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FEATURE

Preparing to Pour

Team Effort

Every sculpture begins with an idea. For Hendren, it came to her while surveying campus for a place to install her year-end project. “When I looked at the curved cement wall in front of the University Library, I saw an image of a girl playing ‘heads up seven up,’” she says. But before she could make that vision into a reality, she had to do a great deal of preparation. Each pour—except in the case of Professor Missy Englehart, whose

Pour days only occur two or three times a semester, and can make or break a month’s work in an instant. But worse things can happen than an unsightly mold line. If any moisture makes contact with the molten bronze, a steam explosion can fling liquid metal in every direction. “Everyone involved is outfitted head to toe with protective gear,” says Nunn. Synthetic materials aren’t allowed in the foundry, as the liquid metal is so

The pouring process is a team effort. Between working the furnaces, lifting the crucibles and pouring the molten metals into ceramic shells, students and faculty have their work cut out for them. The crucibles hold between 180220 pounds of liquid metal, and the equipment needed to handle them isn’t light either. The lifting tongs used to raise the crucible from the furnace can weigh 50 pounds themselves, and require two sets

BFA project featured a live pouring of bronze into a shell-less sand bed—is preceded by the process of mold making. “Think of Shake and Bake chicken,” says Sculpture Professor Jann Nunn. “We take wax forms and dip them in a variety of course sands to create a half-inchthick coating.” Once the coating is formed, the mold is placed into the burnout kiln, which melts away the wax and transforms the sandy exterior into a ceramic shell. The wax is collected and reused, and the hollow ceramic shell is fit to withstand the molten bronze. It takes an hour to melt the bronze within the crucible, a process that is quickened by a loud piece of equipment called a blower. It mixes gas and air to an ideal ratio before it reaches the metal, resulting in a more efficient heat transfer.

hot that its reaction with something like a polyester shirt would be extremely dangerous. Instead, students are equipped in industrial leather clothing, with a steel mesh screen to protect the face. The foundry consists of three furnaces, each reaching temperatures of 2,000 degrees in order to completely liquefy the bronze. The result is a stifling hot workspace.

of hands to operate. Typically six people are involved in the process, each with specific tasks that must be performed to ensure the safety and success of the pour. Hendren’s “Thumbs Up, Seven Up” was created in eight different molds before being soldered together. “Throughout the whole process all I could think was ‘Please, please pour perfectly,’” says Hendren. “My heart sank

Artists are often forced to turn to expensive commercial foundries to work with metals, but Sonoma State’s foundry was installed when the art building was built in 1978. “We’re doing heavy lifting, wearing a lot of leather,” says James Blake, another BFA student. “It’s taxing, and in the end you’re exhausted, but happy.”

when I saw a crack in the torso, but fortunately I was able to fix it after the fact.” During a previous pour, one of Blake’s projects also cracked, this

insights | FALL 2016 | 9

Insights fall2016  
Insights fall2016  

Insights: The Magazine of Sonoma State University. The fall 2016 issue welcomes President Judy K. Sakaki, explores pioneering winery wastewa...

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