My methods involve a process called kit bashing, where I assemble found and burnable objects reminiscent of childhood toys, game pieces, organic materials, and imported miniatures in order to convey a narrative or story. Recycled objects and elements find their way into the mix as new life is breathed into discarded items that become precious metals. I mainly work Hunched over my trusty JH Rosberg bench from 1901, sporting chemistry class goggles to shield me from flying wax, plastic and metal shards. Kit Bashing: The objects are rarely kept whole, I cut into and carve away from the objects I select, altering them as drastically as needed to achieve the desired look and shape. A mashup.
Examples of where the found objects come from: The head was sawed off a vending machine toy I picked up in Osaka Japan, the grey glasses came off of a Lego minifig, the star from a tiny wand, the torso was once part of a tiki keychain from Hawaii, the small hands were lopped off a toy soldier, the Lego birds are missing their tails, the large hands came from Tinkerbell, the headphones are a mixture of doll headbands and Lego ribbons, and the two Barbie boomboxes were sawed in half and gutted so I could have speakers and buttons visible on the front and reverse of the piece.
I use melted wax, glue, knives, candles, and altered dental tools to construct the plastic/wax positive.
I make a mold and use a scalpel to carefully cut it away, creating a negative space.
Molten wax is injected into the mold, creating a wax positive.
A comparison of the plastic/wax positive and the wax positive.
I dissect the wax and carve into it, making deeper, more deliberate shapes with x-acto blades, frankensteined dental tools, and files. I spend the majority of time re-carving the wax.
Filing the wax.
Gutting the wax.
Making the detail a little deeper, more pronounced.
Cleaning the wax.
Reassembling the band.
A side by side comparison of the pulled, untouched wax, and the carved wax. The differences may look slight in this picture, but is more evident in person.
Gating and sprueing the wax, in preparation for casting. This is where science begins to play a major part. Knowing how different molten metals pour and travel in their liquid state, at thousands of degrees, effects where each gate is placed. The diameter/girth of each sprue, the angle of the piece, where the metal needs to fill before it starts cooling, how long it needs to be away from the entry point when casting, all of these little details must be considered to ensure the piece will cast properly.
The gated piece on the flask base.
Vacu-filming the piece. Vacufilm is highly toxic and flammable, yet helps keep air bubbles off of the piece. This is the moment during the process I begin working with a respirator.
I place a perforated flask around the piece, and prepare the investment. Investment is a fine powder that activates with water, encompasses and hardens around the wax piece, similar to plaster. The investment is highly dangerous also, the fine crystalline silica particles of the powder, when inhaled over time, are carcinogenic and literally harden your lungs.
I cover the flask with a fitted, heat sensitive plastic that shrink wraps when hot, sealing the perforated holes shut so the investment doesn't ooze out.
I apply constant, mild heat to the shrink-wrap with a hair dryer.
I weigh out the investment. Investment is a fine powder that activates with water, encompasses and hardens around the wax piece, similar to plaster. The investment is highly dangerous, the fine crystalline silica particles of the powder, when inhaled over time, are carcinogenic and can literally harden your lungs.
With a graduated cylinder, clean water is accurately measured out to the ml. The amount of water needed is proportionate to the amount of investment used.
The dry investment is mixed into the water.
Time, weight, and heat are integral parts of casting. If the timing of a step is over or under, if the gram weight or milliliter volume is incorrect, or if the materials are too cold or hot, will cause huge amounts of error, and then it's back to the wax injector to pull a new wax and start carving again. Air bubbles are a nuisance too, the vacufilm provides an airtight surface on the wax itself, but the investment mixture might be riddled with air bubbles that will cling to the wax, causing metallic pockets and bubbles that cast too. I pour the investment into the flask, vacuum the investment at around 25-30 pounds of air pressure, until it comes to a rapid boil, lending all the air to reach the top surface away from the wax. The investment sits for 2 hours in a vibration free area to harden, or achieve a green state.
The hardened flask is placed in a kiln for roughly 5 or so hours and slowly climbing to reach 1350 degrees fahrenheit. It rests at that temperature for a couple of hours so the investment cooks and the wax piece inside literally vaporizes from the extreme heat, creating a negative space where the wax once was.
I weigh out bronze or sterling silver casting grain depending on the piece. My sterling silver pieces are generally one off, unique pieces and the bronzes are a limited edition. No matter what metal I use, every piece has to be injected with wax, re-carved, gated, invested, the whole lot. Not many short cuts with my work, and a ton of time invested.
The metal is placed in a graphite crucible, the blackened core in the center, and I heat up my metal in an electro-melt furnace.
I heat Sterling Silver to 1780-1810 degrees fahrenheit, Bronze to 1905 degrees. The furnace startes at room temperature and ramps up to 2000 degrees in 20 min. I hand pour the molten metal into the negative space of the flask. It's the same motion as pouring coffee from a coffee pot.
The metal is freshly poured and still cherry red, cooling at roughly 1400 degrees.
The metal is poured into center hole of the flask that is is lowered in a cavity where a vacuum pump sucks the molten metal into every crevasse and detail.
The flask cools for 8-10 min and then quenched in a bucket of cold water.
The cold water hitting the high temperature creates bubbles and steam powerful enough to disintegrate the investment and dislodge the piece. I use a brush to scrub away any excess investment.
I cut and saw the gates and sprues off the piece, and grind away any imperfections left behind.
The piece is placed in a concoction of sulfuric acid and water heated to 160 degrees to eat away any oxidation. The pickle pot.
My polishing tumbler.
The piece is tumble polished for 2-3 days for a shiny, bright, finished piece. During this step I let it run its course. Be on the lookout for Art Attacks Season 2- Where you can watch my process in action from start to finish. It's one thing to see it in pictures, but seeing it in moving pictures is hard to beat- especially the pour of cherry hot molten metal. ♥