In addition to working on the two projects I wrote about in my last 4 blog postings, I was also getting a project ready to cast in the annual Alumnae Bronze Pour at MECA. The pour was cancelled at the last minute, so I found myself scrambling to get that additional casting project ready to add into the Continuing Studies bronze pour.
The idea for the third sculpture originated with the discovery of an interesting bundle of curly thin bark strips that I spotted and purchased at a craft store. I liked their shape, texture, and size (each strip measured about 2 feet long, 1" wide, and 1/4" thick). I thought they had the potential to cast well in bronze, and would work perfectly as some sort of underwater kelp-like vertical vegetation, through which a (small) school of fish could be swimming.
I decided to start by constructing some fish out of wax. I made a paper silhouette fish template (about 7" long), traced it onto a 1/4" thick slab of wax, and then cut out the wax fish shape with an x-acto knife. I built up the depth of the fish body by attaching smaller thin slabs of wax to both sides, and used a heated palette knife to blend the attached pieces out toward the edges. After I had constructed 8 fish, I smoothed the exterior of each and began to add details. First, I created the eyes by pressing a heated small metal tube lightly into the wax and then pressing the heated end of a finish nail into the center of that circle. I used a curved piece of thin heated metal to mark the gill slits and carved a gentle slope away from the back side of each gill. The last details added were the various fins.
The only additions I had to make to the curly bark strips were the structures at the bottom that would eventually be used to attach the strips to a final base. I made flat textured irregular disks of wax that had a 1/2" length of gating wax attached to their undersides. I inserted the bottom end of each strip (which had been shaped into a narrow 1/2" long tab) in through the disk and the piece of gating and secured it. The last step was to seal each strip with spray polyurethane. I plan to either epoxy the strips into holes drilled in their eventual base, or I will use a tap and die to add threaded holes so that the strips can be bolted to a base.
The actual gating of the strips and fish was relatively straight forward... "in one end and out the other" so to speak. I did add 1/4" wax posts on both sides of each fish that will be used to attach the cast fish to the cast strips. (I put them on both sides because I wasn't sure which direction each fish would be headed in the final assembly. Once placement and direction has been determined for each fish after casting, the unneeded posts will be removed.) A hole will be drilled in each bronze strip, through which the attachment post will be inserted and welded into place. First, however, the gated waxes will need to be encased in their respective investment molds - then burned out and poured. Stay tuned!
Cynthia Smith, Maine artist, originally from Connecticut. Taught art at secondary level for 35 years, retired in 2004. Sculpts in bronze, wood, stone, clay & plaster. Her work can be seen at several mid-coast Maine galleries and shows.