The Perfect Pitch

  • First I need to acknowledge that this write up is more a description of the bronze casting process than the piece it’s self.

    In case you are not familiar with rock climbing jargon, a “pitch” refers to a portion of a climb that is roughly the length of your climbing rope. To “clip-in” usually refers to using a carabineer to attach your safety line to something solid. The end of a climb when you actually “top-out” is very rewarding for me. Still, I was often left with a yearning for SOMETHING MORE. One of my fantasies in that regard was that after having topped-out I would just clip-in to the cosmos and just climb ONNN…. That seems like “the perfect pitch” and is what I was attempting to depict in this piece.

     

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    The clothing articles depicted in this sculpture were cast in the age-old lost wax bronze casting technique. A different, rather unique casting method, called “open-face” pour, was used for the climbing gear.

     

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    First, the lost wax casting: to start with, body casts were made to hold the appropriate shape of the clothes for which molds were made to ultimately represent the pose of the figure. This photo shows the plaster mold of my pelvis area being dried in our kitchen.

     

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    And here we have the actual cutoff jeans on that mold. They were then cast into plaster molds to be fired in a large kiln to cure the plaster and melt the wax away. The wax is actually caught and recycled.

     

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      These are the molds after they came out of the kiln. They are heated just prior to pouring in the HOT bronze.

     

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    The next step is the really intense and FUN part: the actual pouring of the bronze. I am sure you recognize me there on the right.

     

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    Yeah that’s me on the left; the guy on the right is called the “deadman”. The molten bonze comes out of the furnace and is poured into the cavity left in the mold after the wax is “lost”.

    A worthwhile aside here, I hope: one afternoon when the sun was in just the perfect place, it reflected off the puddle of red-hot bronze left exposed after the mold was filled. The result was the most spectacular, unearthly color I ever expect to see (caused, I think, by the reflected highlight from the sun off the perfectly flat molten bronze along with the emitted red light of the red-hot bronze). A photographer who was there attempted to capture the image, but the intensity of the light just swamped the image. I just stood there in the middle of the pour, speechless. Sorry you will have to take my word for the beauty of it all.

     

    SCAN0056On with the photos: Next, you see the now-bronze cutoffs hammered free from the mold, still too hot to handle.

     

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    Finally, the extra metal required to create “the pour” (called the spruing), can be seen at the top.

     

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     That extra is cut off with a plasma cutter (the yellow thing).

    At this point the rest of the process consists of cleaning the metal, repairing blemishes and applying a hot patina, to get the wanted color/patina. If this seems an endless process, it would be if it were not for the EXCITEMENT of it all.

     

    SCAN0059Now on to the open face casting: It was easier to make the climbing gear using the open face method where first an impression of the actual climbing gear is made in oil-impregnated sand, those reliefs are later filled directly with molten bronze eliminating all the bother with molds.

     

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    About the assembly: I intended to cut up the pieces and make it appear as though the figure was coming apart. The result turned out to look ridiculous and motivated several other incarnations of this piece, now finally peacefully at rest in our garden.

     

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     If you look at it roughly from this angle with a little imagination it appears fully assembled.

     

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    From any other viewing location it appears to be disintegrating and floats off into the cosmos (well, at least in my eye).

     

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     Finally, “clipping-in”  the focal point of this fantasy.