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Metal Casting Technologies : March 2006
56 www.metals.rala.com.au know what you're doing. Michelangelo didn't just chip away at a three metre block of stone to create a statue...people tend to romanticise it." There is a lengthy process involved in creating the sculpture before it is ready to be cast in metal. It begins with creating an armature, a "skeleton" of mild steel and wood that will support the sculpture. A water based clay is used to create the sculpture around this armature, to create a three dimensional piece. A rubber mould is made from the clay sculpture, produced by painting silicon rubber onto the outside of the clay. The artist then makes a plaster cast using the rubber mould, and after making a wax copy of the sculpture, it is sent to the foundries for casting in metal. The melting point of bronze is 1260 degrees Celsius so this part of the process needs to be completed by a specialist metal worker in a foundry. Linda almost always produces sculptures of human forms, rather than just abstract shapes. She is attracted to the sense of "immortality" in sculpting human faces and forms and the value that the artistry brings to the metal - illustrated by the thieves of a Henry Moore statue who apparently wanted to melt it down for the bronze. "It is hard to say what artistry is exactly, but you know when you see a beautiful piece that captures movement because it also captures people's attention," says Linda Klarfeld. "With bronze you can capture something mid-flight, it has a lot of strength and the detail is good...you can't do that in marble or stainless steel." Being able to achieve this flexibility and detail is important in sculpture as the medium demands that figurative work is realistic -- it doesn't allow the same level of "suggestion" as in drawing for example. The process of creating figurative bronze sculpture has not changed much in the last few hundred years, certainly not the metal casting aspects. When Linda sends her mould of a sculpture to the foundry they produce a wax from the mould which she then details. Once the wax has been detailed the foundry produces a ceramic shell mould, fired in a kiln, a thin shell into which the bronze will be cast. Sometimes pieces of the sculpture are cast separately and then welded together at the end. The casting process normally takes up to six weeks. The application of a patina is the final stage of production, which is often done by the artist whilst the sculpture is still at the foundry. "You always get a great sense of achievement when you do the patina. It's like you've watched something grow from a stick figure into a real person," says Linda. "Often the idea you have for the sculpture right at the very beginning is the hardest part...so to see your idea work in the end is great. You need technical skill but even a technically perfect piece may not move someone. It needs to have that x factor as well." ● FEATURE Stage three. The sculpture is created in real-size using a water-based clay. Models may be sculpted from real life, paintings or photographs. Stage five.Rubber mould made of sculpture The wax shells are detailed before being used to create ceramic shells that will eventually be cast in bronze Klarfeld Sculpture Studio and Gallery (In the grounds of the Australian Geographic) 321 Mona Vale Road, Terrey Hills NSW 2084 Tel: (61 2) 9924 0171 Email: email@example.com Stage four. Silicon rubber is applied to the outside of the clay sculpture