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Bronze Wildlife Sculpture and Woodcarvings:

Creating a Sculpture:

Creating a Relief Woodcarving:

Creating a Bronze Sculpture:

 


Bronze Wildlife sculpture and woodcarvings:

 

Sculptor Ian G Brennan, specialises in detailed Wildlife woodcarvings and bronze sculpture. Ian's Wildlife sculpture are produced either as a one-off or in a limited edition.. Each sculpture is signed by the Artist and has its own unique edition number. Ian's sculptures range from 3 inches to over 120 inches high, and are produced in silver, bronze and are often carved from a single piece of hard wood.  All are all produced with the same skill and care whether the client is a private individual corporation or indeed one of Ian's latest commissions for the British Royal Household.

 

Osprey catching a Pike  -  Leaping Panther  -  Swimming Otter  -  Swan protecting her cygnets

66" high x 24" wide     -     45" Long  x 37" High      -    43" high x 17" wide   -     27" high x  34" wide

 

All four of these bronze sculptures shown above, were originally carved from a single piece of hard wood, moulded and then cast in bronze.

 

Ian G Brennan first became a professional wood carver in 1984 and later in 1996 also started to produce his sculptures in bronze.  Ian's first exhibition was in Mayfair, London and then began exhibiting his realistic wood carvings and bronze sculpture widely throughout the UK. During the past decade however Ian has been working mostly to commission therefore such exhibitions in art galleries are today a rather rare event  

Although today Ian rarely exhibits in private art galleries, the unique collection of wood carvings and bronze sculpture he has managed to put together over the years have been exhibited almost exclusively in somewhat more formal surroundings, which have included Museums; The Queens Room on-board the Cunard Liner the Queen Elizabeth 2;  Burlington House; Home of the Royal Academy of Arts and also within the historic Royal setting of St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle.

 

 

   

27" high x  34" wide

When appropriate Ian often produces the original 'master copy' for his bronze sculptures carved directly from wood, which is then carefully moulded, produced in wax and then cast in bronze and occasionally silver. Once the moulding process is complete the original woodcarving can then be polished and retained as a unique sculpture. Being able to retain the master copy is unlike the normal method of working where the master copy are usually produced directly from clay or wax which is then often destroyed during the moulding process at the foundry, which includes one of these unique woodcarving 'master copies' and former exhibition centre piece the lime wood carving of the 'Swan protecting her cygnets'. The bronze version of this Swan sculpture is shown above.

 


 

Outlined here is a small example of Ian's early and more recent bronze and silver wildlife sculpture and woodcarvings, sizes range from 3 inches to 96 inches high;

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lioness caching a Zebra    - Silver                       Bald Eagle in Flight - Bronze

3 inches high                                                               96 inches high

  for details and stage photographs of  the Bald Eagle sculpture from the tree to the completed sculpture; please click  here

 


 

lick to enlarge

'Bald Eagle in Flight' Sculpture carved from within the trunk of a 150 year old Lime tree 

( 96 inches high )

click image to enlarge

 

 


 

Leaping Panther - Walnut   -  Carved in Walnut cast in Bronze   

  Leaping Panther

45" long  x 37" high  x 7. 5" wide  

Leaping Panther -Walnut


 

'Aquabatics'

-Swimming Otter

 Bronze 

 43" high x 17" wide

 



 

 Osprey Sculpture carved in wood and cast in Bronze

 

 
 
'Osprey catching a Pike'

Bronze

66 inches  (188cm) high 

for stage photographs how the Osprey was produced in wood and bronze - please click here 

 


 
 
 

Pair of Otters - Walnut and Tulip Wood 
 47 inches high ( 120 cm )
 


 

 'Lynx Catching a Hare' sculpture carved from Cedar Wood

48 inches long (120cm)

(early sculpture)   

                                                                                            

 

Swan and Cygnets sculpture

Bronze

34 inches wide (87cm)      27 inches high (89cm)

 


 

Swimming Otter

Bronze

10 inches (25cm) high

various options of bronze patina available

                                                                                                           

 A Pair of Bronze Eagles

15 inches high (38cm)...........................................................................12 inches high (31cm)

 


 

 

'Running Tiger'

Bleached and stained lime wood  -  26 inches ( 65 cm ) Long

(master copy for a bronze limited edition sculpture)

 


 

 

lick for more info  

  

Golden Eagle and Bald Eagle Lectern/Podium

Brass &  Bronze  -   21" ( 54 cm) high x  29" ( 70 cm) wide    Silver & Bronze  -  12 inches (31 cm)  high     

 


 

Early carved cedar wood bas-relief panels  -   40 inches  and 30 inches high

 


 

 

Golden Eagle - Cedar Wood....................................Cheetah - Cedar Wood 

39 inches wide...................................................................................38 inches long

 

 


 

                                                                                                                        

Tawny Owl carved within a willow log ------- Baby Chimpanzee-- Elm Wood

30 inches high ( 75 cm )                        14 inches high  ( 35 cm ) 

 


 

Sea Otter feeding - Walnut

35 inches long (89cm) 

 


 

 

Life size Osprey catching a Trout - lime wood

 

 


 

 

    painted bronze    -     natural bronze patina

Bald Eagle

'By The Dawns Early Light'

11 inches ( 27 cm ) high

 


 
Sea otter feeding - bronze     -     Eagle in flight; wall mounted bronze

20 inches long  (51cm)                                22 inches wide ( 60 cm )

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  


 

Elephant with Calf 

Bronze

 8 inches long (20cm)

( Ian's first bronze sculpture )

 


Leopard in a Tree

Bronze

20 inches (51 cm) high

 


 

Bald Eagle in Flight

 

 bleached and stained lime wood

96 inches ( 244cm ) wide

 


 

Wild Badgers, Foxes, Squirrels and Deer are regular visitors to Ian's studio in Southern England. 

 
These visits by the local wildlife often whilst he is working, are a constant source of inspiration especially if he is working as it gives him a rather unique opportunity of being able to study the wildlife close at hand.

 


 

Creating a Sculpture:

 

VARIOUS STAGES OF PRODUCING A LIFE SIZE WOOD AND BRONZE SCULPTURE

OF AN OSPREY CATCHING A PIKE

 

The seasoned Lime tree log used for the Osprey sculpture

105 inches long x 44 inches wide

Possibly the most difficult thing in trying to carve a life size sculpture out of a single piece of wood like this 'Osprey catching a Pike' was tying to find a suitable large tree to carve it from. However this particular problem was soon solved almost overnight in 1987, when Southern England's landscape dramatically change after it was hit by Hurricane force winds which uprooted thousands of such trees. Many of these were mature lime trees which were perfect for a life size one piece sculptures such as this Osprey.

After obtaining and then seasoning one of these Lime wood logs for several years work on the sculpture could begin. Many hours are spent with a large piece of timber such as this, rolling it over trying to work out exactly where the Osprey is hiding inside, also carefully checking every inch of the timber to ensure there are no obvious sighs of rot, worm damage or indeed nails left from some long forgotten washing line, which would not only damage the chain of the chainsaw , but as is often the case leave unsightly dark stains on the finished wood.

(Roughing out the shape with a chainsaw)

When I plan any sculpture I spend a lot of time researching the subject, I not only use live studies whenever possible but also video's and books, until I have built up in my mind a complete picture of what the finished sculpture should look like. It is then simply a case of cutting everything away that doesn't look like an Osprey !! 

The first few hours working on any commission is always the most critical and it is very tempting to cut great lumps out of the wood with the chainsaw to try and speed up the process. I try to resist the temptation to strike a particular pose too early which then restricts freedom to change the position of the body, head or feet for example, especially if a flaw in the wood does suddenly appear.

(Using an adze and carving chisels to create the outline of the 'life-size' Osprey, which starts to take shape)

Once the rough outline is complete I am then finally committed to the particular pose the sculpture will take, and the rather repetitive and very time consuming ' feather count ' begins. As there are obviously hundreds of feathers on any bird particularly this 'Osprey in flight', to help prevent the repetition of carving one feather after another, I usually work on another completely different type of commission at the same time.   In this instance it was the carved and gilded Coronet for former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher carved from a piece of Lime wood I had removed earlier from the same  tree used for the Osprey. Once the Coronet was completed it was placed into St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.

 

Carved and Gilded Coronet for Baroness Thatcher

 

(The rough outline completed)

 

Once the Osprey sculpture was completed a exact replica was commissioned to be cast in Bronze for a fountain, therefore a flexible rubber mould with a plaster jacket was carefully made from the original sculpture by the Art foundry and a wax replica produced. Unlike the original wooden Osprey sculpture which was made from a single piece and remained that way even during the moulding process, an exact replica was made from the several separate hollow pieces cast in bronze and then welded together.

 

 

 

 

The completed Osprey wood sculpture before a mould is made

Click to enlarge

When the Osprey sculpture was completed an exact replica was then commissioned to be cast in Bronze. A mould of the original sculpture had then to be produced in such a way as to not damage the original Osprey woodcarving. This required a flexible negative rubber mould with a hard plaster 'jacket' to be accurately produced. The making of this 'negative' begins once the most suitable joint-lines on the Osprey 'master copy' has been decided upon which enables the sculpture to be removed from the mould without damaging either the wooden Osprey or the rubber part of the mould itself.

The Osprey was coated with a very thin coat of wax which would help prevent the rubber sticking to the original woodcarving. Each part of the  sculpture was then covered with a layer of soft clay, followed by a layer of moulding plaster to make a 'mother-mould'. Each half of this mould is then progressively removed and the clay extracted, the plaster jacket is then put back into position and the liquid rubber pored into the space left by the clay and allowed to cure. Once the master copy is totally enveloped with the moulding rubber, the plaster 'jacket' can again be removed and the flexible rubber slowly and very carefully stripped from the wooden Osprey so as not to damage any of the delicate feathers. Having carved the Osprey from a single piece of wood it was important that the sculpture remained that way, even after the moulding process.

 

(Part of the completed mould for the Bronze Osprey)

 

The moulding rubber is then put back into the plaster jacket and hot melted wax is then either painted or swilled against the inner surface of the rubber to the desired thickness required for the finished metal casting. When the wax has cooled the various sections of the hollow wax replica of the sculpture is then removed from the rubber mould. It was then possible for me to inspect and retouch the wax Osprey where required, it could  then be signed and the edition number added. The vents and the runner system or 'tree' which channels molten bronze was then applied to the wax.

 

(The Osprey sculpture reproduced in wax from the mould)

 

Once all these various sections of the Osprey sculpture are assembled upon a wax runner, the complete assembly is then dipped or invested into a wet ceramic based slurry and coated with a fine dry refractory similar to these various patterns shown above. Once dry this coating operations is repeated several times and by progressively using coarser grades of refractory the mould eventually reaches a sufficient thickness to withstand the force and weight of the molten metal during the casting operation.
 
When all these various coats of ceramic were applied and the 'tree' had been left to dry the ceramic shell is then placed in a steam oven. The wax is then melted out - hence the name the 'lost wax process', so as to leave a cavity in the ceramic mould which is an exact replica of the all the various sections of the original Osprey woodcarving. The shell is then fired at 1000 degrees centigrade to burn off any residual wax and to also strengthen the ceramic mould. The ceramic is then cooled and removed from the furnace and packed upright in sand.

 

(The molten Bronze being pored into the cavity of the pre-heated ceramic mould)

The bronze ingots are then melted in a high-frequency induction furnace and poured into the still warm moulds enabling the bronze to flow into all the detailed sections of the ceramic shell. After the bronze has solidified and the mould has cooled it is broken away from the bronze cast and all the various separate bronze castings are cut away from the tree. Each piece of casting is then carefully welded together using a bronze weld and the remaining runners and vents which were attached to the castings were chassed over to match precisely the original detail which makes it impossible to see the joins in the finished sculpture.

 
The final stage is the colouring of the bronze sculpture is achieved by warming up the sculpture with a gas torch and applying various chemical solutions to the polished metal. The colour that can be achieved is virtually anything from white to black depending on the type and strength of acids used, wax polish is then added to the bronze whilst it is still warm to seal in the colour.

(The wood carving and bronze sculpture completed)

 

(One of the limited edition of nine bronze 'Osprey Catching a Pike' sculptures)

 

 


Please click the image below to see the various stages of this bas-relief carving.

 

Ian with his relief woodcarving of the landmarks of the village of  Warsash in Hampshire which has recently been completed.  HRH the Princess Royal taking an interest in its progress.

 

 


 

Creating one and two-piece silicon rubber moulds

To make a moulds from the original master copy of a sculpture which can then be used to accurately reproduce replicas of an original sculpture is usually undertaken at the art foundry, however briefly outlined here is an example of how a one and two piece mould was made which would enable wax replicas of the original sculptures to be reproduced.

Silicon rubbers which was used in these two examples can be effective for a variety of mould making requirements and by using a variety of combinations of silicon rubbers, catalysts and additives enable a wide range of strengths, viscosities and properties to be obtained. Room vulcanising i.e. cold cure rubbers can produce moulds with working temperatures of between -50 C to + 250 C to cast various materials including wax, cement, plaster, polyesters and epoxies. The silicon rubber used in this example was a cold cure, very high strength grey rubber and proved very effective in replicating all the fine detail required..

As way of an example two completely different style of sculpture were to be the subject, although they had a number of undercuts which can sometimes prove to be problematic, it was still possible to make a rubber and plaster mould without damage to the original master copy and also the wax replicas themselves once they were cast and removed from the mould.

The main materials required to produce this particular mould was a high strength moulding plaster, which is required to retain the flexible silicon rubber mould itself in the correct position. The two part cold cure silicon rubber, when necessary some 'Thixo' agent which thickens the rubber when added to the rubber mixture, a small box with removable sides to contain the plaster as it was being poured. Scales or some other suitable means to accurately measure the correct mixture of the two parts of silicon rubber.  A supply of soft clay which was used amongst other things as a 'bed' for the sculpture master copy to be placed upon, and 'soft moulding soap' or a 'spray on mould release agent', which helped prevent the two separate sections of plaster and silicon rubber sticking to each other and also the master copy itself when the various casting materials i.e. wax, plaster etc, were being poured.   


 

 

  The original sea otter and bald eagle sculptures use to produce silicon rubber moulds

 

One piece Silicon rubber mould :-

 

The original sea otter sculpture produced by Ian was used in this example in making a one piece mould. Thin shims of waxed cardboard were used to keep the original sculpture slightly raised above the surface of the base to enabled the silicon rubber to flow underneath the wax original a few centimeters. 

Before the catalyst which cures the silicon rubber was added, the rubber was firstly mixed with a Thixo type additive which thicken the rubber, when the catalyst was then been added to the mixture it can be applied to the sculpture with a brush or spatula .Once the whole sculpture has been covered with this rubber mix to the desired thickness on this occasion to a depth of around 3 mm, it is left overnight to cure. 

The now cured silicon rubber covered sculpture was then surrounded with a sheet of cardboard embedded in a soft clay which helps to contain the moulding plaster which could then be slowly poured over the rubber mould. 

Once the plaster has virtually set the cardboard wall was carefully removed and the still slightly warm moulding plaster trimmed to the desired shape. The plaster once it has set hard was turned over and the waxed cardboard shims removed, the original sea otter sculpture could then be taken from the rubber mould.

The rubber mould was then held up to the light to check for any holes or potentially thin sections in the rubber, any such imperfections can be usually be corrected at this stage by making up a small mixture of the same silicon rubber and thixo mixture and then add it to any thin or damaged sections as this silicon rubber mixture will usually successfully stick to each other to form an adequate seal.

The silicon rubber mould was then cleaned with warm soapy water and allowed to dry. To produce the first wax castings hot wax was carefully dripped into the rubber mould and swilled around the mould until the desired thickness was obtained, this wax would eventually be replaced using the loss wax process by bronze.


Creating a two-piece silicon rubber mould

To make a multi piece mould from the original master copy of a sculpture without damaging the master copy, which can then be used to successfully reproduce many accurate replicas of the original sculpture in a variety of materials is a highly skilled process usually undertaken at the art foundry. However briefly outlined here is one example of how a simple two piece mould was produced and then used to cast wax replicas.

Silicon rubbers which has been used in this example can be effective for most mould making requirements. By using a variety of combinations of silicon rubbers, catalysts and additives which enables a wide range of strengths, viscosities and properties. Room vulcanising i.e. cold cure rubbers can produce moulds with working temperatures of between -50 C to + 250 C to cast various casting materials, which include wax, cement, plaster, polyesters and epoxies. The silicon rubber used in this example was a cold cure very high strength grey rubber and proved very effective in replicating all the fine detail.

On this occasion one of Ian's smaller sculptures, a bald eagle was to be the subject, although the sculpture has a number of undercuts which can sometimes prove to be problematic, it was fortunately however possible to make a mould without damage to the original master copy and the wax replicas themselves when they were cast, also they did not requiring to much detailed work to finish them after they were removed from the mould.

The main materials required to produce this particular mould was a high strength moulding plaster, which is required to retain the flexible silicon rubber in position. The two part cold cure silicon rubber. A small box with removable sides to contain the plaster as it was being poured. Scales or a suitable measurement container which will accurately measure the correct mixture of the two parts of silicon rubber.  A supply of soft clay which was used amongst other things as a 'bed' for the sculpture master copy to be placed upon, and 'soft moulding soap' or a 'spray on mould release agent', which helped prevent the two separate sections of plaster and silicon rubber sticking to each other and the master copy when the various materials were being poured.   


 

The original 12 inches high woodcarving 

The master copy of the Bald eagle was originally carved from lime wood and then the sculpture was bleached and stained before the surface of the wood was  sealed with a wood sealant to help prevent the rubber mould making material sticking to the all fine detail.

The making of this 'negative' within the mould began once the most suitable joint-lines on the original sculpture has been decided upon, this would enabled the sculpture to be removed from the mould, without minimal damaging to the original woodcarving, the rubber part of the mould or indeed the wax replica themselves, once cast and being removed from within the mould.

A very thin coat casting soap was applied to the whole surface of the original wood sculpture which will help prevent the rubber sticking to the woodcarving, sometimes a thin coat of wax can also be used. A thin plastic sheeting was used to cover over the whole sculpture which helped prevent the soft clay when it was  laid on to the sculpture clogging the fine detail on the master copy which has to be cleaned of before the rubber can be poured..

A thin layer of soft clay was rolled out over the whole sculpture, this layer of clay will determine the eventual thickness of the rubber as this clay will eventually be replaced by the silicon rubber. Small clay 'keys' are made and placed around the edge of the sculpture to enable the rubber mould to be securely seated within its plaster jacket. Raised sections made from rolled clay are placed upon the sculpture not only to act as funnels and breather holes which will be used not only to pour the liquid rubber into, but will also help to secure the rubber in position within its plaster cast 'jacket.' 

A mixture of moulding plaster was then prepared and slowly poured over the whole sculpture to minimise air bubbles until it was completely covered to make the 'mother-mould'. Once the plaster has set usually within 30 minutes the whole box was then turned over and one of the sides of the box is removed . Two shallow holes were placed into the inside of the plaster jacket on either side of the mould, which enabled the plaster jacket to be accurately match when they were placed together.   

The thickness of the clay, later to be replaced by silicon rubber can be seen here

The clay that once formed the bed for the master copy to lay upon, can now be removed and the back of the eagle sculpture is again covered with a thin layer of clay to the desired thickness along with the clay keys and poring funnels. Two small indentations to act as 'keys' were made within the clay bed which will later be replaced by the plaster, this will enable the two plaster jackets to key together in the same position each time they are assembled. 

The plaster now almost fully covering the sculpture.            The clay having been removed from the left side of the plaster jacket.

The side of the box previously removed is now screwed back into position and once again the mixture of moulding plaster is slowly poured into the box, to again cover the sculpture. Once the plaster has set the side of the box was again removed and the two plaster mother moulds are then carefully separated. The clay from one half of the two plaster jackets was extracted to leave the negative or 'cavern' which the liquid rubber when it is being poured will eventually flow into. 

The end of a paint brush was used to make small indentations a little way into the soft clay all around the side of the sculpture, which will form a key to enable each separate halve of the inner silicon rubber mould to be fitted accurately together within the plaster jacket.

The silicon rubber after being poured into the mould

The sculpture was then carefully cleaned of all debris that might have been left on both the master copy or within the plaster cavity itself, any debris not removed  will obviously spoilt the detail of the mould after the rubber was poured over the sculpture. The inside of the plaster jacket was brushed firstly with shellac and once dry covered over with a moulding soap. The master copy itself was then sprayed with a mould release agent  which helped to prevent the rubber when poured from  sticking to either the sculpture or plaster jacket. 

The top 'hollowed' out section of the plaster jacket was then carefully lowered over the sculpture which is still firmly imbedded into the clay bed. The clay closely follows along the edges of the master copy (where the eventual join line of the two piece rubber mould will be). Once the top plaster jacket is lowered over the sculpture all the seams of the plaster jacket were sealed with soft clay to help prevent seepage through this join when the rubber is being poured into the mould. Simple clay funnels are also placed upon the top of the mould which the liquid rubber is poured into. 

The two part silicon rubber and catalyst is carefully measured and then mixed together before being slowly poured into the space left by the clay, this mixture is then allowed to cure overnight. At this early stage Ian sometimes allows all the overspill of rubber on the top of the plaster mould to remain in position which will often help keep this part of the mould and sculpture securely in place once the mould has been turned over to repeat the operation on the other half of the mould.

The recently cured grey rubber section of the mould can be seen on the right hand part of the plaster mould, along with the 'pencil' holes for aliening the two parts of the silicon rubbers together. The plaster jacket above on the left, once assembled together is now ready to be filled with the silicon rubber. It is important that the half of the mould containing the cured rubber and the master copy itself is not disturbed in any way at this stage as when the new batch of  rubber is poured. Any gaps made down the side of the sculpture and plaster jacket will quickly be filled when the new mixture of rubber is poured which can sometimes cause problems when you try and separate the mould.

 

Again the two halves of the plaster mould are carefully placed together and the simple clay pouring holes for the silicon rubber are again placed on the top and all the seams along the edge of the plaster jacket are again sealed with soft clay. The sculpture and the inside of the plaster jacket are once again spray with a mould release agent.

A new batch of silicon rubber was measured and the liquid rubber was again poured into the plaster casting into the rubber section of the mould. Once the master copy is totally enveloped with the moulding rubber and has cured overnight, the plaster 'jacket' was removed to expose the completed silicon grey rubber mould.

When mould making once the mould had been opened, on occasions gaps may be found where perhaps the poured rubber has not reached and covered all the original master copy. Providing the surface of the rubber remains clean and the master copy has not been moved from its original position, it is often possible to mix a further patch of rubber and carefully cover over these gaps, as this new mixture of silicon rubber will usually firmly stick to the previously silicon rubber. 

Care still has to be taken when the master copy is removed from the now cured rubber, as the master copy although covered with the release agent and the woodcarving has a sealant applied to the wood, the rubber still often will try and stick to the still rather porous wooden master copy. The rubber mould was then cleaned with soapy water and once dry, the rubber was reassembled together and placed within its plaster jacket. The edges of the mould was again sealed with a soft clay, as an extra safety measure help prevent seepages from molten wax when it was eventually poured into the mould.

 The completed two piece rubber mould and the first wax sample casting.

If the original sculpture tends to have a lot of undercuts which are then to be found in the mould, it sometimes helps to remove the wax replica's when they are still slightly warm as he wax is a little more flexible. The wax casting of the eagle is then ready to be placed upon a 'wax tree' and prepared to be for cast in bronze.

To see the various stages of the process of casting a bronze, please click this link to Creating a Bronze.

 


 

 

Creating a Relief Woodcarving:

 

The various stages of the bas-relief carving for St Mary's Church Warsash.

 

The bas-relief woodcarving for St Mary's Church, Warsash in Hampshire, UK. It was carved from 2 inch thick Lime Wood which was stained and polished to suit its eventual surroundings. The relief carving was then placed above the Vestry in the Church, which was originally built in 1872.

 

 St Mary's Church Warsash, in Hampshire

 

The space above the vestry where the woodcarving will be placed, before and after installing the relief carving showing the village landmarks

( 7 feet high X  10 feet wide )

 

The wood was carefully selected from seasoned Lime Wood that grew near Glastonbury in Somerset. Each plank was selected for its condition, similar grain pattern and colour, cut roughly to size and each length was then squared with a single slot cut along the entire length which will enable the boards to be accurately glued together. 

The original outlined sketch was made by Libby Norris in 1999, wife of The Revd. Andrew Norris of St Mary's Church. The congregation of the Church were initially asked for their thoughts to what might be included in the finished design and the most suitable of these landmarks were eventually agreed upon. These original designs included in the woodcarving were the Church and its Lich Gate, along with the Dove the symbol of peace, radiating through the Village. The particular style of Dove to be used was taken from the design that is above the Altar in the Church itself. 

The eventual finished design of the woodcarving was a collaboration between Ian and many other members of the congregation, all possible landmarks in the village which might possibly be included in the finished carving were open to suggestions and the most suitable of these landmarks were eventually agreed upon. Ian than adapted the original design somewhat so as to enable all these new landmarks and features to be incorporated into the new layout to the best effect..  

The finished design would now include the Hamble River with its Yachts, the Coast Guards offices, War Memorial, Polycast Foundry, the old Victory Hall, the Rising Sun Public House, the Yacht Club, the Clock Tower, the new Hook with Warsash School, the Globe, some housing ( Ian's ), Hook House, the old School House, the Nature Reserve with its Trees, Reeds and Strawberry plants.

Due to this rather unique idea of incorporating a relief woodcarving of this type within the Church, months of deliberation was undertaken with several site visits by a special committee which had been set up and who would decide whether a faculty to approve the work could be agreed upon. After a number of meeting at the Church and in Ian's Studio the design and details to the way of working was finally approved. The Faculty was granted and work on the base relief carving could then be started.

Rough sketch of the proposed design used as a guide 

 

The seasoned lime wood squared up and cut to size

 

Some of  the limewood planks glued together alongside the paper template which shows the actual size of the space to be filled above the vestry

 

Each of the three joined limewood boards will be carved separately and when each carved section is near completion all three boards will be finally glued together, the carvings and backgrounds will then be carefully blended in so the joins in the wood will not be seen.

 

The rough design of the Church and its Yew Tree, made from paper laid on the boards

 

Using the 'dove of peace' design that is already above the Altar in the Church incorporated in the woodcarving

 

 

To give a more three dimensional effect to the trees and buildings, Ian increased the depth of the relief carving to over an inch deep in places .

 

The Dove symbol above the Altar in St Mary's Church

The relief carving now requires around 450 hours work to complete all the fine detail

 

HRH The Princess Royal taking an interest in how the relief woodcarving for the Church is progressing.

 

 

The wood now prepared for staining and polishing.

 

 

 

 

The lime wood was stained to blend in with the overall 'medium oak' colour of the original oak wood furnishings within the church.
 
 

 

The completed carving awaiting delivery ( please click to enlarge )
  
 

 

 

 

Various members of the Congregation giving a much needed 'helping hand' to deliver and place the carving into position

( for further instillation photographs : please click here )

 

  

When Ian was putting the finishing touches to the relief carving, at the precise moment he was working on the fine detail in what was then the closed door of the church, the former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney's song  'Let 'Em In' started to play on the radio in Ian's Studio. The lyrics of the song said "Open the Door and let them in", Ian then decided perhaps it would indeed be most appropriate to now carve away the door from the relief carving of the church - and leave it open.

 

 "I have set before you an open Door and no Man can Shut it."  Revelation : Chapter 3 - Verse 8

 

 


 

 

Creating a Bronze Sculpture:

 

 

 

       'Swan protecting her cygnets'                'By the Dawns Early Light'            'Leaping Panther'            

27" high x  34" wide                          11.5 inches high                     45" Long  x 37" High  

 

Casting a bronze   - 'Swan with Cygnets'  -  'Bald Eagle'  -   and 'Leaping Panther' bronze sculptures, using the traditional 'lost wax' process

 

 


 

Bald Eagle ; a partially solid bronze sculpture

 

Investment casting is a modern method of making bronze castings using the ancient art of the lost wax process to a high degree of accuracy and with a smooth surface finish. Outlined here are just some of the various stages required to produce three typical bronze sculptures by Ian G Brennan. From the original woodcarving 'master copies' to the completed bronze sculptures.

The first example shows during its various stages how the partially solid bronze sculpture of the Bald Eagle was produced. This is followed by stage photographs showing a much larger bronze sculptures of a 'Swan protecting her Cygnets', and also a 50 inches long 'Leaping Panther' both of which were hollow cast bronzes.

 

Original woodcarving 'master copy'

 


 

 

Master copy                          Wax version

Using the previously prepared mould ( see creating a mould page) melted wax is either painted or swilled against the inner surface of the flexible rubber mould to the desired thickness required for the finished metal casting. The two separate parts of the mould are placed together with clamps and a little hot wax poured into the cavity of the mould and again swilled around inside to cover the join between the two separate pieces of the mould.

When the wax has cooled the hollow wax replica of the original sculpture is carefully removed from the rubber mould and the 'runner system' or 'tree', which will eventually  channel the molten bronze into the sculpture is applied to the wax version of the sculpture. If there are a number of undercuts in the sculpture it can sometimes be helpful to remove the wax sculpture from the rubber mould whilst the wax is warm and therefore more pliable, but either way care must be taken to reduce breaking any of the delicate features of the sculpture.

 

wax tree                                                         various different patterns drying out

When these wax eagles are assembled upon the wax runner, the complete assembly is then carefully cleaned before being dipped or invested into a wet ceramic based slurry and coated with a fine dry refractory similar to these various patterns shown above. Once dry these coating operations are repeated several times and by progressively using coarser grades of refractory until the mould eventually reaches a sufficient thickness to withstand the force of the molten metal during the casting operation. As an added safety precaution on occasions it is sometimes necessary to wire the whole ceramic shell together to help prevent the molten heavy bronze bursting out through the shell when it is being poured.

 

pouring the molten bronze into the hot ceramic shells           when cooled the bronzes are removed from the shell 

Once all these various coats of ceramic have been applied and the 'tree' has been dried the ceramic shell is then placed in a steam oven and the wax is melted out - hence the name the 'lost wax process'. The shell is then fired at 1000.degrees centigrade to burn off any residual wax and to strengthen the ceramic mould. Once the bronze is melted in a high-frequency induction furnace it is poured into the hot shell, enabling the bronze to flow into all the detailed sections. After solidifying and cooling the ceramic shell is broken away from the bronze cast and the castings are cut away from the tree.

 

The polished bronze prior to colouring

The remaining pieces of the ceramic shell has then to be cleaned away from the sculpture by first tapping the bronze tree section of the sculpture with a hammer, the remaining smaller pieces of ceramic can then be removed by sand blasting. Hours of careful fettling is then required to clean up and finish the eagle sculpture, the bronze is then polished before the various chemical finishes are ready to be applied to the bronze.  

 

Traditional bronze patina - ( A )

 

A traditional bronze patina colour to the bronzes is usually achieved by painting on a chemical solution to the whole bronze casting whilst the bronze is cold. The weaker the solution the lighter the colour, when the correct colour is finally achieved to the sculpture, the bronze is heated up with a gas torch and melted wax is painted on to the bronze to seal in the colour and the sculpture is then allowed to cool slightly before it is finally polished with a soft brush.

 

Coloured Bald Eagle  - ( B )

In the case of the Bald Eagle to try and achieve a similar 'bald eagle' look without painting the sculpture, i.e. a lighter colour head, tail, feet and beak, this can be  achieved by carefully applying a with a brush a stronger chemical solution to the body of the Bald Eagle to achieve the almost black colour required of the eagles body feathers. By then applying a much weaker solution to the head, tail, feet and beak, the bronze is again then heated up and melted wax applied to seal in the colour of the bronze.

 

 

Painted Bald Eagle - ( C )

 

To achieve a similar but possibly more naturalistic appearance to the Bald Eagle was achieved by painting the bronze using acrylic paints and then wax polished. As before the almost black colour of the bald eagles body feathers was achieved by painting on a stronger solution of the appropriate chemical, applying some heat to the bronze with a gas torch and then sealing the bronze with wax. Once the sculpture has cooled, the bald eagles head, tail, feet and beak was then prepared for painting. The painted area on the bronze has first to be sealed with a metal primer before the white and yellow acrylic paint is applied, the whole sculpture is then given a final wax polish. 

 


 

'Swan and Cygnets' ; hollow bronze sculpture.

 

 

The bronze 'Swan protecting her Cygnets'

 

The moulding process required for the sculpture was very similar to the Bald Eagle, however as Ian's original wood sculpture of a Mute Swan defending her young was carved from a single piece of wood many years before it was decided to produce a limited edition of the Swan sculpture in bronze. As the rather angry Swan was carved with wings raised and feathers ruffled the sculpture therefore had many undercuts requiring a much more flexible three piece mould, which would enable both the original woodcarving and the moulded wax version to be removed from the mould without damage.

                        

the three piece plaster and rubber swan mould

 

The Art foundry having successfully produced the mould of the Swan, returned the original woodcarving back to Ian along with the exact replica of the Swan which had now been cast hollow in green wax. The wall thickness of the wax would then determine the overall finished thickness of the bronze casting

 

Even though the wax swan was reproduced in fine detail it still takes Ian several days to re-work the wax Swan and Cygnets, taking the opportunity of using his original Swan woodcarving as a reference and continually re-defining all the fine detail into the wax replica. A rather tedious job he was quick to point out, but well worth the effort when the completed wax was eventually replicated in bronze. Once the fine detailing on the wax Swan has been completed, Ian then signs the base of the particular sculpture.

 

 

As this Swan sculpture is to large to be cast in one piece the wax has to be cut into much smaller sections before being returned to the foundry for casting separately. The process at the foundry is then very similar to the bald eagle sculpture described above, as the various wax sections of the sculpture are again  assembled upon the wax runner. These wax sections upon the tree are again carefully cleaned by dipping in alcohol and when dry continually dipped or invested, into a wet ceramic based slurry and coated with a fine dry refractory ceramic.

 

 

 

Once the separate bronzes have been cast and then carefully separated from the tree, all the pieces have to be carefully fettled, any holes or imperfections that might be found in the casting are carefully repaired using a bronze weld. The 'chaser's is one of the most important craftsman in the foundry, one of his tasks is to carefully weld the whole sculpture back together. This welding has to be so perfect that you cannot see any of the joins in the sculpture, a  highly skilled and time consuming process especially when the chaser is working on one of Ian's bird sculptures with all the many hundreds of individual feathers. 

Each of these detailed feather have many barbs carefully carved along the entire width of each feather, all of which have to carefully chased back into the bronze along the welded seam. The completed sculpture is then shot blasted all over with very fine pellets, which prepares the bronze sculpture for colouring, before sealing this patina in with wax.

 

The patina required to complete the Swans on these two occasions were both completely different, the Swan on the right was requested by the client to have a green mottled type of appearance, whereas the client requested to have the Swan on the left to have more normal bronze patina. 

The whole process to produce a sculpture like Ian's ' Swan protecting her Cygnets' from the mould to finally adding the patina to the completed bronze casting takes several weeks of full time work at the foundry, and if you add to this approximately three months of full time work for Ian to carve the original Swan  'master copy,' it is not surprising why 'genuine' bronze sculptures often prove to be rather expensive

 


 

'Leaping Panther' ;  bronze sculpture.

 

Original walnut woodcarving

 

The 'Leaping Panther' bronze sculpture was again moulded from one of Ian's original early wood sculptures, again the original woodcarving was carefully moulded and an exact copy produced in wax. This original 47 inches long 'Leaping Panther' was carved from a single piece of English walnut.

 

 The plaster and rubber mould along with the wax version of the panther

Once the two piece panther mould was made the wax version was produced, this hollow wax was panther was again cut into smaller pieces and attached to a  wax tree and cast in separate bronze pieces. These four various separate bronze castings once cleaned and removed from the tree were then ready for the chaser to start his work. Although on this panther sculpture there are no tiny feather to worry about the separate pieces again have to be welded together to disguise these weld joins, especially on a completely smooth sculpture like the panther presents itself with another, but no less difficult problems to the chaser.

 

 

As the sculpture is hollow in parts of the sculpture, such as parts of the panthers legs, small holes are cut into the wax which will enable a mixture of the ceramic material to be placed into the cavity. This ceramic mixture or grog is held in position by copper pins which are driven through both the outer walls of the wax sculpture and into the ceramic core. Once the casting has been completed this internal core is removed by sand blasting along with the other ceramic material covering the outer part of the bronze sculpture The little wax 'hatch' which was earlier removed is also cast in bronze at the same time and later welded back into position to cover these small holes.

 

Again on this occasion there was two different finishes required on a pair of these 'Leaping Panther' sculptures. The panther on the left had a patina added which gave a dark green onyx/marble type of effect, the other sculpture had a more traditional dark bronze patina.

 


 

Further examples of  Ian's smaller wax sculptures assembled upon the wax 'tree', prior to the wax runners and risers being attached.

 

Sea Otter                                    Golden Eagle                                  Swimming Otters

 

 

 

Sea Otter  feeding                                                Swimming Otters

 

After the molten bronze has been poured and allowed to cool, the hard ceramic shell is now being removed from the bronze tree and sculpture.

 

 

The two swimming bronze otters after being cleaned up and polished before being welded together and then coloured..

 

 

 

The completed sea otter feeding, along with the pair of swimming otters after being finished with an onyx effect colouring and then polished.

 

 


 

 

For further information regarding Ian's limited edition wildlife bronze sculptures or details about commissioning an individual woodcarving or bronze sculpture;
please contact : Ian G Brennan 
 
ian@iangb.com

 


 

 

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