This week, we congratulated Santa Barbara, California artist Metrov on the sale of one of his 3D printed sculptures here. We are very pleased to be able to also share this article, sent to us by Metrov, containing full details on how he created his limited edition sculpture series using the latest 3D printing technology.
The introduction of new casting technologies led me on quite an adventure this last year. Basically, it was supposed to go something like this: 1) Use a 3D modeling program to create a digital sculpture. 2) Email the digital file to a foundry. 3) Foundry makes a 3D print. 4) From the 3D print, they make a mold. 5) From the mold, they cast the sculpture in bronze. 6) Add patinas to bronze. 7) The bronze is mounted on a marble stand. 8) Foundry ships finished piece to my studio in U.S. The real adventure, however, happened between the lines.
STEP ONE: CREATE 3D MODEL
Below: image of PAX: BEAR GODDESS (with foundry notes), rendered from Blender, an open source, 3D modeling and animation program. It took me a few years to master Blender… the basics, anyway. It’s a fully comprehensive program which includes all the myriad controls of the high-end paid versions.
STEP TWO: EMAIL DIGITAL FILE TO FOUNDRY
Sounds simple, but first I had to hire a professional 3D modeller to prepare my digital file for 3D printing. Besides modeling the figure, it has to be specially configured to enable 3D printing—technical stuff I’ve yet to learn (read: don’t want to learn… ugh). Also, the file had to go to a foundry in China as their prices are a fraction of what the cost would be in the U.S. Some places in China are not email friendly, and so emails have to be sent through special servers, otherwise they may be intercepted by secret police… or spies… or something. Anyway, the email finally arrived at the foundry.
STEP THREE: FOUNDRY MAKES 3D PRINT
This step was happily straightforward. My well-prepared file printed without issues. Below: image of the 3D print.
STEP FOUR: FOUNDRY MAKES MOLD
Again, this step was pretty straightforward. Or at least, I didn’t hear of any issues.
STEP FIVE: CAST SCULPTURE IN BRONZE
Casting went well… after all, this is what foundries, do, right?
STEP SIX: ADD PATINAS TO BRONZE
This is where the headaches began. This particular sculpture requires a two-tone patina as seen in the first rendering above. Most of the patina is the traditional bronze color that covers the body and ears, but the head and ear holes must be black. After numerous attempts (and photos back and forth showing wear corrections must be made, etc), the artisans at the foundry were simply unable to create the patina as indicated. When they tried to fix it, they only made things worse. Exasperated, I finally instructed them to remove the patina completely and send it without a finish. (see 3rd shot below).
STEP SEVEN: MOUNT BRONZE ON MARBLE STAND
The first marble base made by the foundry was nothing like the one I designed in my rendering. When I pointed this out to them (based on the photo they sent), they readily had another one made. Second time they got it right.
STEP EIGHT: SHIP FINISHED PIECE
The work in the image above is what arrived from China. I was pretty excited to receive my sculpture at last… it took almost eight months from the time I’d emailed the 3D digital file to get the final statue. It wouldn’t normally take this long, of course, but the patina phase became a nightmare that no one anticipated. It was my fault, actually, as I failed, in the beginning, to ask the foundry to show me a similar two-tone patina sculpture they’d done in the past.
So, I now had to have the patina applied. Since this part of the operation requires a welding torch, and because I’d never applied patina before, I went to a local foundry to have it done.
The local foundry is well established: Artisan Bronze in Oxnard, California. Because of the headaches working with China, I decided to have a mold made from the bronze so I could have Artisan Bronze make copies in the future. Because the 3D print is not required to make bronze copies, the cost is considerably reduced. Robert, the owner, agreed, but the marble base had to be removed to make the mold. Robert warned me it could break when trying to remove it…. which, in fact, it summarily did.
Robert added both colors of the patina, but the blacks did not turn out nearly black enough. I learned that it’s not possible to get a true black patina. The black would have to be painted on.
First, though, I had to replace the marble base. Robert recommended a place he works with in Los Angeles: Imported Onyx. He actually drove my base down to them, and left it for replication. When I called to pick the new base, there was no answer… for almost two weeks.
Meanwhile, I had posted the 3D rendering of the statue on Indiewalls, a website where artists can submit their work for various commercial and private needs, i.e. restaurants, hotels, homes, and so forth. A client actually purchased the statue based on the rendering, and needed it shipped to New York right away!
I found another base factory on the East Coast, and was about to place an order when, Victor, owner of Imported Onyx called and apologized as he’d been waylaid by surgery. At any rate, he turned out to be a great guy, and fabricated a new base in one day. I raced down from Santa Barbara to pick it up.
Having the mounted statue back in my studio, I had to apply the final black paint for the head and ear holes. I painstakingly masked off the bronze areas and applied the paint on Friday. Saturday was spent photographing and making video of the final work. Sunday, I prepared the packing crate. Monday, I ordered a plaque with title of piece and my name. Monday night, packed the work. Tues morning, drove the crate to FEDEX and had it shipped to NYC!
Since this version of PAX is a limited edition of 25, I only have to go through this 24 more times! Just kidding. Now that I’ve been through the process… and learned the potholes to avoid… it should be a snap making the other editions. At any rate, keep your fingers crossed for me.
In this epic, narrative installation series, Pax, the ancient Roman goddess of peace, Spring, and re-birth, returns to us as the spirit of a Mother Bear. The Pax project signals the arrival of a new global consciousness; a harmonious shift between the balance of patriarchal and matriarchal forces governing our planet.