Friday, March 20, 2009

Forging Ahead

If ever there was an experience that could dispel some people's image of the arts as elitist, it was my visit to the foundry that artist Chris Schulz uses to forge his bronze sculptures. Tucked away on a back street in Santa Ana, various equipment spilled out into its lot. Inside, a fiery furnace opened to reveal crucibles being heated and silicon molds being baked. A crucible was carried over with giant tongs by the foundry owner to a device that heated it further as he tossed in ingots of bronze. Within moments, these were reduced to a molten mass, and I felt like I was looking into the caldera of Mauna Loa. After skimming impurities from the top, the crucible was again lifted and carried over to a mold where it was poured. The mold-makers were in a separate building where they covered artists' clay sculptural pieces with wax, which are then dipped into a silicon-based slip to coat them prior to firing. The wax melts away and the shards of clay are removed prior to pouring the molds. This is a labor-intensive, time-consuming and dangerous process. Remember it the next time anyone talks about namby-pamby aesthetes!

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