What is the process for casting bronze?
Bronze is cast as molten metal, using the ancient lost-wax method. A wax copy of the original clay sculpture is dipped in layers of ceramic slip and sand to form a shell. The shell is fired in a kiln, causing the wax to burn away from the inside. Bronze is heated to over 1830 degrees Fahrenheit and poured into the hollow shell. When it’s cooled down, the shell is broken off with a hammer, and the piece can be cleaned, welded, polished, and patinaed.
This process has been used for thousands of years, and though the equipment has become more sophisticated (and safer), it is still possible to cast bronze with minimal technology.
Most of my pieces, except for those that are flat and one-sided, are cast in ceramic shells. (Jewelry is invested in a very fine-grained plaster instead). Flat pieces can also be sand-cast, though the detail is not as fine.
Foundry bronzes can last for hundreds if not thousands of years. Signed and numbered pieces cast in small editions will retain and increase in value over time.
Do you cast in materials besides bronze?
Gold, silver, and bronze are the most desirable casting metals because of their beauty, their longevity, and their ability to capture fine detail. Lead-free pewter can be charming for ornaments and other work where its softness is not a drawback. I use all of these metals on occasion, though bronze is my favorite for sculpture.
The metals I don’t use (though never say never) are brass, iron, and zinc. Brass and iron, though less expensive, do not take detail well. Zinc is commonly used for inexpensive hardware, including door knockers, doorbells, and drawer pulls. It’s often sold with a “bronze finish”. However, zinc is brittle and subject to cracking, especially in freeze-thaw cycles. And a surface finish is never as durable as the real thing.
What is cold cast bronze?
Cold cast bronze is made by mixing bronze powder into a polyester resin. It resembles foundry bronze much as wood-grain paneling or flooring resembles the real thing. If the bronze content is high enough, it can be polished and patinaed much like cast metal. Cold cast pieces weigh and cost considerably less than foundry bronze. However, they are not as durable, and shouldn’t be used or displayed outdoors.
What is a patina?
Part of the beauty of bronze is the way it interacts with the environment, changing color over time. Patinas are a way of getting a head start on the desirable changes that naturally occur with time and exposure to the environment, and controlling the less desirable ones.
To apply a patina, the artist heats the piece and sprays or paints one or more simple time-tested chemical solutions. These aren’t dyes or paints — the compounds and flame actually interact with the metal to change its surface composition. When the color is right, it’s set with a torch. When the piece is cool enough to handle, the artist brings up highlights with steel wool and seals the surface with two coats of paste wax.
Even sealed, bronze is likely to continue to darken over time. And it isn’t unusual to see it develop hints (or even streaks) of green or blue because copper is one of the metals that goes into the bronze alloy. Exactly how your door knocker ages is going to depend on how exposed it is to the weather, the humidity of your climate, and the makeup of your air.
Are there more options for my patina than the colors on the chart?
Each piece is finished to order, so if you’d like to see your piece in a different color, just ask. A few patinas may cost a little extra — I’ll check with my caster and let you know. Also, it is possible to apply patinas to match the markings of an animal, whether a breed of dog or even a specific pet. This requires sending your piece out to a specialized patina artist. Expect to spend several hundred dollars for this type of patina.
What is the pre-production price?
Before the model emerges as a finished bronze, there may be several molds made (one or more for the bronze itself, and in the case of a door knocker, two parts for the knocker ring). These have to be paid for in advance. And my caster requires a deposit to start work. This can represent a substantial investment weeks or months before the piece is ready.
I’m grateful to the “ angels” who are willing to put their trust in me, put down a deposit, and make it all possible. As a thank you, if you order your piece before it is fully in production, I offer a substantial discount. You also get a chance at a low number in the edition. (Numbers are assigned in the order in which I receive deposits)
The downside is you may wait eight to 12 weeks, depending on where we are in the process when you place your deposit. While your piece is wending its way through the process, I send out updates with photos as we pass each milestone. So you’re involved behind the scenes in the creation of your piece.
How do I pay for my order?
For a piece from an edition, you may either pay in full using my Etsy checkout, or put down a 50% deposit via PayPal. (Of course you may also send a check if you prefer.) I’ll bill you for the balance (plus shipping for international orders) when your piece is ready to pick up at the caster’s. (The deposit is refundable if you change your mind before casting, or if I have someone waiting to take an earlier piece in the edition).
Commissioned pieces (such as memorials, portrait sculptures, or other one-of-a-kind pieces) are payable in three installments. After we’ve agreed on the concept, size, and price, the first installment is due when the contract is signed. The second installment is due when the buyer approves the sculpture for casting, and the final payment when the piece is ready to pick up at the foundry.
Do you offer financing?
Etsy offers monthly payments through a third-party service called Klarna. It sounds like an interesting concept, and the seller (me) doesn’t know that you have financed your piece.
I can break payments down into smaller amounts on PayPal as well, provided the piece is paid for before it’s shipped.