Clachtoll Art Project – Bronze community sculpture

The other piece that I’ve been working on is a community sculpture.

Eighteen children from Lochinver primary have prepared designs and tried their hand at wax carving using local beeswax.

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Most of the children also did sand piece-moulds to cast metals beads which we then made up into nettle-stringed necklaces. Thank-you to the people who supported me with this workshop.

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I then cleaned up the waxes so that they would cast well; and using the same method as the children (2 part sand moulds), I cast the first sixteen mini sculptures in bronze. I have been cleaning these – cutting of the running system, filing them back, sanding and polishing them.

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The Ullapool High school children who came to the broch helped run a copper smelt. The copper from that smelt was added to the bronze used for these mini sculptures. The high school pupils also cast pewter pieces using clay models that they had designed themselves.

The community sculpture has been growing with local people making mini sculptures.

groupmouldiiAt a public event on Stoer field we smelted some more copper, which will be used in casting these waxes in bronze (thanks, Nigel, Fiona and Boyd)

Many of the dig volunteers and other people involved with the broch have added their designs, so I have a further 24 waxes cleaned and prepared for casting.

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The discussion on where they may be installed continues, but I hope they can be affixed to bedrock in a safe place near the broch.

The final public event at Glen Canisp on 16th November 2018 will be to cast the final waxes for the sculpture (including copper from the public smelt). We also have a special request to demonstrate the alloying of copper with tin to give bronze. I hope to have more details of the event planning soon.

 

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Stone to Bowl model making

waxfingersprued I make my models using beeswax from a beekeeper who lives near St Andrews. She and her bees make lovely wax that smells delicious and is just right for making models.

I  started small but wanted to make fine models to challenge the techniques. I made finger tip rings by dipping my fingers in the melted wax. stonetobowlJuliaCowieThese then need to have pouring stalks added (sprues). They are then ready to be dipped in the clay mix to build up the mould.

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After successfully casting finger tip rings I moved on to small bowls which were made by dipping clay bowls in wax and adding pouring stalks.

 

The allure of copper – Stone to Bowl

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Alongside the traditional copper casting project I have done a copper/silver cast; using plumber’s copper and silver.

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and two-part sand moulds. This is partly sustainable, with all materials being recycled; but the heat used is gas.

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One of the pieces sold unfinished at ENOS 2018. The bowl has a metal ‘pebble’ inset, a blue heat patina and is almost clean copper on the exterior because I used a different greensand on the outside.

Some learning – try different sands to give cleaner surfaces but retain textures, cost in the silver, keep experimenting, copper is an attractive metal although challenging to work with.

Stone to bowl – finger tips

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A bit of a leap forward in time. These are the first pieces cast in copper from beeswax lost-wax models dipped in clay mix. I’ll explain the process more later.

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The finger tips are a simple development of the work that I was doing in Munich and were a good test of the process, being very fine but also small. I like that they are handmade by me for my hands; and exemplify the whole process- having been made using environmentally-friendly, traditional processes.

The surface finish is pitted, but I like this and I plan to make more. It would be fun to do a community finger project.

Takako Selway and I will do some filming of the process for her film about “Hands Making”

Stone to Bowl. Copper smelting

Finally I am three weeks into my Stone to Bowl residency and I feel that I should share progress.

One element of Stone to Bowl is to develop a replicable way of smelting copper from malachite/copper ore in a traditional way that means that I can work in the landscape anywhere.

First task was to source some Scottish copper ore. The mine in Bridge of Allan is long closed, but I found some copper traces on the waste heap. These photos show the mine entrance and the pieces that I collected.

After initial smelting experiments I have been putting the ore in closed ceramic  balls with added charcoal to give a reducing atmosphere for the smelt. (While I was on my residency another artist was successfully smelting malachite using oxy-acetylene.)

The furnace is charcoal burning; and for these experiments I was using an electric air blower, although I will use bellows when I understand the process more. The dry ceramic balls are made of a local refractory clay mixed with fibre -horse dung, and sand. Inside is copper ore in pea size chunks  with 25% charcoal. The balls are placed on the furnace charcoal once it is burning well and the furnace is run until the ore is to a high enough temperature to smelt, hopefully. The balls are then plunged into water and broken open.

The first smelt was not a complete success. Some copper was formed, but a lot of this was pelletised rather than consolidated and some had to be panned from the ashes of the furnace.

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However I reheated this copper to consolidate it and a reasonable amount of copper was retrieved. Again I used an electric furnace for this process while I am experimenting.

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I am not sure that a chimney furnace is needed, a horseshoe hearth might be as successful as one can see what is going on. The chimney furnace is made of a refractory clay mix similar to that used for the balls.

I tried another smelt later in the residency of which more anon.

Stone to Bowl

The first trial casting of the copper I smelted last year at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop was a success. I added a high percentage of silver (15%) and used the top temperature setting on my electric furnace and the copper alloy poured well. The first mould was a small toy person.

The Stone to Bowl project will use lost-beeswax, ceramic dip moulds and sling-casting, but I’m trialing different parts of the process using other technologies.

Stone to Bowl

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Following further research I have made up some clay balls with a mixture of malachite and charcoal inside to smelt. Copper results from removing oxygen from the copper ore, so the sealed clay balls should be more successful that the pit smelt that I did at the Sculpture Workshop.

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I like the way the clay balls look a bit like poppy seed heads.

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I’ll let them dry out a bit before I try and get them to smelting temperature in a charcoal furnace.

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