bronze sculptures

Art Nouveau a lasting inspiration

We have written about our love of Art Nouveau and are now taking a trip to Brussels in homage of Victor Horta, one of the pioneers and master of this organic and fluid style of architecture. We left England in the 80’s with an appreciation of the French masters in this field but did not become familiar with the Brussels legend until meeting Kareem Abdul- Jabbar also a legend and an Art Nouveau enthusiast. Martin was hired to fabricate the entry door, interior doors and stair rails for his Bel Air residence. When we arrive in Brussels and see Horta’s work in person we will share this experience in a later post. Meanwhile I want to focus on this local residence where the styles of Horta, Guimar and Mucha came together to create a splendid home.

Kareem-bel-air

 

The front door was carved from Honduras mahogany as a collection of over-sized irises in a style reminiscent of Alphonse Mucha’s colorful posters. The interior of the front door borrowed its direction from Guimard but for the main archways and interior doors the whiplash center of the casement molding and tweezed hair design of the corners are much truer to Horta’s work.

Kareem

 

Horta’s aesthetic can also be seen in the large interior doors especially where wood meets glass and the birds eye maple panel is bisected by a central astragal carved as a budding tendril.

Kareem 3.jpg

 

The stair rail was made in sections of solid bronze using a cow parsley pattern carved by Martin and based on the floral works of Mucha.

Kareem 1.jpg

 

 

White Raven Sculpture In Progress

The White Raven was not the intended title of this post but as an avid viewer of Game of Thrones my ears pricked up when replaying part of season 6 and hearing Sansa tell  Jon that a white raven had arrived from the Citadel. In the fictional world of the Citadel, white ravens are purported to be a different more intelligent  species to their black corvid cousins hence their fictional black eyes. In reality as author Carrie D. Miller explains, white ravens have leucism which is a condition that reduces the pigment in their eyes and feathers  resulting in  cream colored rather than  white feathers and  and  blue rather than black eyes. 

When looking for details about white ravens I came across some wonderful photographs taken by Mike Yip and posted on Carrie D. Millers site. You can see more beautiful photographs of ravens and other bird species on the site administered by Mike Yip www.vancouverislandbirds.com

Photograph Courtesy of Mike Yip

Photograph Courtesy of Mike Yip

 Living in the hills of Hollywood we have the good fortune to see families of ravens on an almost daily basis but only once have we seen a white raven. I can attest that he/she looked perfectly healthy and happy in the presence of his/her darker siblings. The white raven, was as Ms. Miller correctly states more cream and beige in color than white.

 The sculpture was finished at the same time we saw the rerun of this series and so we decided to make a small video showing the piece in white basswood. To preserve the wood as well create a surface that will release more easily from the  rubber mold we have now finished the Raven with a water based varnish. Martin will next  begin making molds so that we can get one step closer to creating this piece in  bronze.

One Feather At A Time - The Raven Sculpture Journal

Continuing the journal of Martin Pierce’s Raven sculpture. 

Following his visit to Big Bear where he was able to see  raven’s up close Martin decided he needed to change the pose of his sculpture to show the raven cawing with his beak open and throat puffed to make the distinctive sound raven’s use when declaring their territory or courting.

Once captured in pencil, the raven’s 3  perspectives  were outlined onto rough wood blocks, one for each section of his body. In deciding  how to sectionalize the raven’s shape Martin had to reverse engineer the sculpture by determining how the bronze would eventually flow, where the  gates for the bronze could best be added and where thereby the bird could best be sectioned.

Constructing and de-constructing a Raven for lost wax casting

Constructing and de-constructing a Raven for lost wax casting

If Martin had been intending to make only one wood sculpture he would have chosen a wood with more character than basswood and would have sculpted the bird from one block of wood rather than several pieces. However, as this sculpture will be used to create several molds for lost wax casting the sculpture was made so that it could be de-constructed.

The raven will be cast in bronze and will be available as a limited edition. The raven will join his feathered friend the scrub jay in Martin’s collection of bronze sculptures, which as well as portraying birds also portrays insects in fictional settings.

Traditional artistic methods and 3D printing

One of the advantages to old school artistic methods is that they allow the artist to make more immediate design corrections. While CAD does allow the artist to see his virtual sculpture from a 3D vantage, the same holds true for perspective drawings done free hand with pencil and vellum. No doubt the ease and speed of both methods owes a lot to the different ways our brains are wired and to the different way we learn our artistic skills. While Martin Pierce does use a Wacom tablet with built in mouse, for his initial development drawings he finds he can achieve a faster result by adding and erasing pencil lines.

Plan View of Raven Design

Plan View of Raven Design

This is the same approach he uses when creating custom door handles and as with sculpture, the grid drawings can be placed on solid wood so that the shape can be traced onto the wood’s surface and then cut out with a band saw. While we could use 3D printing to create the pattern, the speed of printing a quick cast SLA model and the cost makes this approach less attractive. By comparison, once a pattern has been sculpted and the artistic and practical bugs sorted out then 3D printing comes into its own if one wants for example to create a left or right version of a piece. We have occasionally used 3D scanning to scan a pattern and then have created a print file that is a mirror image thus allowing a 3D print to be made. The only drawback to doing this is that you end up with a clone of the original and Martin tends to have a preference for asymmetric designs.

Profile of Raven design

Profile of Raven design

 

Ravens at Big Bear Alpine Zoo

The Raven sculpture is now taking shape as Martin develops a clearer understanding of this magnificent bird’s wing movement, body stance and general proportion. Having tentatively decided to sculpt a male in pre-flight position,  a visit to the Big Bear Zoo is making him question if this is the pose he wishes to capture as a sculpture.

Finding a live accessible raven has been a challenge as our local Los Angeles zoo could not help. However, the zoo at Big Bear next to Snow Summit has 2 pairs of ravens and we were allowed to freely photograph them. Day one proved frustrating as neither pair was in the mood to be photographed but on day two we were able to take some beautiful shots of their head profiles, plumage and talons.

Raven Profile

Raven Profile

The zoo is well worth visiting and is just over 2 hours by car from Los Angeles and offers a wonderful range of animals including timber wolves, raccoons, coyotes and 2 snow leopards. As they state on their site ” The Big Bear Alpine Zoo is a rehabilitation facility offering injured, orphaned and imprinted wild animals a safe haven, temporarily while they heal, or permanently, as they are unable to survive on their own. We are extremely proud that 90% of all the animals brought to us for rehabilitation are successfully released back into their native environment.”

Plumage and back talon detail

Plumage and back talon detail

Equipped with a better understanding of these 4 ravens Martin will turn his focus back to his drawing board to decide what changes he will make to his initial concept drawings.By year end we hope to have a new bird sculpture to add to our collection of bronze sculptures.

Blue Birds Make A Clean Start in 2018

We celebrated 2018 in Paso Robles with close friends and our dog Iris. The hikes, chilly air and the bird life all helped to revitalize our moods and energy and so like these Blue birds we enter 2018 with a refreshed perspective.

We have incorporated bird designs in both our animal cabinet pulls and in our jay bronze sculpture and will be adding a raven to our collections in the months ahead. While the blue birds shown here are vivid colorful creatures they do not make easy subjects for bronze castings as their markings and multiple colors are difficult to create even with hot patinas. The scale of these small birds with their thin legs is also challenging making it necessary to add an artistic mount to support the heavy body weight. 

Blue Birds First Dip of 2018.jpg

Ravens  by comparison have a more uniform color range and stronger legs proportionate to their body size making them perfect as free standing sculptures. We live in the Hollywood Hills and have several families of ravens that we see on a daily basis and appreciate their flying skills, antics and obvious intelligence.

 Martin has just begun his initial design for this new piece and  has decided that the piece will be close to life size at 22” from beak to tail feathers and in a pre-flight position. He is currently hoping to find someone in the Los Angeles area who has a captive raven so that he can photograph the bird from other perspectives so if anyone has any suggestions please let me know.

Wasp and Insect Cabinet Pulls

To say that Martin Pierce is fascinated by insects would be an understatement and it explains why insects and their habitat figure so much in his cabinet pulls as well as his paintings, sculpture and furniture. 

This fascination is not shared by all but we have found that many of our gardening neighbors understand the role that these creatures play in helping to keep their gardens free of voracious caterpillars and from the adult flies such white-fly that they become. At the weekend Martin was able to snap a shot of a beautiful mud dauber wasp, named for the way it daubs mud to create individual chambers for each of its lava.  The wasp catches a caterpillar and entombs it in the lava's pod like chamber thus providing a constant food source for the developing lava that when it pupates will emerge as a strikingly colored wasp. The nest chambers are equally impressive and are made of multiple layers of mud built up over a period of days that dry and harden to become robust adobe like homes. Once the caterpillar has been deposited the wasp then lays an egg on it and secures the chamber with more mud.

This architectural skill  is one that is found in other species and we have seen swallows build nests using a similar approach. What makes the dauber wasp awe inspiring is how she creates her chambers to be just the right size and strength to support the larder and her offspring. Where are her blueprints, where is her scaffolding, apparently they are not required.

HAPPY 4th JULY TO ALL

From all of us here may you have a happy and safe July 4th.

Bird door handle

 

The image used here may not be the iconic American bald eagle but the Blue Jay still ranks as a revered and loved bird amongst  Americans and non-Americans alike.

The sculpture is both a decorative wall piece and a functioning door pull depending on your taste and needs . It is cast in solid silicon bronze and is part of Martin Pierce’s limited edition of  art works that include several insect and fantasy pieces.  The Blue Jay measures 17”W x 12”D x 4”H.

Creating Custom Door Hardware Using The Lost Wax Method of Casting

Limited Edition Custom Handle Commission in Bronze

Limited Edition Custom Handle Commission in Bronze

We are frequently asked to make one of a kind door handles for designers looking for a statement piece for a restaurant or retail project or corporations looking to expand their brand presence. The requests we receive can be challenging and some, such as a request for rotating human hand, border on the bizarre.

As a company we do a lot of custom casting but  the process we use to create our work is costly and does not lend itself to value engineering. The focus of this article is to outline the process with the aid of photographs taken during the  creation of a wine cellar door handle, commissioned by a client as a limited edition.

As designers we truly respect the creative process and understand the time that goes into creating a unique piece and accordingly will only work on projects that are free from plagiarism.

The Process – step by step

1.        Concept drawing(s) often several form the starting point to a dialogue where we establish the size of the handle, whether it needs to operate a latch or is to be used as a stationary grip.

2.        Perspective drawings are detailed drawings that show the client how the piece will look when viewed from different vantage points. We need to understand if the piece is being viewed from all sides as it would be if used as a grip mounted on a glass door. How the piece is to be mounted either by through bolts or surface screws will need to be decided and drawn.

Pattern Development

A three dimensional pattern is created in wood or if the piece is small, typically less than 3”, then in solid wax. At this point 3D printing is slow and  expensive but it can be useful if one is creating a mirror image of a simple shape especially when the shape is symmetrical. We used 3D printing when creating the simple gourd shape for our Dragon Egg Sconce.

For larger detailed and organic pieces Martin Pierce carves the pattern by hand. He uses a reductive approach to whittle down his over-sized block of wood to create the pattern. Other pattern makers use an additive approach and they create the pattern by adding and forming pieces of clay. In our case study the design required 4 patterns to be carved, a left and right facing waiter and their two goblets. The patterns took many hours to create but by carving the pieces with an array of different chisels Martin could create a very detailed fine pattern and one whose details could be captured in bronze.

pattern-later-stage

Mold Making

Each pattern requires a mold and if the piece has a lot of undercuts it may require a 2 piece mold. In this instance we developed a total of 4  two -piece molds each one made to encapsulate one of the 4 patterns. The molds are made from building up successive layers of silicone rubber that pick up the fine detail of the pattern. The pliable nature of the rubber is then reinforced by an outer casing made of plaster or metal which holds the 2 parts of the mold in place so that they can withstand the pressure applied when molten wax is injected into the cavity. The cavity is created when the pattern is removed from the mold and to make this easier the pattern is coated with a release agent before the rubber is applied.

Casting – what is meant by lost wax?

For every piece we cast in bronze, we first make a wax replica by pouring molten wax into the cavity of the mold. Theoretically these replicas could be 3 D printed but at this point the process is slow and expensive. Depending on the size and cooling time it is possible to make multiple waxes in a short period of time. At this point the channels that will be needed to supply the molten metal and those that are needed to vent the air created by flowing metal are added in the form of sprues and gates.

blue-wax-men.jpg

The wax replicas are then “shelled” and dipped into successive coats of liquid silica to build up a thick outer shell. If the shell wall is not sufficiently thick then it may well fail when the bronze is eventually poured. For large castings the shelling process can take weeks but it is a critical step that determines the success of the casing.

After the wax has been shelled the wax will be removed in an autoclave steamer that essentially steams or heats up the solid shell so that the wax is evacuated or “lost”.

 The hollow shell or ceramic case is then fired and is ready to receive the molten bronze. Once the casting has cooled all the sprues and gates will be ground off and the casting will be groomed with metal files to remove any casting imperfections.

Chasing and machining the casting

Chasing and machining the casting

The casting will then be machined for mounting bolts, latches or other locks  that it will be used with.    

The casting is then ready to be finished. In our case study we applied 3 different types of chemical patina and re-burnished key areas so we could delineate the writing on the goblet and the waistcoat buttons on the waiter’s jackets.

Light up the room with our new bronze candlesticks

Over the years we have shared with our clients and those who enjoy our blog just how much Martin is inspired by nature and where he goes to find that inspiration.  This may include hiking trips to local canyons or exotic spots such as our recent trip to Spain or a visit to more  formal gardens such as those at the Huntington Library in San Marino or the Botanic Gardens in Santa Barbara.  We are always equipped with our camera to snap photos of birds and other creatures and their habitats as well as beautiful flowers and foliage.  These visits and corresponding photographs serve as inspiration for future hardware and art projects.  For example, this photo of a budding succulent taken on a day trip to the Huntington Library (and hangs on the wall in our home) Huntington Gardens photo by Martin Pierce Hardware Los Angeles, CA  90016

 

served as inspiration for Martin's latest project--a pair of beautiful candlesticks.

Martin Pierce  Los Angeles, CA  90016

Delicate in appearance only, these candlesticks are cast in solid bronze and measure 14" high and 6" wide at the base. They accommodate a "chime" or processional candle with a .5" diameter.  This unusual size can be purchased from specialty shops like General Wax in North Hollywood, California. The candlestick shows the succulent just before it flowers with the flower stem serving as the "stem" of the sculpture.  The concept was largely based on a succulent similar to those in the Echeveria family of succulents, specifically the 'Black Prince'.   You can read more about this plant here.

This candlestick was originally designed for our home and we then gifted a pair to our close friends on their wedding day.  We are hoping to use the design to create a larger candle arrangement that will feature a larger central succulent surrounded by small buds and the center piece would use a more standard sized candle.   Here are a couple more looks at this exquisite candlestick.

Solid bronze candlesticks from Martin Pierce hardware Los Angeles, CA  90016

Solid bronze candlesticks with tapers from Martin Pierce Hardware Los Angeles Ca  90016

To view our entire collection of architectural hardware please visit our site at www.martinpierce.com.

Designers, please visit our showroom located at :

5433 W. Washington Blvd Los Angeles CA 90016

Tel: 323 939 5929