I recently completed this Gordon setter sculpture in bronze for a private commission. If you’re familiar with bronze, you’ll know that pieces are normally released in an edition. This is due to the very high costs involved with the initial setup and casting of bronze at a specialist foundry.
Once I have completed the animal sculpture in clay, this is used to produce a wax model. I personally inspect and refine the wax model to ensure it exactly matches the original sculpture. The wax model is then used to make a mould, from which the final sculpture is cast in bronze.
The wax model is burned away in each casting, which is why you’ll sometimes see this process described as the lost-wax method. The metal sculpture is then finished and patinated at the foundry, a process that I monitor very closely to ensure it meets the highest possible standards.
This type of traditional bronze casting is highly skilled and time consuming. By releasing pieces in an edition, those costs can be spread across the edition. Without this, the cost to the client would be 3-4 times higher. In light of all this, bronze might seem like an odd choice for a pet commission. Surely this would be better suited to a one-off sculpture in ceramic?
But actually bronze has a lot to offer clients. They set the brief and the sculpture is meticulously modelled on their own animal. I send them regular photo updates and they provide real-time feedback as the sculpture progresses. This gives them a unique input into the creative process. And, of course, they receive the first piece in the edition.
There’s another reason to choose bronze over ceramic. And that’s the medium itself. While I love ceramic, and it will always be my primary medium, bronze offers something else. True investment pieces of wonderful depth and detail. And, due to the inherent strength of the medium, the ability to sculpt forms that would be too delicate to achieve in ceramic.
Bronze also taps into a long tradition in sculpture going back hundreds of years, and which is deeply embedded in our cultural history. For many collectors, there is something special about bronze, a classic and timeless elegance, which simply can’t be replicated in other media.
As always with my pet commissions, I spent a lot of time working with my clients, getting to know their animal and developing a detailed brief. As an artist, it’s very important to me that every detail, from the gentle curve of the eyelashes to the subtle indentations on the nose, is captured. It’s the only way to do justice to the beauty and character of my subjects.
I exchanged numerous photos and notes with my clients as the Gordon Setter sculpture progressed. The clients were particularly keen to ensure we captured Thistle’s beautiful silky coat. I attended the foundry myself to oversee the metalwork, which is a critical stage in the process of refining the bronze, and patination.