Preparing for the foundry.

The maquette

It's my practice to initially make a maquette using soft cream wax (see Letting Creativity Flow).
Basically a dummy-run where I can iron out all the issues and play with ideas.

It may or may not require an armature depending on the shape. Where one is used I will make a metal structure specific to the needs of the piece. The wax is relatively soft and so needs good support or problems will manifest during the modelling. I take the maquette through to a finished piece in every detail. Not quite finished but figures below are examples.


This is my opportunity to get to know the potential sculpture. I'll check out the plausibility of a pose. Can the arm joint actually move that way, what does the back really look like if one bends or twists that way etc. I'll check anatomy detail, bone structure, proportion. I'll play with the pose, try out different gestures, hairstyles or emotions through the non-verbal communication of the piece. I'll adjust the model accordingly. The end result will be a model whose surface is usually relatively smooth and life-like, not leaving much to the imagination. But this is good, it's my reference for the final work.

Then, I take a step back.

Sometimes even though a pose is how something actually 'is', the energy of what the pose is trying to express is lost. The model has to work as an expression of life first and foremost.

The beauty of the maquette is that I can play around with it as much as I like until I am happy.

Green Casting Wax

Once the maquette is complete I make a replica in green casting wax. No mould is used in my method, I start from scratch and rebuild it. As no mould is used, the creation is a bronze that is one-off: a unique sculpture.

Working in green wax brings its own difficulties. The biggest being the armature or lack of it. No metal can be used within the casting wax as it would cause issues in the bronze casting processes at the foundry.
Not using an armature is fine on a small piece that is quite solid. When thinner areas are involved, especially if they are supporting part of the sculpture such as the legs of a horse or an arm propping up a leaning seated figure, some means of support is required.

Making the armature rods.


To make the armature I first make wax rods. For this I have made plaster of Paris moulds to produce rods of various sizes. I melt Green Wax and pour into the mould. Once set I peel them out of the moulds.

Ready to make the armature I start by warming the rods. Once supple, I bend them as desired and then join the rods by melting them together to form the basic structure.

If however the sculpture's mass is still too heavy to be supported by a wax armature. I'll design a metal one in a very basic but solid construction that I can remove without affecting the finished sculpture once complete.

This shows a single metal armature that was fixed to a board, used on the wax of a rearing horse that only had the two rear legs to stand on. This was removed at the end.

Sculpting the figure.

My method to produce sculpture works by melting a new quantity of wax until liquid. I pour this onto a smooth surface to cool into strips or ribbons. When at the exact consistency, I lift the strips and with speed model my sculpture. (see images below) The nature of the green wax is one that solidifies, unlike the cream modelling wax, and as such needs speed and deliberation. A small window of opportunity exists in transferring the wax strips and building the model. Whilst the placement can be changed if necessary, it's much better to achieve the right 'look' from the outset. Naturally there is some adjustment and additions later and for this I use metal modelling tools: melting, joining or carving where required.



One last important addition is my signature. I sign each piece. The sculpture is then ready for the foundry to cast in Bronze using the lost wax casting process.