be jet washed or sandblasted to remove the last bits of plaster which inevitably lodges in any crevice.
The now clean bronze pieces are ready to be welded together.
A wide variety of tools are used to work the surface of the welds until they cannot be distinguished from the rest of the bronze and are therefore completely hidden.
This is the final stage. In the hands of a skilled person an enormous range of colours are possible. The bronze is heated with blow torches and then various different acids are applied which start a chemical reaction with the component parts of the bronze, this causes widely different colours to emerge according to the temperature and the dilution of the acid. At the very end the whole bronze is coated with fine wax to seal the surface.