Foundry Tour Part 1: Behind the Scenes of Memorare, Sand Creek 1864

See scenes from the foundry casting of Memorare, Sand Creek 1864

We promised a recent buyer of Memorare, Sand Creek 1864 that we would send updates of how his piece is progressing at the foundry. Then we thought, perhaps everyone might find this process to be of interest, so we are sharing the casting details with you.

Lost Wax Casting Method

Memorare, Sand Creek 1864, like all of my work, is being made with the lost wax casting method. This is an ancient practice that involves the following steps:

  1. Mold: The foundry makes a mold that has a pliable latex interior and a solid plaster exterior. This is made by encasing my clay sculpture in the mold materials.
  2. Wax pour: Hot wax is poured into the finished mold in thin coats until the desired thickness is achieved.
  3. Wax removal: The mold is removed from the outside of the hardened wax.
  4. Chasing: A heated metal tool is used, by hand,  to smooth out any seams or imperfections in the wax.
  5. Spruing: The chased wax is affixed with “sprues,” which are branch-like paths on which the molten bronze will flow.
  6. Slurry: The sprued wax is dipped in a silica/sand slurry that will harden into a shell-like mold, typically called a ceramic shell, although ceramics are not actually used.
  7. Burnout: The ceramic shell with the wax inside is placed into a kilt to both harden the shell and melt out the wax. The foundry then has a perfect mold in which to pour the molten bronze.
  8. Testing: The cooled ceramic shell is tested with water to check the venting and feeder tubes created by the sprues. Any defects in the mold are repaired.
  9. Pouring: After the shell is finished, molten bronze is carefully poured into the shell. The shell is heated first so that the bronze does not cause it to shatter.
  10. Release: Once the bronze has cooled, the shell is sand-blasted away and the now-bronze sprues are cut off.
  11. Metal chasing: The bronze is carefully worked by hand to remove any air bubbles, rough edges, or other defects.
  12. Patina: The finishing touch occurs when the patina artist, called a patineur, applies the finish of choice to the bronze.

Memorare‘s progress

As you can see by the list above, sculpture casting involves many steps by skilled craftspeople to get the bronze ready for display. For this current version of Memorare, the piece is now in the foundry’s shell room, where the ceramic mold receives several coats of slurry to strengthen it before it is kiln-fired.

Here is what has transpired thus far:

Wax pouring

Here is the mold filled with the poured wax.
Mold for Memorare, Sand Creek 1864 filled with wax
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Wax removal

In this step, the wax of Memorare, Sand Creek 1864 is carefully removed from the mold.
bergsgaard-wax-pour2
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Wax chasing

Imperfections in the wax (such as seams and air bubbles) must be repaired by hand.
bergsgaard-wax-chase
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Spruing

Wax extensions are affixed that will eventually be paths for the bronze to flow into the completed ceramic mold.
bergsgaard-spruing
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Adding layers of slurry to the mold in the shell room

Once the layers of slurry have been completed over seven to 10 days, the ceramic mold will be fired the sprued wax melted off so that the mold can be readied for the molten bronze.
bergsgaard-shell-room

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Stay tuned for our next installment, when we reveal the newly-cast bronze.

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Are you interested in adding Memorare, Sand Creek 1864 to your collection? I am offering a limited number to private collectors. Please contact me for details.

Congratulations to Kathy and Mike Gagnon

The Gagnons are the newest owners of Recounting the Coup.

Mike and Kathy Gagnon, the newest owners of "Recounting"

Mike and Kathy Gagnon, the newest owners of Recounting

As an artist, I am always honored when someone chooses to add my work to their collection — and today is no different.
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Kathy and Mike Gagnon ordered Recounting while it was still in clay at last year’s Arizona Fine Art Expo. Kathy wanted a specific look in the patina, so we worked with a couple of patineurs (a.k.a. patina artists) to get just the right look.
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My sincere thanks to the Gagnons for choosing my work for their home. I hope it gives you many years of pleasure.

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If you would like to reserve any of the Recounting the Coup versions for your collection, please contact me. You may choose from the 3/4-life-size bust, table-top-size bust, or the half life-size full figure. The latter two pieces are still in clay, so you can add them to your collection at a lower price before the piece goes to the foundry.

Research: The Key to My Inspiration for “Recounting the Coup”

A brief look into how I use history to develop my western sculpture.

Old Bent's Fort National Historic Site in Colorado

Old Bent's Fort National Historic Site in Colorado

One of the most frequent questions I get from clients is “How do you get your inspiration?”

The answer is two-fold: I take my broad interest in the stories behind the 1840s-1920 American West expansion and then pair it with research to understand my subjects fully.

“There was a time…”

As a descendant of Norwegian immigrants that came to the American Midwest to carve a new life, I am keenly aware that there was a time in which people would risk everything to start anew west of the Mississippi–and that there were people whose lives were irrevocably changed by this influx of foreigners.

I use this phrase, “there was a time,” to guide me when I choose subjects for my works, whether they be real people or fictionalized accounts of these hardy folk.

Research, research, research. Then research some more.

First, a confession: not every one of my pieces is always 100% historically accurate. I am an artist after all, and sometimes take a little license.

But just like a musician or writer that bends the rules a bit to achieve a certain effect, I believe you must know the rules before you start bending. So, I do research first to understand what how my subjects would have lived and what they would have worn before I make modifications in the name of fine art.

A look at Recounting the Coup

Recounting the Coup Life-Size Bust

Recounting the Coup Life-Size Bust

Recounting is easily one of my most popular, powerful pieces. After creating the life-size bust and a table-top version, I felt compelled to make a full-body edition to use the man’s physical demeanor to further tell the story of a Sioux warrior reminiscing on a disappearing lifestyle.

My research begins with reading. I have an extensive library of historical texts of the era, but Wikipedia does a pretty good job of providing details, too.

Then, if possible, I try to look at photos or actual artifacts, if I can get my hands on them.

For example, my good buddies at Mark Sublette’s Medicine Man Gallery in Tucson/Santa Fe provided these gems for me to review:

Sioux Quill bag

Sioux Quill bag, courtesy Medicine Man Gallery

Sioux Quillwork Bag
c. 1890
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Sioux Breech Cloth, courtesy Medicine Man Gallery

Sioux Breech Cloth, courtesy Medicine Man Gallery

Sioux Breech Cloth
c. 1910
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Santee Sioux Boy's Jacket, courtesy Medicine Man Gallery

Santee Sioux Boy's Jacket, courtesy Medicine Man Gallery

Santee Sioux Boys Jacket
c.1915
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Sioux Quill Moccasins, courtesy Medicine Man Gallery

Sioux Quill Moccasins, courtesy Medicine Man Gallery

Sioux Quill Moccasins
c. 1890
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Sioux Dance Leggings, courtesy Medicine Man Gallery

Sioux Dance Leggings, courtesy Medicine Man Gallery

Sioux Dance Leggings Quills and Old Coins
c. 1915

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If you would like to reserve any of the Recounting the Coup versions for your collection, please contact me. You may choose from the 3/4-life-size bust, table-top-size bust, or the half life-size full figure. The latter two pieces are still in clay, so you can add them to your collection at a lower price before the piece goes to the foundry.

Early Preview: Recounting the Coup Full Figure

Exploring the Sioux warrior with full accoutrements

Recounting the Coup Full Figure by Bergsgaard

COLLECTOR UPDATE: This piece has now been cast. You can see it in bronze here: Recounting the Coup Full Figure

When I made Recounting the Coup, I knew I had created a special piece. One reason I knew this is because I kept thinking about the man depicted in the sculpture: I could picturing his proud posture, visualize him wearing his buffalo robe, etc….This image practically haunted me.

So as any artist will tell you, when an artist has inspiration that strong, they have to follow it – and this is what happened with Recounting the Coup. After months of pondering, I was able to develop the Recounting the Coup, Full Figure piece to match my mind’s eye.

Sculpture Details

Bergsgaard Recounting the Coup 3/4 View Recounting the Coup, Full Figure is 42″ tall which is slightly bigger than 1/2 life size. He is wearing a buffalo robe and carrying a ceremonial pipe in one hand and a feathered coup stick in the other. As with the original Recounting bust, this warrior’s face depicts a man remembering the days – and a life – that has passed into history.

Price and Edition Details

Recounting the Coup Full Figure will be an edition size of only 15.

Pricing structure:
Numbers 1 through 14: $10,500 pre-cast; once the first one has been cast, the price will increase to $13,500
Number 15: $18,000

Please contact me if you would like me to reserve one for you.

Bergsgaard sculpture Recounting the Coup Full Figure

Recounting the Coup Full Figure was featured on the front page of the Greeley Tribune. You can read the article here: Craig Bergsgaard Western Sculpture

Western Sculpture Recounting the Coup
Photograph courtesy Jim Rydbom/The Greeley Tribune

NEW in clay: Recounting the Coup half-life-size bust

My popular Sioux bust is now available in half-life-size

western-sculpture-rtc-bergsgaard

You asked, so I listened!

I am pleased to announce Recounting the Coup (Half-Life Bust). So many of my clients loved Recounting the Coup, but did not have room for a full-size bust. This new version measures approximately 15″ tall, perfect for smaller niches or atop a mantle.

Priced to please

Recounting the Coup (Half-Life Bust) is also budget-friendly. If you order now, while in clay, the price is only $750. After the first piece has been cast, the price will be $950.

UPDATE 3/22/10 – This piece is now available only at the cast price. If you would like to receive an email the next time we offer a pre-cast sale, please contact us.

Price and Edition Details

Recounting the Coup (Half-Life Bust) is an edition of 75

Pricing structure:
Numbers 1 through 70: $750 pre-cast; once the first one has been cast, the price will increase to $950
Numbers 71 -75: $1,400

Please contact me if you would like me to reserve one for you.

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Recounting the Coup is one of my most popular works. You may also be interested in the life-size bust.