This is a photo of Blue, Butler University’s mascot. Butler has been a champion basketball team for generations, and I have had the honor of doing several projects for the university. The latest was a columbarium to hold the ashes of all past and future mascots. I was commissioned to do a sculpture for the memorial.
A block of styrofoam has been begun. Myself and my fellow sculptor and friend Anthony Jacobs used a large hot wire to cut through the foam. Nobody else was there to take our picture.
Carving the styrofoam armature is very tricky, because the eye’s tendency is to imagine the form of the finished piece, which would leave no room for experimentation and improvisation.
The clay I like is an oil-based clay that is hard at room temperature, but softens with heat. I use an old electric wok to heat the clay. Hot it can be poured; cold it can be carved like stone. It is useable for different purposes throughout the temperature range.
Bronze is very revealing of texture. The difference between the two textures, once cast, will be very clear.
Trip, Butler’s current mascot, came to inspect the finished clay master. Henry gave Trip a good sniffing. Note that Trip even has his own car!
Michael, Trip’s owner and handler, came to inspect the finished clay master. We made a few adjustments, and then Trip gave his approval.
The finished master on the way to the foundry.
At the foundry a rubber mold is taken of the clay master. The mold is made of several different sections so that it can be removed without damage to itself or to the master. Once complete, the mold will beken off the master and painted on the inside with hot wax until a wax reproduction of the clay master is created. The wax reproduction is about 1/4″ thick.
The finished mold. The rubber has been covered with plaster so it will hold its shape. Each of the plaster sections has been keyed so that they lock together.
After the wax reproduction is finished it is cut into smaller pieces, each of which is dipped repeatedly into a fluid form of ceramic slurry, each coat of which is also coated with a fine sand for stability. The ceramic is liquid, so it conforms to the shape of the wax perfectly. Once enough of a shell has been formed, the mold is fired in a special kiln, which melts the wax out at the same time that it fires the ceramic shell. The completed hollow mold will have molten bronze poured in, which will perfectly reproduce the shape of the wax reproduction of the clay master.
The bronze head, after the ceramic mold has been broken off and the bronze sandblasted clean. The sections will next be welded back together, the welds cleaned and the texture chased to match the original, and then a patina will be applied.
The welding process.
John Cline, Foundry master, demonstrating how difficult the process is.
The completed bronze is then heated with a torch and chemicals are sprayed onto the hot metal to change the color of the surface of the metal. After this, the sculpture is sealed and waxed.
Headed to Indianapolis for the installation on campus.
The finished sculpture, installed on campus, with the completed columbarium.
Dedication. Beautiful day.
The finished sculpture will be guarding the remains of the Butler mascots for generations to come. Thanks Butler Class of 2014!!!