While the Lost Wax Process itself may predate written history, modern foundries today use advanced materials and equipment to complete the same basic steps. My work has been cast with equal success by large industrial foundries like Valley Bronze of Oregon, and small more personal foundries like Northwest Art Casting of Bozeman, MT.
When multiple castings are desired from a single clay or wax original, the first step is to make plaster encased latex molds called mother molds. Latex is painted on one half of the piece to be molded, that half is then covered with plaster, and the piece is turned over with the process repeated for the second half. This allows the two halves to be separated. The inside surface of the mold is then painted with melted wax to capture the smallest details. The two halves are then tightly clamped together. Hot wax is poured in and then drain out to produce a hollow wax copy of the original.
After the waxes are removed from the mother mold, they are further cut apart and attached to what looks like a wax tree by branches called sprues. Each sprue is placed so that the wax will melt out cleanly and so the molten bronze can flow in with no air bubbles.
The sprued up waxes are then invested with a ceramic shell by alternately dipping them in a slurry and fine glass beads then drying each layer in a climate controlled investment room. The ceramic investment is the rigid mold into which the molten bronze is poured after the wax is melted out.
The cooled ceramic shell is inverted so the bronze can slowly be poured in as it pushes all the air out ahead of the molten bronze. After the bronze cools the ceramic investment is carefully chisled away. The pieces of bronze are cut free of the sprues to be welded back together. Then the fabricator recreates the nessesary textures that have been obscured durring the welding process. They also fabricate any parts that were too small to have molds made such as the foliage in Joya’s mouth.
After polishing and sandblasting, the sculpture is colored by the patinator who creates the patina (color) with heat and various chemicals that bind to the open pores of the heated metal. Colors such as the gray of Joya’s skin are created by alternating passes of an airbrush and the torch while the parts not to be colored are protected by aluminum foil. No two castings are identical, even when patinated back to back by the same artisan.
JOYA is a tribute to my late husband, Hyram Kitchen, DVM, PhD, whose professional relationship with the zoo world offered me unique opportunities to study exotic species close-up.