Finding Sculpture

Updated: Jan 11

It is said that the big changes in life find you every ten years. For me it started when I was eight: the divorce of my parents and with it the end of a carefree childhood. At eighteen was another pivotal moment: school was not compulsory any more, so I quit right away. This was the start of living my own life. Last year I had my twenty-eight birthday and now I'm on the lookout for the next big change. Maybe it is already here, because of what happened in the days before this birthday.

legendary goldsmith Yasuki Hiramatsu

Most of what I do feels very mental, even if it requires tools like camera's, lights, pen en paper, scissors and magazines. I felt a strong urge to create with my hands, in a substantial material like metal or stone. Since I don't have space for big projects, my curiosity went out towards gold- smithing. I was fascinated by the possibilities and allure of fine-art jewellery, but a beginners workshop already consists of many tools and equipment and there has to be active ventilation. So to keep it simple, I started with wax carving. With this technique you carve a design from hard wax, which then goes to a foundry where it is turned it into silver, gold or other metals.

I started melting down old candles on the kitchen stove, poured blocks in plastic cups and began carving with two dentists tools I got from a second-hand shop. While working on the first designs, I remembered a holiday in Warffum (between Baflo en Usquert) where I had a first encounter with soft sculpting wax, which is very different from carving wax. What I love about this medium, is that it goes from hard to soft by temperature, so you can go back and forth between big shapes and details. Also it is not messy like clay and a lot stronger, so it holds thin shapes up very well. I spend a week on making a statue of my dog Bastos at play. It came out way better than I expected and was even starting to look for a place to have it cast in bronze. But then a heat-wave came over the village and even before I had woken up, my wax dog was already molten beyond repair.

Remembering the fun of working with sculpting wax, I ordered a pack and immediately fell in love with the medium. My girlfriend was abroad for a week and I spent every waking moment sculpting. The first sculpture I made was of a lute playing dude on a fantasy donkey who waded through the water. Starting up and finding the shapes was exhilarating. But as I got closer to finishing these figurative sculptures, I experienced that the doubts and critiques piled up and soon it was not fun any more.

My girlfriend came back and she was amazed by how productive I had been. We had lots of talks about how at home I felt with this medium. The next weekend we had family over for diner, Mari made one of her legendary curry's, and after the meal we drank some coffee and continued talking. I was playing with some wax and mindlessly made my first two abstract sculptures:

It was the beginning of a sculpting frenzy. Two months later I had boxes full of them, around one hundred sculptures like these:

Thoughts of having my work cast in bronze were on my mind since the start, but now that I was piling up it started to become more urgent. The big question was what to do with the texture. In the casting process, many channels are added to the wax sculptures for filling up all the nooks and crannies with liquid bronze. These channels are later sawn off from the cast, leaving ugly marks on the surface. These have to be worked out with hammers, chisels, rotary tools and sanding paper to blend in with the original texture. All that work can get quite expensive...

To me these sculptures are toys for adults. They don't have a top or bottom, will not be attached to a pedestal and should invite you to pick them up and put them together. So I started experimenting with smoothing out the surface of my sculptures. After a few weeks of trial and error, I now have a good technique to make it smooth. A benefit of smooth surfaces, is that the task of removing the casting marks is way more easy. Here you can see some experiments on smoothing the surface.

Right before the start of 2022, I visited Yakov Sala, who is a bronze caster in Arnhem. He answered all my questions in less than 15 minutes and gave a quote for casting my works.

In the coming weeks I plan on having these first two sculptures cast:

You might understand that I am super excited about holding the first bronze castings in my hands. Hopefully I can make some photos of the process and share them with you!