Building A Bronze Sculpture

The Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Memorial
 An overview of the stages in building a monumental bronze sculpture.

Drawings on paper are made as the concept for the composition is roughly approximated. A drawing can quickly demonstrate an idea for the patron as well as the sculptor.

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One or more small clay studies, no more than 20 inches high, are made to create the three dimensional composition. 
The basic composition and the gestures of the figures are determined in this small scale where change is relatively easy. When the concept has been approved the clay maquette is cast in plaster using the waste mold process.
Boulder Base  
After a careful search, a suitable boulder, weighing about 20 tons, is procured for the base for the bronze figures. A structural engineer designs the massive 20-ton foundation under the bolder, to withstand frost, wind, and water damage.  The boulder must be installed at the site before the scale model can be accurately built.

Locating the feet on the bolder base. Elevations shot with a builder’s transit for half size model production.
Site Design  
Working closely with the sculptor, landscape designer Ann Johnson creates a site plan which is crucial to the sculpture’s appearance
in the context of the landscape and to the experience of the visitor to the sculpture site.  
Issues such as flow of foot traffic, seating, lighting, plantings, close and long views of the 
and access are all addressed in the site plan.
The public was invited to help fund the building of the sculpture by purchasing engraved granite paving stones for the site.

The half size four foot high “scale” model. Terra cotta clay over a steel and wood armature.
Plaster Cast of Scale Model
The scale model is one half the size that the final bronze will be, in this case it is 4 feet high.
Working with live models the gestures, proportions, and anatomy of the figures are carefully worked out
before the details of clothing are added.
The scale model is shown above in clay and after it was cast into plaster using waste molds.
Work directly on the plaster refines the details.
Full size steel and wood armature made atop an accurate plaster cast of the top of the bolder base.
Full size clay.
Rubber molds in progress.
Wax positive pieces with vents and filling gates attached.
Ceramic shell mold built up by dipping and drying many layers.
The “raw” bronze pieces are welded back together and chasing details in the bronze can be done before the patina is created.
The bronze is craned over to the base which has been drilled to accept the stainless steel rods welded to the feet.
Careful checking and a bit of granite cutting insures a good fit for the feet and the correct stance of the figures.
Yearly washing and waxing keeps the patina in good shape.