Since I arrived at SSW a couple of months ago I’ve been watching the goings on of the foundry in wonderment and excitedly photographing all the metal pours. They are skills that I was amazed to watch but which were completely alien to me. I am after all a “painter” working in a sculpture workshop! I’m a bit of a skills hoarder and if there’s a chance for me to try something new and give it a go I will take up that opportunity immediately.
I decided it was time for me to give a cast a go, so naturally I decide upon a nice complex, fiddly ‘object’ to cast…a fishing net.
I’ve made my own fishing nets for several years now, having taught myself the process whilst living in Finland in 2012. I’ve been a bit obsessed with the therapeutic method of knotting and tying the rope in order to make a net that will never be used for fishing. I like the idea of taking a practical object, removing its function and showing it for its aesthetic value only. The lines and diamond shape of nets have sneaked into a lot of my past work, and recently I’ve been thinking of them again.
I decided that it was right to make my first cast, that of a net. I chose bronze for its traditional connotations but also for the fact that it wears and changes over time. As I said before, this casting process was totally new for me, so I am lucky to have the fantastic SSW technicians, Uist and Eden, on hand to keep me right!
I started by making the nets. I toyed with a few various sizes and in the end chose to make 2 small nets, each about 9 inches square. After the usual process of making the nets I dipped them in hot wax to seal the rope. Then came the process of making ‘runners’ of wax feeding into that back of each knot. Building this network of wax rods was fiddly but really enjoyable, it was at this stage I realised that a net was a pretty complex choice for my first ever bronze cast!
After lots of wax work and a couple of wax-burnt fingers it was time to start the dipping process, building up many thin layers of dip and powder coating, encasing my wax structure in a hard ceramic shell. I really liked the fluorescent colours of the shell room, however the stress of trying not to break all my carefully waxed runners was a bit much at times – and yes there were a few repairs to be done! Oops!
With a nice thick layer of ceramic shell built up around my wax structure we were good to go for the pour!
On the morning of the pour we first needed to remove all the wax and the net from inside to be left with a hollow mould to pour the bronze into. This was done by putting the pieces inside the barrel kiln and blasting the pieces with fire to melt out the inside’s.
With the ceramic shells hollow and warmed, they were ready to be laid out in preparation for the pour. For a bronze pour at SSW an underground furnace is used….it takes just over an hour to heat up, with small chunks of bronze being added slowly to the pot. The metal gets heated to a phenomenal 700 degree’s centigrade and proves to be completely captivating for all spectators. An exciting time in the process!!
After I’d picked off the majority of the ceramic shell I sand blasted the last wee stubborn bits off, with the help of Uist…I was VERY thankful to see the last of it – the complex texture of the rope really wanted to keep hold of it.
I used a dermal to shape the backs of each piece to make sure you couldn’t see where the wax runners had been and I’m really pleased with the results – I didn’t think I’d manage to get it shaped back quite so much but it really came out well. With a bit of a polish and a buff the finished casts were revealed… This isn’t the end for the nets I have big plans for them still, but the next stage will take a wee bit of time until I get to a couple of destinations later this year…
I’m really delighted with how the casts turned out and I became so engrossed with the bronze casting process. This definitely won’t be my last time casting!