Wednesday, 15 June 2011


Spent the day up at Faber Pyropus foundry - run by Jason.  Jason does all my 'direct burnouts'.  I give him small wax figures that I have sculpted to relate in some way to a found object - usually rust or wood, but now, for the first time, bone too.   The wax is then covered in ceramic shell and then put in a kiln so the wax melts out literally leaving the shape of the sculpture behind inside the shell ready to be filled by bronze.  The resulting figures are solid bronze and 'unique' - ie one offs.  This is the ancient 'lost wax' method - the wax is literally melted out, lost.  Needless to say, it's all a little more complex than that but the basic principle is there and it is a truly ancient art.

Today then, Jason and I were 'fettling' - in other words kicking the metalwork into shape.  Jason does the bulk of this but then I bring the found objects to the foundry and together we painstakingly get the figures to 'sit' back on the objects with the same ease that they did in the soft wax.  This done, the next process is also traditional - tea and biscuits.

Then comes the patina.  Each little bronze must in some way relate to its own individual object, the thing that inspired it.  In some cases it is a simple job of matching the two objects up, and Jason does a fine job of making bronze look like the rust I place it with.  In other cases it is perhaps more subtle - the bronze and the object have to look as if perhaps they were found in the same place or have been marked by the same process of time.  Jason does the work.  I stand right by him all day humming and haarring and holding the objects next to the bronze until I 'feel' it is just right.  He is very patient!

I took at lot of pictures today trying to capture something of the glorious filthy ordered disorder that is his foundry - a bastion of practical skill, delicate craftsmanship, brute force and sheer hard work.  In the end I chose this one of him with his blow torch because I remember the first time I had something cast into bronze and saw it being put under a roaring blowtorch.  I was very moved.   Moved that something I had made could withstand that force.  Moved perhaps just by fire and its power to transform, and bronze with its power to endure.  Even today, when I am so much more familiar with the whole process, I still love it.

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