A lot of work goes into making a Bronze sculpture come to life. It generally takes a year from start to finish to create one life size statue.
There are 14 steps to go from the design stage to installation.
1) Design and Maquette:
Initial consultations take place with clients to determine the clients needs and vision. Often this would start with a design concept on paper followed by a small scale model of the statue called a maquette. After approval the real work can begin.
The artist creates a metal sub-structure to carry the weight of the sculpting clay. This armature takes days to create and provides the sculpture with a sub-structure that often parallels (as in the case of humans and animals) real skeletal composition.
3) Sculpting in Clay:
This is where the artist’s skill really shines. This process can take between two and three months to complete in consultation with the client. Once the first layers of clay are put on the armature, the sculptor then builds the final statue by sculpting multiple layers for that perfect look.
4) Making a Mould:
At this point the foundry technicians take over and create a mould of the finished sculpture. While it sounds simple it does take some skill. Generally the clay sculptures are beyond repair after this stage and are broken down to be reused in other commissions. A layer of silicone is applied over the sectioned pieces of the sculpture. Once that is done then each section is layered again in plaster to keep the silicone rigid.
5) Creating Wax Moulds:
Once the silicone moulding is complete it is then brought over to the wax room. In here our technicians cast each moulded piece with hot wax to create an exact copy. It takes skill and attention to detail to recreate each piece and then tree them onto a frame work before being dipped in ceramic solution.
6) Creating a Ceramic Mould:
Once the wax work is complete the pieces are then moved to the ceramic dipping room. Each piece will be dipped at least 12 times with each coat given at least a day to dry in between. When the last coat is dry, the moulds are prepped for the next stage.
7) The Burnout:
Once the ceramic dipping is complete the wax in the moulds need to be burned out in a special kiln. At this stage, not only is the wax burned out but the ceramic is fired to harden the shell.
This is where the fun stuff happens. The ceramic moulds are pre-heated in the kiln. Bronze is melted in a purpose built furnace and the temperature is brought up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the moulds are pre-heated they are placed into containment barrels. The bronze is then poured into the ceramic moulds. It takes several hours for the bronze to cool down enough to begin the next stage. A typical life size statue contains approx 25-30 pieces and require multiple bronze pours which can take up to a week.
Once the moulds have cooled they are then turned over to the metal workers who break the ceramic away from the bronze and cut away the extra sprues, runners and gates from the piece.
10) Metal Grinding and Sandblasting:
Once the pieces have been broken away from the ceramic they head off to the sandblaster. And then from the sandblaster to the metal cleanup which requires a lot of grinding.
Now the bronze statue begins to take shape…literally! Starting from the ground up the bronze pieces are welded together by expert craftsman. Sometimes the pieces need to be persuaded into place.
12) More Metal Grinding and Sand Blasting:
It is time to blend the weld lines so they become hidden. It takes a deft hand and experience to hide the weld lines. After the statue has been finished it is off to the sandblaster again where the bronze is blasted down to a shiny golden colour.
The bronze sculpture cannot stay in this present form, it needs some colour. Using chemicals the artist can create multiple colours in the bronze to get the finished look just right. Once the patina has been applied the statue is given multiple coats of wax and buffing to make the colours really pop.
14) Delivery and Installaion:
Once the statue is finished it is delivered to the client for a supervised installation.