Friday, September 11, 2009

Molding: Messy, Risky, but Glorious

The creation of cast-bronze sculpture is a multi-step process. Sometimes the production side of it seems to overpower, intimidate and out-cost the sculpting process. Visitors to the studio seem to generally understand that Steven develops the pieces from clay, but the stages that follow often lead to great confusion.

Granted, there is a slight Rumpelstiltskin quality to the idea that what starts out as clay somehow becomes bronze. But fairy tales aside, each sculpture has to be molded before it can be cast. It’s a messy, complicated and stressful process and we've been in the midst of it for most of the week.

Even with the mess and worry, there is a certain celebratory factor to mold making. Foremost the creation of the mold heralds the completion of the sculpture. But the more emotional side of mold making is the whole staff involvement, the related drama and risk, and fundamentally the acknowledgment that producing the mold is powerfully representative of being a producing sculptor and studio.

Only a few years ago when Steven was first attempting to produce his own work, the cost and complications of molding were a huge obstacle. One year for Christmas my parents, as a gift, helped him buy some rubber so that he could mold some sculptures. And there was a birthday party he was late for because the excitement of having finally been able to open a mold he had made was a better present than any he anticipated receiving at the party.

The mold holds the entire story of each sculpture. It protects each stroke of texture, every element of created character and evocative detail. A good mold protects the sculpture’s legacy and allows the piece to be produced perfectly for the run of the edition. A bad mold destroys the sculpture and is an expensive waste of time and materials. I’ve seen Steven boast about a mold he’s made with equal pride to any sculpture. The mold itself is itself a work of art - a series of technical hurdles and tests to champion.

These days were lucky enough to be able to mold work as soon as Steven’s completed the sculpture. It’s an achievement and the launch of a new challenge all in one, but the process brings the whole studio staff together and is a constant reminder that we’re here, we’re making art and now we always have rubber on hand.

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