Bronze pour and patina

After dipping the molochite shells for a week, the shells had got to roughly 3kg for the largest. Although it doesn’t seem like much weight they are very large figures with only a small hook to hold them by. This made them very challenging to dip but very impressive to look at.


Unfortunately at this point my schedule got very disrupted as the extraction for the foundry failed, meaning any wax work, the burn out or the bronze pour got postponed. I was at a very critical point and to be able to finish the project on time i need the foundry to be functioning. Dallas the foundry technical demonstrator allowed and helped me to complete my burn out outside meaning i could continue on with my forms.


This is a process where the wax and molochite forms, get places upside down in a kiln and the wax is burnt out in to a pool of water. It cools allowing it to be scooped out from under the kiln.


Fortunately a few days after the burn out the extraction was fixed and i was able to complete my bronze pour. Another reason why  choose to use a casting method for the bronze was the fluid act of pour the metal. The concrete and plaster were poured forms, its very fitting that the bronze is also a complete poured form, it is one entity rather than several pieces joined together. The fact that both object have a similar way of pouring to create them to me creates a more cohesive sculpture.

After the pour, there is a lot of work needed to finish the bronze:

  • Angle grinding- cutting off the risers and pour hole
  • Air pressure gun- sanding rough edges
  • Dremel- sanding down smaller areas
  • Hand filing
  • sanding with sand paper
  • polisher- buffing and polishing
  • patinating – chemicals and blow tortch
  • wire brush, polishing


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This is a picture of Patinating bronze. I used sulphur nitrate in warm water and sprayed on to the warmed bronze, then heated again with the blow torch. I repeated this till it goes from warm yellow to dark. it is very difficult to burn the atina and the bronze in this process, so it takes a lot of concentration and knowledge of when to heat and when not to.  I went for a dark colour so i could buff back the high points of the structures to catch the light but to also look slightly aged, I did not want to over patinate it will colours so its takes away from the fact that it is bronze. IMG_4362

I also experimented with cold patina which is where the chemical is put in hot water an applied directly to the metal there is not heating with blow torch. This method works for small area or touch up, but for the whole form i prefer hot patina.


I started off lightly sanding the bronze to catch the the texture and organic nature of form i had created. However, the contrast was to stark and i then went in with a brass wire brush to smooth the colours out and make it have more of a natural bronze look. Bronze is a versatile material and will pick up what ever colour metal you are applying to it so with a steel wire brush the bronze would take on a more chrome colour. I prefer the more golden tones of the brass brush, so i stayed with this tool and waxed the pieces to lock in the colouring.


Wax Frames

After making the wooden frame the next step was to to replicate them in wax. I have picked the lost wax process instead of buy rods of bronze because i want to create a geometric frame, but one that is irregular and organic. The central piece are free formed  shapes except for the few geometric lines that cut into the form allowing it to fully sit in the frame. To reverse this and embody the dichotomy element of this project the frame is irregular geometric.


This design really challenged the boundarys of the lost wax process as the structure was made from 6x6ml wax rods, the structure was very large and difficult to support when adding the risers. Which is why  It tough me some of the limits of the material, and what limitations there are to achieve the look i want.


I decided to make a smaller structure and sand cast three out planes to re-create the size of the main sculpture. This is a process of packing silica sand around a form building a up a mould to then create a negative space of the desired casting object. However, due to the mould sitting horizontally the mould did not fully fill. I decided to leave the height of the piece as this particular form will be the only one to have a ceramic centre and be a vessel which will make it stand out from the other forms.

Continuing on with the lost wax process, the other forms were all small or wide and low enough to support themselves. the difficulty with this process is due to the joining of the rods with a hot knife, as the wax is already so thin a lot of the wax was melting away, which made joining difficult. However, any thicker and the frames would look to big and wouldn’t be as elegant.


Making the wax form is a relatively quick process, the longest process is adding the risers and pour holes. The wax is very fragile and to support the unusual structures i had to create some unusual supports, this added a lot of weight to the wax during the molochite stage.


I set out to push my skills in bronze, the size and intricacy of the forms have certainly pushed my foundry skills i had to combat lots of hurdles to create a whole form that  was happy with as two previous attempts had no worked. Although it was difficult this process was still playing to  my strength rather then TIG welding bought rods of bronze. I don’t think there would have been an organic feel to welding as the amount of precision needed would have either looked to static or looked messy. The wax was worth the risk and experimentation.

I do not think i would have been able to achieve such an intricate shape, with cutting and welding Bronze rods. Although i worked out a lot of the main angles in my drawings and Maquette, i didn’t not feel confident in cutting the angles in the rod as it would be very difficult to fix. Wax is reusable and easier is not more delicate to work with, i also think the organic feel to the frames was a successful choice regarding the entire form and concept i am working with.





Wooden frames

From the previous experiment of expanding ceramics i knew i had to acknowledged shrinkage. To test the shape of my structures and plan out measurements, i decided to buy strip pine to work out the structure.


I created this structures to form the central forms from plaster and to use as a guide when creating the wax structures. This way i was able to replicate the shape that fits the plaster form. I did not make this out of CAD as i want an element of fluidity. I wanted to create a form where each line is responsive to the lines surrounding it, which i think it  best achieved through physical experimentation rather on a computer screen.


If i were to create a business or mass produce this technique where many designs would be needed i would work on my CAD skills to be able to mock up the designs in CAD, laser cut the pieces and then re cut them in the appropriate smaller percentage. However, at the beginning of this project the wooden frames started as mock ups that were actually used to form the plaster and then re created in wax.



Plaster and Rhino Designs




The next challenge was to attempt to make a organic globular form. I played around with the idea of casting objects. However, finding objects that fir the frames would be very difficult and time consuming. Instead i wanted to make objects responsive to the form they are sat within. Plaster is a material that is poured as liquid and sets due to a exothermic reaction meaning it does not need, to be exposed to the air. Balloons or condoms are expandable forms that would allow me to set the plaster in a shape according to each frame. Balloons were a bit stiff and awkward to pour plaster in so i tired using condoms. The picture above are from testing this technique, and resting the plaster over a 8mm piece of acrylic.


I had already experimented with some wax forms, so i decided to put on of the design in rhino. This allowed me to test shapes without wasting materials. This also allowed me to work out dimensions.



Progression of the vessel

After experimenting with wire frames and slabs of clay, it became clear that the process of former, firing and shrinkage created an overly complex method for not a great pay off.  via tutorials we discussed rather than having the interior material filling the frame, have frames that sit with the frame. creating a smaller form, clearly a separate object.


I originally started designing forms with intercepting lines inspired from the shape of my bowl. These would allowed the expanded frame to encase and bulge out from the intercepting planes.


To test this as a maquette i created this structure in wooden stirs.  as the initial shape was a triangle I started the first side with spiting a plane in to 3 section as seen on the front side in the picture. I then added in lines on the other planes to make intersecting shapes. Therefore making each side different allowing for the central piece to have a more fluid and natural form.

Using a condom i blew it up to fill the wooden structure. giving a loose example of how the method would look.  AS i was till unsure if this method would actually work and the amount of former’s and shrinkage that cant be controlled would create a lot of necessary problems. The form also feels very forced. With a stronger frame it could potentially look better and offer more resistance against the expanding interior. This shape would also interlock the two pieces. I would like to explore a vessel that can become two separate entities but work together as well.

I continued on a made the frame in wax to be made of of bronze. Glass and bronze have a similar thermal expansion rate which would allow them to be involved in the same process with limited cracking or damage. The maquette is not a good example of how the form could turn out, which is why i wanted to continue of the design process with potentially glass as the theory of using a condom and slip or slab of clay is too risky with shrinkage but glass has a more optimistic chance of being successful.

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Although glass would be a good choice for the bubble affect, i do not want to give up the continuation of bronze ceramic, it is a material combination that i want to pursue further.  Instead of filling the frame I wanted to create an object that was situated inside the structure and was not a similar size or shape. I want to explore the ideas of opposite shapes as the materials are very different the forms that take should also be different.

This picture was taken with just playing with objects on my desk, visualising shapes, situation of the ides object and what kind of juxtaposition i could create. Although this shape is too large for the frame the floating affect and exposure of the some of the frame allows for the inside object to become seperate from the structure and become an object by itself.



In a another form I used a condom and filled it with plaster. I sat the cased plaster on the cross beams of the wax form allowing the plaster to set in the shape of the frame. This added a more natural element creating a vessel that is very structured but also very organic.  As the plaster is moulded from the structure that already exist prior to the pouring of the plaster, it creates a dichotomy between the pieces bringing the together as one objects, made up of two forms.


Ikebana vases

It is believed that Ikebana developed in japan in the 6th century when flower offerings on the buddhist alter became common. Japan has 4 very destict season in which a variety of plowers are specific to certain seasons allowing a variety of p flowers and offering to be made. I kebana was developed with the experimentation of placing flowers in Chinese vases. with the rise of imported Chinese objects such as the vases and paintings the styles were intergrated in to Japanese buddhist teachings.

ikebana is a wide term that emdodies different styles and teachings of flower arranging, as one of the ceremonial objects in budhism along side an incense burner and candles. Tatehana, kakebana (hung on a tokonoma post or wall) and tsuribana (hanging arrangements) are all other branches or styles of ikebana adapting the artistry to different lifestyles.

Kao Irai no Kadensho


Ikebana is not just a ritual style of flower arranging it also embodies philosophical traits.

the basic  theory is that is present in all styles of ikebana is about not only appreciating the beauty of flowers, but appreciating their inner essence and express their natural forms. it is thought that the unique shapes originally were designed to prolong the life of flowers, as this is deeply routed in Chinese and Buddhist beliefs.

there is an emphasis on shape line and form of the flowers, including the stem and leaves which in turn relates down to the vase. Not thought to be essential but quite prevalent in many designs is the act of minimalism.

"La simplicité est la sophistication suprême." ~ Léonard de Vinci.















I have researched Ikebana vases because compared to most ordinary vases they tend to be more sculptural looking. However these vases are a perfect balance of ornamental and functional.As I am using bronze any functional ware used for consumption of anything would be poisonous. table ware was not possible with my material choice, wheres vases are capable of being useable and decorative.





The value of functionality


There seems to be two distinct categories within the art community; functional and ornamental.  Throughout my research in my dissertation question of what is craft? I found that Function is often associated with traditional craft. I regarded myself in our seminars as a maker in the craft category, and wanted to create something functional. However the use of bronze in my work limited the functionality of many object i could produce, for example tabel ware.This sparked the question ‘what really is function?’ and ‘what value does it add to an object?’

The dictionary states function as :



the kind of action or activity proper to a person, thing, or institution;the purpose for which something is designed or exists; role.

synonyms for decorative include” (, 2018)

The first example that comes to mind regard Art is tableware. Something highly functional but is designed well and hand made. Wheres sculptures in a gallery are seen as non functional. Unless you view its aesthetics as its function.  

Howard Risatti in a theory of craft discusses stream lining in the 1920’s and 1930’s. This is where an object has ” a contoured designed[sic] to offer the least possible resistance to a current of air, water, etc.; optimally shaped for motion or conductivity.” (, 2018) Risatti describes how large amounts of object were designed and made streamlined where it was not necessary, as it had become a symbol of functionality at the time. ” streamlining style transformed functionality into a sign in a language system, one that overruled actual functionality as a proper inherent in an object’s ability to perform a physical function” (Rissatti, Theory of Craft. p237). This is an example of the popularity of functional objects. How something is  more worthy of investment if it usable. Objects that had no requirement to be streamlined were taking on this form, although visually it may have been just an aesthetic trend. In regards to the art and design community streamlining was used to target

different audiences where functionality was a key factor. If an object has a use, it can support the desire for the object.

However, purpose and function are two separate things; purpose is the act of achieving something the maker has intended for the object to do.

Function is the reason that an object was made, the original intention of the maker, conversely, purpose can be anything the object has the capacity to fulfil. Risatti makes a point of separating the two terms as, with art, in the non functional sense, has a purpose to move the audience and create some form of emotional response, where its function could be just to visually look a certain away. With a functional object, for example a mug, the purpose is to be a piece of tableware, perhaps part of a matching set, and its function is to hold a liquid.

Fine art or ornamental art found in galleries, have always been held in high esteem whereas craft and functional ware was barely even considered a craft. Through the century, craft has slowly been building a reputation for itself. With the help of artists such as William Morris and John Ruskin, founders of the Arts and Crafts movement, the status of craft started to rise to be on par with ornamental arts.  

With so many objects in our modern day lives, we have an abundance of stuff that we can easily buy and replace. The need to have objects that are visually appealing, but have a function, should in theory reduce the amount of stuff we own. With this in mind I wanted to create work that was visually appealing yet useful. I wanted to move away from my comfort zone of sculpture, and progress to functional ware. As the project continued, I realised the materials and form were more important to me than a straight forward function. I decided to focus more on the actual object’s visual appearance and process of making, and work flexibly with the outcomes, building on my progress, rather than forcing a function from the pieces.