Interested in how a sculpture goes from idea to conception? Follow along as I take you through each step of the custom bronze sculpture-making process.
Step 1: Concept
To start the process, I work with the client to gather as much information as possible…feelings, memories, pictures, visions, or sketches that the client wants to capture for their custom artwork. This will show the beginning stages of the client’s dream come to a reality for themselves and others to see.
Step 2: Clay Sculpting
For large sculptures, life-size and above, I start by carving foam to make a rough outline of the sculpture. I then apply an oil-based clay that never dries over the foam. For smaller sculptures, I create a scaled-down version of a larger piece, called a maquette. These are sculpted out of solid clay without using any foam. Because the clay never dries, I can add the maximum amount of detail to give a life-like appearance to the sculpture.
Step 3: Model Making
During the model making, I create an original model from wax or clay. This is followed up with mold making, where a fiberglass or plaster cast is made. The mother mold is important for supporting flexible material and is kept for future use to recreate the original as needed.
Step 4: Wax Pouring
During this step, a special layer of wax is poured or painted into the interior of the mold. This coats the inside of the mold.
Step 5: Ceramic Shell
After wax pouring, a ceramic shell is created. Each piece is dipped into a slurry of silica sand. This process is repeated several times, giving bigger pieces thicker shells.
Step 6: Burnout
Burnout comes next, which involves de-waxing the wax sculpture.
Step 7: Metal Pouring
Bronze is poured into the ceramic shell. Once the bronze is cool, the ceramic shell is hammered, chiseled, and is released by sandblasting.
Step 8: Welding
Next, welding joins the newly-cast bronze pieces together. This takes quite a bit of time and is a very skilled and laborious process.
Step 9: Metal Chasing
After welding, metal chasing comes next (like wax chasing). This is where grinding tools are used to grind down each weld. This is one of the most grueling aspects of the custom bronze sculpture-making process.
Step 10: Patina
Once the sculpture is structurally completed, the sculptor reheats the bronze and applies different chemicals in different areas to achieve the desired coloration.