I can honestly say that this is the first weekend I’ve spent in close proximity to molten metal. And by close I mean hair singeingly close – so much so I’m sure I picked up a tan at the four day Bronze Casting workshop at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
I was asked to photograph the final day of the workshop, as it was to be the day they fired up the furnace, melted the bronze and poured it into the expectant casts which had been carved by the budding sculptors and artists taking part.
I practically leapt at the prospect of taking photographs of all the flames, heat and glowing liquids. It isn’t every day you get to shoot photographs of metal in excess of 1000 degrees centigrade. This was going to call for some creative and careful photography.
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By deftly skipping over all manner of industrial equipment and threading my way neatly between people covered in heat-protective overalls I was able to get stuck right in the thick of the action. There’s some lovely up-close images of the metal being poured which has the appearance of mercury with an orange tinge. The sound was quite distinctive too – a subtle popping and crackling could be heard as the bronze left the crucible and ate through the tinfoil covering the moulds.
Each mould was once filled with a wax carving of a sculpture, the idea being that the wax is melted out of the cast after it has set. The molten bronze is then poured into the void left behind by the wax, replacing it with a new sculpture which then solidifies.
It wasn’t all fire and brimstone though, there was a lot of hard manual work for everyone chipping away at the bronze sculpture once it had been cracked out of its mould. People spent hours hammering at their rough sculptures to remove the plaster that had become anchored to the surface.
Then there was the process of polishing the metal using wire brushes and sand paper to bring it up to a radiant matt golden colour, like the cute sculpture of a bird. All this labour gave me plenty of opportunities to take photographs of people at work, crafting their near-finished pieces to perfection.
The event itself was split between an outdoor courtyard and a large indoor workshop where the lighting was less than ideal, but I enjoy a challenge: adapting and being creative with a situation, as the photographs will attest.
After four straight hours of photography I came away with around four hundred photographs to sift through, documenting the duration of the event from start to finish. The photographs will be used to promote further education activities at Yorkshire Sculpture Park as well as being a nice lasting graphic record of what was a very pleasurable and creative day.
This workshop event was lead by The Castle Fine Arts Foundry.