FAQs---and then some...
How do you begin a new bronze sculpture?
When I want to create a sculpture or begin a new commission, I have to do research. Whether it's an animal, a person, an historical piece, or any number of subjects, I do as much background as I can in order to fully understand it. A prime example is my bronze called "Legends of the West" I traveled to Deadwood, South Dakota in order to get the "feeling" of who Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane were. Books only give you so much if the subject is no longer available. In this case, I visited the graves of these two very historical people. I gave me a feeling that nothing else could. I walked the town, went to the No. 9 Saloon where Hickok was shot and learned as much as I could about them. Then I begin to create the piece.
What materials do you use to make the sculpture?
I use Plastilina clay or sculpture wax. Both come in various levels of hardness. Check at your local art store or order online. I like the softer clay. The wax is a brown wax and has added hardeners.. I mix my own. Check this online also for hints and tips.
What is an armature?
An armature is an inner framework or "skeleton" that is use to hold the clay or wax. It's built in the general shape of the item you are creating. If you are building a heavy, large piece use piping found in the hardware store in plumbing, including flanges and connectors. I also use aluminum wire. These are then attached firmly to a work board and must be strong, yet flexible, for changes.
What tools do you recommend?
Eventually, the more you sculpt, you will decide what you like to use. If you are just beginner, buy a couple of metal clay tools--the kind for sculpture clay and wax. Look in Dick Blick catalogs or Jerry's. These are stronger for this medium. You can buy wooden tools used for ceramics but these, such as loops and some wire, may not hold up and may break. Anything that gets the desire effect for you is OK. Some, however, are made to do a certain job or create a certain texture.
Some odd ones that I use are:
pencils, sticks, toothpicks, nails, forks, combs, items that create any kind of texture, a stiff short corn whisk, and any variety of "found items". Use your imagination!
After I finish my sculpture, then what?
Take many pictures for your records, add any information to your notebook. Keep records.
When you are satisfied that the end results will be just what you envisioned, you have to decide if you want to cast it in bronze. I am assuming you do. Find a reputable bronze casting foundry that specializes in the lost wax method. Ask other artists who they would recommend, visit foundries, talk to the owners!, and the talented craftspeople who work there, and look around. It should be a fairly clean and organized. It should be safe and it should be busy!
Bring in your piece, discuss with the owners what you need to do, and get prices for all steps involved--get a written estimate AND decided then and there how many you will eventually cast--"the edition". Decide how many you need to cast at this point. Do you need bases for them or will you be making your own? BE PROFFESSIONAL. Ask if they do it there for you. Get previous recommendations. If you try to skimp on quality it will show! Do you have buyers already? Get half down NOW!
There are many steps that will be done in order to finish your masterpiece. Be there to insure quality. Don't be shy! Make sure it's what you expect. It's very expensive and you should be satisfied with the results including what patina you would like.
What if I want to make more than one casting?
Making an "edition" of your sculpture is a good way to put many pieces into galleries, sell at shows, or simply take orders to sell by yourself. After getting your prices, ask the foundry if you can get a discount for making more than one. Sometimes you can--most likely you can't but it doesn't hurt to ask and give them more work. "Limited" editions should be small depending on your market, Most of us may limit ours to 25, 50 or less. You must mark each casting with the "edition number". For example: 1 / 25 is engraved somewhere visible on the surface of the bronze near your signature and date. IF this is an unlimited edition and you want to cast as many as the market will take, then you leave this blank--you do not put any numbers on the piece.
Here, I will simply say, "Protect all of your works!" Add the circle c (on the bottom area near your name and date, make a small circle and draw a "c" in the center--make sure the year of the creation of the piece is here, too). THE COPYRIGHT GOES INTO AFFECT THE MINUTE YOU SAY IT'S FINISHED--IN CLAY OR OTHERWISE. This "copyright" symbol will usually be enough to keep it safe and no copies can be legally made other than those you do or authorize. Take several pictures at various angles. Keep records of each sculpture...you then can also make this VERY legal by sending these into the copyright office in Washington D.C. Check online for details.
These are just a few questions that have been asked and answered about my work, particularly the lost wax method of bronze casting.
If you have any questions, please email me at