Where and how do your ideas for sculpture come about Stephen?
I’m not sure where all my ideas originate, they can be triggered by something I see or a feeling I may have about a particular subject. I observe all that is around me and absorb myself in the now. Staying still long enough to feel the essence of my subject is important to me and central to what I eventually create.
Because I love to draw and play with animal characters, there seems no end to the possibilities of entertaining others. And that is truly my purpose – to create something and share it with others. My ability to translate a quick sketch into a bronze sculpture never ceases to amaze me. The ideas I eventually bring to life go through a conscious and subconscious process of ‘smile-ability’ both for myself and my audiences. So far so good.
My work comes from all directions, direct sales from existing clients and of course commissions.
How do you start a piece of sculpture?
Depending on the scale of my subject, I will decide early on what materials I want to use that will capture the energy of the piece.
My usual approach is to take some wire mesh and cut lengths and shape to my basic shape. I often lay it on a dark ground so I can see clearly the shape it is taking. If I’m not happy, I will reshape it until I have satisfied my inner vision of my piece. Dynamism is important to me because it expresses energy, so many artists fail to grasp this basic concept.
Once I’m happy with the wireframe, I insert metal bars inside the structure to give support and strength. This is called and armature.
I need to think about how it will stand, often the piece is leaning and unbalanced, so I need to ensure that the base and framework are strong enough to support the final piece in resin before it goes into bronze.
I then wrap the whole piece in silver tin-foil. This closes off any holes or gaps in the mesh so when I apply the resin at the next stage, it sits on the surface, reducing weight and resin.
Mixing this resin paste with a chemical hardener is toxic so I wear a face-mask to filter out the harmful fumes.
I apply a small amount of resin to the piece, starting at the base to ensure I have a solid structure. I have to work quickly as the resin takes only 15 minutes to dry to a concrete finish. Using a spatula, I work with free movement and the timing restriction helps me do this. Trying to capture a surface texture that suits the piece. You will notice that I don’t work the resin when I’ve finished but leave a rough textured effect that seems to work.
When everything is complete, I spray paint the piece with primer and then a topcoat to achieve a bronze look effect. This is done to show my audiences how the piece will look when it is cast in bronze.
Building each piece on a mobile base helps me manoeuver the piece when I’m working on and when I come to transport it to shows or the foundry.
Can you tell us more about the bronze process?
The lost wax process has been used for over 2,000 years to cast bronze. The process outlined below helps you understand this ancient but effective method of creating bronze.
Most people are surprised to learn that nearly all the bronze sculpture you see are hollow – even the small ones. This saves on material, weight and cost.
Bronze is a commodity that rises and falls, but it’s the craftsmanship in casting and finishing the bronze that is the main cost of each bronze piece.
Bronze lasts for a lifetime and beyond and when we buy a bronze we are making an investment, to retain or relinquish at a later time, a bronze should be treasured and respected.
Stephen’s bronze foundry is at www.bronzefoundry.co.uk