'I love working with this process as every stage is so physical and has its own sculptural properties.'
Pictured: Alice Andrea Ewing in her studio.
Pomarius is an ongoing collaborative project led by the artist Alice Andrea Ewing. The resulting works are solid bronze ‘direct casts’ of the produce of gardens, historical locations and ancient trees in the UK.
The Casting Process
Words: Alice Andrea Ewing
Works within a Pomarius collection are all produced through the Italian Investment or Renaissance Lost Wax process or an adaptation of this particular method of casting. As the name suggests, the process was developed in Italy around the 15th and 16th century and is one of the oldest still used. All of the works are produced at my studio and foundry in Suffolk, and I undertake and oversee the entire casting process. The term ‘founder-sculptor’ is sometimes used to describe this way of working as most sculptors will send a work to a foundry to be cast for them.
There are several stages in the casting process which every work will go through. In most cases, I am taking the actual fruit or vegetable through the entire process of casting - not using a wax version. It means each work is unique as the details of that particular fruit will be translated exactly into the final bronze work.
The distinctive feature of the Italian Investment method is the creation of a ‘ludo’ mould around the object to be cast, which is then ‘cooked’ in a kiln over several days. This stage allows the object to melt/burn away. The ludo, or ‘investment mould’ as it is principally known, then becomes the vessel for the molten bronze having preserved the form of the object inside, now ‘lost’.
I love working with this process as every stage is so physical and has its own sculptural properties. Making the investment mould involves layering up a mixture of recycled ludo (crushed and sieved from moulds used at the last pour day) with plasters and ceramic sands. The mixture gradually sets as you work it; you begin by ladling it over the surface of the object, gradually ‘flicking’ and building it up and around as it sets. The trick is to ‘follow the form’ of the object inside, making it just thick enough to take the pressure of the bronze when this is eventually poured into the mould but without making it so large that it wastes space in the kiln.
Metal finishing takes place after the pour, once the moulds have cooled. The now-cast objects are smashed out of the investment moulds and jetted with water to loosen any ludo stuck to the surface or sat in little recesses. Once finished and rubbed back to its clean bronze surface, the work can have a patina added. This is a chemical process with a multitude of possible outcomes! In fact, patination was one of the reasons bronze casting hooked me as a medium - I had no idea there were so many colours possible.
In patination, chemicals are applied to the surface of the sculpture to create a colour - sometimes the bronze is heated to achieve the reaction, some can go onto the surface cold. It’s actually a completely natural process that would take place over time with the colour developing dependent on the context. If in a city, raw bronze would turn black; by the sea, you see the famous verdigris or aquamarine colours developing. In a way, the patination process in the studio is simply speeding up this naturally occurring chemical reaction. The colours achieved are then set with a natural beeswax, gently buffed to create a lustre.
Each work is unique as the details of that particular fruit will be translated exactly into the final bronze work.
Supporting artisan communities
Through our collections – particularly those for the home – we explore our deep appreciation and connection to regional craftspeople to reimagine their ancient skills. Artisans rarely work in isolation; their method is rooted in a strong connection to the landbase from which they source their materials, or the social background of their community. Our support of these local communities, and the factories, makers and artisans that sustain them, are as important to us as the materials we work.
Explore the stories of the craftspeople and artisan communities we work with in our online journal.