Bronze Casting

FIREBIRD BRONZE – A TRADITIONAL BRONZE CASTING FOUNDRY

Established by acclaimed artists Rip and Alison Caswell, Firebird Bronze has become renowned for its creation of the most detailed designs and artworks using the rich traditions of bronze casting.  

While the talents of the Caswells and their team are apparent, one distinction of their sculptures is that bronze is such an enduring metal. Both strong and malleable, bronze is the medium of the most impressive artifacts throughout history.  The bronze castings produced at this art foundry will last for generations to come.

firebird bronze foundry rip caswell
Firebird Bronze Foundry - Rip Caswell at work

Introducing Commissions

At Firebird Bronze you can commission your own bronze artwork, which the team will create using the lost wax casting method. Additionally, they produce bronze sculptures for other artists.  This modern bronze foundry also offers their Firebird 3D printing service for artworks. Taking the opportunity of advances in technology, these pieces can be cast in bronze at the foundry at a later date. You only need to have a vision or a concept for a piece to enable Firebird Bronze to bring it into reality as a 3D printed form. The combination of old and new bronze casting and design techniques has helped promote Firebird Bronze as leaders in their field.

THE HISTORY OF BRONZE CASTING 

Just as Caswell’s contemporary bronze sculptures captivate modern collectors, bronze as a medium has fascinated humankind since the earliest days of the alloy’s creation. 

The Art of Bronze Casting

Cast bronze tools and functional objects date as far back as 3,000 BCE. Global cultures were also crafting brilliant bronze art objects such as  bracelets and rings from bronze. The Shang Dynasty of China became renowned for producing spectacular bronze objects decorated with rich patterns and motifs.

Shang Dynasty artists had perfected the art of the piece mold casting process. This technique began with a clay mold of a model object divided into sections and fired. After firing, these mold sections were then reassembled so that the caster could pour molten bronze into the mold to create a replica. This allowed artists to incorporate incredibly precise patterns that are now characteristic of Shang and Zhou bronze works.

Solid Lost Wax Casting Technique

Even before Chinese artists refined the process of piece mold casting, the technique of lost wax casting had gained popularity elsewhere in the world.  The artisans of the Indus River Valley civilization used the solid lost wax casting technique, which began with a plaster cast of a model. Once the plaster cast was complete, the caster could then pour the hot wax inside to create an even coat.

This made a hollow wax replica of the model, providing the artist with the opportunity to adjust it to add fine details. Next, the caster would join the model with wax tubes, called sprues or vents. Bronze pins would also ensure the stability of the mold as the wax melted away. The craftsman would then fill and encase this augmented wax shell in plaster, and the entire plaster coated block was kiln-fired to melt away the wax. With the void left behind, the caster would finally pour in molten bronze. This will take the place of the wax, and will vent with the void left by the sprues. The final result is a bronze replicate of the original model.

Hollow Lost Wax Casting Technique

Greek artists began using the lost wax casting technique around 500 BCE. From there, they accelerated their practice of creating bronze sculptures using the innovative hollow lost wax casting technique.

This approach began with a simple core that served as a void in the center of the sculpture. The hollow wax casting process only produced a shell which resulted in much lighter pieces. Accordingly, this opened up the potential for large, life-size forms that became a central component of Greek art. 

Bronze Casting in the Nineteenth Century

During the 19th century, bronze gained new symbolism as a medium of modern industry. Artists would use traditional bronze casting techniques to create many commemorative sculptures during this period. Well know pieces include Frederic Remington’s iconic The Broncho Buster (1895) or Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker (1903).  While little had changed in those casting methods, these modern works continued to push the bounds of the medium as a means of artistic expression.

FIREBIRD BRONZE CASTING PROCESS

The Caswells and their team at Firebird Bronze aim to uphold this rich history and high standard of bronze casting. Steeped in the traditional methods of mold making and lost wax casting, the Firebird Bronze team has also ensured these traditions endure through educational programs and foundry tours

Lost Wax Casting at Firebird Bronze

Sculpting an original piece in clay is the beginning of the process. The Caswells’ talents shine throughout this detailed and intricate stage. Once the clay model is complete, the lost wax casting process begins. Just as the ancient artisans did, they create molds, followed by the pouring of wax. The next step involves the creation of the ‘gating system’. This is where the caster adds wax channels that will allow the molten bronze to move through the artwork. 

Ascending Christ
Sculpting the Ascending Christ Statue
lost wax casting service
Removing moulds to reveal the casting

The ceramic mold creation process follows. Next, the caster will burn out the wax and pour the bronze. Once the molten bronze has cooled and solidified, the bronze caster will remove the shells to reveal the actual casting. The name of this part of the process is ‘de-vesting’. If the final bronze artwork was cast in separate segments, the artist will then put all the pieces together. Next, welding takes place and the bronze has to be chased and cleaned. Finally, the piece is then sanded, polished and the patina applied to add color and the appearance of texture.

Unique bronze artworks

The entire process takes both time and incredible skill, but the result is a beautiful piece of art that will remain for years to come. You can find a more detailed description of the bronze casting process used in the lost wax process page of our website.

BRONZE CASTING SERVICES

If you are seeking a bronze artwork, you can rest assured that Rip and Alison Caswell have incredible combined experience in sculpting different art forms. One look at their bronze art reveals the tremendous amount of love and attention to detail invested in each project. They bring that same attention and passion to their bronze casting services. 

Private Commissions

If you choose to commission a custom sculpture cast in bronze, Rip Caswell and his team will approach it with quality and professionalism. It can be a lengthy process depending on the size and detail of your piece, but Rip invests time and effort into making sure each project is accurate.

If the task is a portrait, Rip’s attention to detail will imbue the finished sculpture with a sense of living emotion. He accomplishes this through his dedication to extensive research before every project, resulting in each cast bronze work offering its own unique story.

If you’d like to know more about the commission process, you can find details here. You may also wish to visit our case studies where you can learn about different commissions from start to finish.

 

Firebird 3D

Bridging ancient techniques with modern technology Firebird Bronze is a partner with Firebird 3D. With this service, you can design and print original art forms. You can also have the option to manipulate existing projects in size. Firebird 3D models will then be the basis for creating a perfect bronze sculpture.

You may be surprised to learn that even with the use of modern 3D printers, bronze sculptures can still be crafted using the lost wax process. Firebird 3D prints can bypass the mold stage and go straight to burning out the wax. This offers a cost saving and can be a great option for unique projects where repeat castings are not required.

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Custom bronze sculpture being created in the foundry
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Custom 3D printing in action

Bases

Firebird Bronze also offers unique or custom bases for our bronze sculptures, available in black granite or walnut wood. For our plaque service, Firebird Bronze offers sand-cast, bronze plaques. You can choose one designed by the artist or with the foundry’s help. There is also an option of custom artwork additions done by hand.

 

Mold Making

Firebird Bronze also makes molds from high-quality silicone rubber. Each mold made by Firebird Bronze has a 5-year guarantee equal to about 50 castings.

 

Crating and Packaging

Crating and packaging bronze art is another service available to you. The foundry uses sealed air foam for small to medium art forms to make sure they arrive at their destination without any damage. For larger products, the bronze foundry uses custom-built wooden crates.

 

Bronze Repair

Over time, you will need to maintain bronze sculptures, and Firebird Bronze is ready to help with this maintenance. Patina is the process of adding color to the bronze which can slightly fade over time. The foundry offers re-patina services and during the fall and spring seasons, a waxing maintenance service is available to prevent oxidation.

The foundry team at Firebird Bronze are professionals with years of combined experience in creating bronze sculptures. Artists can be confident that the skilled workers of Firebird Bronze can turn their art into a treasured piece that will stand the test of time. Reach out to us today to schedule a foundry tour or to inquire about our bronze casting services.