Posted tagged ‘Sisyphus’

throwback Thursday ~ bronze age edition

May 27, 2021

A long time ago, I took a few continuing education classes at the local community college. One of the classes was bronze casting, and I’d like to take that one again.

What you see above is the wax model of a bookend I eventually made. That’s Sisyphus, of course. The process is not that complex; it’s been used since ancient times, though I think the ancients had more talent than I do. You make your model out of wax, including the red parts that are channels for the molten bronze when the time comes. Then you dip it into a broth that is adhesive. After that you put your wet mold in a vat of crushed stone (like powder) to coat it. Repeat that a few dozen times until you have a shell of this crushed stone around your wax. Then (after the shell dries and hardens) you can pour the molten bronze into the shell. The wax melts instantly and evaporates. The bronze flows into the cavity left by the wax, and if you did your connections and proportions right, you will have a bronze replica of what you had molded in wax. (I also made an acorn the size of a baseball, and I got the proportions wrong with it, causing the heat of too much molten bronze in one place to “draw” itself away from the edge of the mold. Fun fact: all bronze statues of any size are hollow to prevent this from happening.)

Surprisingly, the bronze cools quickly enuf that you can start pounding on the stone shell with a hammer in about an hour. You break away the shell to reveal the bronze sculpture within. In a sculpture like mine, with a lot of Giacometti texture, you then must use tools to pick the shell out of the recesses. (This is tedious and painstaking, and after a while you say you’re done with that and any bits of crushed stone left on the sculpture are intentional.)

It had always been my plan to make a match for this bookend. And then I thought I should make a bunch more, using my round rocks for the boulders Sisyphus must push. But the class and the materials for creating just this one ended up costing about $100, and that was a little steep for a bookend.

Still, it’s a nice thing to say I created.

random photo Tuesday

August 27, 2019

There are several things you can see in this photo. One is a selection of books from my Philip Roth shelves. I understand The Plot Against America is being made into a film. American Pastoral, The Human Stain, and The Dying Animal have already been done.

Another thing to notice is the relatively fine finish of the table top. This is not a piece of fine furniture; that’s a veneer on top of particle board. But it no longer looks as nice. The grands have all made contributions to its “seasoning.”

The third thing is that Sisyphus bookend. I made that at a several-weekends class at the nearby community college. I’m sure you know the story of Sisyphus from your general knowledge of Greek mythology and/or your familiarity with the writings of Albert Camus. (Right?) I created the form out of wax then dipped it repeatedly in the slurry that then dries and forms a shell around it. The wax is melted out of the shell, and the shell is filled with the molten brass. Then it’s a simple (and satisfying) matter of shattering the shell with a hammer to reveal the work of art within.

Were I to do this again — and I had wanted to make a pair of bookends at the time — I would probably just cast Sisyphus and then attach his hands to one of my round rocks. As a hobby, bronze casting is not cheap.