My work takes many forms and is often inspired by what’s around me. From beautiful functional design to contemporary statement pieces. I work predominantly in metal and wood. Carving, casting and shaping using traditional and modern methods, exploring and often discovering new or forgotten skills along the way. I’m a an artist that enjoys the production element and I see it as a fundamental part of the creative process.
For the past two years I have made work that crosses the line between art and function, which is why I see it as much about design as it is art.
I begin, as all artists do, by sketching and exploring what inspires me. Then I experiment with techniques that I can use in my process to achieve the right results. This can takes weeks of research as I often want something that is either unique or requires a great deal of skill.
My process has evolved into a cyclic pattern of creation, experimentation and testing, from surface finishes involving etching techniques to advanced alloy compositions. There have been more “back to the drawing board” moments than successes, but that is the nature of the beast. Great art cannot be created without determination and persistence, which ultimately shows in the final work.
Inevitably I had to get to a point where I could shape metal in its fluid state. The journey into the world of casting metal illuminates the significance of this human achievement and the impact it had on our evolution. To melt metal and pour it into a mould, apart from being incredibly dangerous, is nothing short of alchemy and I'm sure our ancestors would have felt the same.
My design process for the collection began with visualisation, processing the initial inspiration before drawing and sketching to establish each piece. The sculpting of each wax master model was a critical part of the process, working from my two dimensional drawings I established both form and scale, as well as the interplay between elements.
After the design process, the next stage was to establish how I was going to cast the work. Researching and experimenting with various casting methods, I ruled out the more traditional technique of “greensand” casting as I was unable to accurately replicate the intricacies of my designs. However, I successfully made detailed trial castings with the ‘’lost wax casting’’ method.
So began months of experiments to figure out the best type of wax, the materials and the tools needed in the various stages of the process.
The type of wax used is critical, it has to be firm but not brittle. So I tested various combinations of wax and thermoplastics before I found the right one.
The lost wax casting method means the wax model is lost or destroyed each time you cast. Therefore I needed to make a mould. The best material I found to create the master mould was silicone. However, the process of making the mould was a little more complicated than I first thought.
Firstly all the air has to be removed from the silicone in its fluid state before it can be used. This would prevent any air bubbles from distorting the original design. But this required more equipment.
The liquid silicone then has to be placed in a vacuum chamber. This process is called “degassing” which required me to build a steel chamber with a transparent lid and all of the necessary air fittings. The transparent lid allows me to see when the silicone has been properly degassed.
Once degassed I poured the silicone into my mould. Twenty four hours later the silicone was cured and I could carefully cut the mould to free the wax master. Now wax could be injected into the cavity and once cooled a perfect replica removed.
Then the model with its sprues is placed inside a container called a “flask”. The material used to make the mould is a combination of fine plaster and silica sand which is referred to as the “investment”.
Once the investment is set the wax has to be removed before the metal can be poured in. This means the flask has to be fired in a kiln. It has to be placed in the kiln wet to prevent cracking as the moisture helps to regulate its temperature.
When the firing is complete, the flask has to be removed from the kiln, and whilst still hot, the molten metal poured in. I made many unsuccessful attempts at casting. Issues with spruing and surface porosity resulted in the need to build a vacuum cylinder to house the flask. The vacuum draws the air from the flask and improves the flow of metal through the mould as it is being poured.
Eventually successful casts were more frequent as the process became more stable and my knowledge and understanding grew.
Initially I intended to cast in bronze, but whilst it was easier to work with it quickly tarnished to a dull finish. I explored other alloys of copper and found that aluminium bronze (90% copper 10% aluminium) with its gold like appearance would prove to be a more suitable choice. Whilst it is much harder to work with it maintains its surface finish and colour.