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(See also: 'mathematical sculpture' with paper tape )
My interest began by accident. When our children were young, we took them to 'The Summer University'. It was an activity based holiday run at Loughborough University. The courses you could do were very varied (from yoga to making violins, from local history to painting, from water sports to model engineering, ...). The children also did their own thing, which they loved. I wasn't sure what to do the first time. Nothing took my eye, but the course on metal sculpture mentioned welding, which I thought might be useful to learn, so I signed up. It was an excellent course, and although it included some welding to produce art out of scrap metal, a lot of the time was spent casting bronze sculptures. We used the 'lost wax' process. Make a wax model and encase it in plaster, then heat the plaster so the wax melts and runs out. Pour in molten bronze. Let it cool, remove the remains of the plaster, clean up your sculpture (repairing any bits that didn't cast properly) and polish as required. It sound easy, but it was quite hard work.
The results are all round the house, and some of them are shown in the pictures here.
The griffin is a 3-D version of the emblem of my old school (Brunts School, in Mansfield). The eagles and dragon are subjects I like. I presented the two trophies for the striking competitions of my local bellringers (Sonning Deanery ). I forget what inspired the twisted shape, bit the inward looking classical faces were from stock moulds.
The dog is made out of bits of old machinery welded together. The spring tail wags if you push it, and also acts as a useful holder for a walking stick in the hall.
The hang glider pilot is cast bronze, and the glider is made out of welding rod. I was trying to learn hang gliding at the time, but I gave up a few months after I made this. The 'snoopy' has a practical use as a boot scraper (which had been heavily used by the time I took the picture). The horked animal head was also made from 'found' material, and hangs on the wall of my workshop.
As well as casting bronze I cast several things in aluminium using the 'lost polystyrene' process. It's much quicker than lost was casting. You make a model by carving and sanding a block of expanded polystyrene. Pack it in foundry sand and then pour in the molten metal. The heat turns the polystyrene into smoke, which disappears into the sand leaving leaving the metal in a cavity the same shape as the model. As cast, the surface preserves the pattern of the polystyrene grains. You can leave that to provide a natural look, as I did with the rope spider (used to pull up bell ropes when not in use at All Saints Wokingham) and the vase, or you can smooth and polish it, as I did with the top of the vase and all the animals.
Some of the polystyrene we used was shaped for other purposes. There were large blocks that had holes for large bottles (about 6" diamater) with smaller holes in the spaces between the bottles. I used the small hole for the core of the vase, with 'arms' where the polystyrene went between the bottles. To make a more interesting shape I cut the block into slices and rotated them alternately by 45° to give a more interesting shape.
The abstract shape of the fawn was also inspired by one of these blocks. The curve of its back was around a large holes, the gap between its body and front legs was round a small hole fawn was also inspired by and to save material there were smaller n some cases I left that as a natural finish but in others I wanted a polished surface so I smoothed off the grain structure. The curl-ups were of course inspired by M C Escher, whose work I admire.
Click on images for larger version and use arrows to move between pictures.
All material Copyright © 1980 - 2007 John Harrison.
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