LOST WAX :
Created one at a time…a tiny wax sculpture is ‘lost’ and becomes a treasure in antique bronze or silver.
It’s like magic!! It IS magic…to me!
Lost wax. What? Those words, at first glance don’t seem to belong together…but they describe an intriguing process that I use to create my silver and vermeil jewelry.
I’ve always been intrigued with wax and its magical qualities…reminders of home, the fragrance of vanilla candles, my fingerprints recorded in soft wax, the sand castle like drips on our Thanksgiving tapers, and the mini hexagonal architectures created by bees…wax has always captured my imagination.
So ’playing’ and creating with wax became a natural art media for me. I have loved creating tiny sculptures out of wax which become a wee bird’s nest ring, a miniature daffodil, or a flappy butterfly that glides on a neckpiece.
I create this miniature world using a process the French call ‘cire perdue’ also known as lost wax casting. It is a magical technique by which a metal sculpture (often silver, gold, brass or bronze) is created from an original in wax. But just HOW does a wax piece become a cast silver or vermeil ring you might ask.
I cut and texture tiny shapes from sheet wax or wax rods. Using an ‘additive’ process, I build up bits and pieces of soft wax to create a small sculpture. Other artists use a ‘subtractive’ process, filing hard wax away until only their desired three-dimensional piece is left.
The original tiny wax sculpture is then added to a ‘sprue’, a tiny rod of wax and attached along with other originals, to a ‘tree’, a wax tree. A plaster of Paris-like substance, called ‘investment’, is poured around the tree, filling up the space between the original and a cylindrical metal flask. When the investment is hard and dry, it is put into a kiln and heated until the original wax sculpture melts out and leaves behind, a space for the molten silver or bronze to flow.
That’s why its called ‘lost wax’, the wax is melted away leaving space for the molten metal that replaces it. Formless molten metal is poured into the mold to create a permanent replica of the original wax sculpture! Because my designs are 3D complex, a vacuum casting process is required to ensure that the molten metal reaches each tiny petal. I direct cast other pieces in my studio, but collaborate with artisan Isamael Laredo at That Casting Place to ensure that the elaborate and precise casting produces perfection rings!!
(Photo: Isamael Laredo. That Casting Place. Pasadena, CA.)
Most jewelry is reproduced using molds, so that objects can be duplicated hundreds of times. I’ll share that process in another post. But my tiny wax sculptures are too complicated three-dimensionally to be molded, so they are created one at a time…I create a wax sculpture, and then ‘lose’ it. Poof. Like Magic...to me!
So, what will it be today…a butterfly, a cuttlefish or twists and ruffles like a flowing stream? I have ideas but until I get out the wax, my shaping tools and light the candle I won’t know…it will just whisper what it wants to be!
Artist and Collaborator for Honey and Oak
See Whimsical Adornment in our Shop for other creations.