WHAT IS A PATTERN?
Art foundries specialise in converting creative designs into bronze and other permanent metallic materials. These designs are for the most part originated in the studio using a modelling or construction material such as clay or plaster. In addition to sculpture, art foundries also often process architectural detail, furniture elements, interior/exterior environmental design features and so on. In general, designs destined for art foundry casting are referred to as 'MASTER PATTERNS' or just plain 'PATTERNS'. This term covers the whole general range items sent to art foundries for casting and is used frequently throughout this website instead of 'sculpture' and other descriptions to emphasise the specific role PATTERNS play in the casting process.
This section of the bronzecasting.co.uk website looks at various aspects of art foundry patterns and the process of PATTERN MAKING. The manner in which a pattern is prepared for art foundry processing is critical - the work done in creating the pattern is perhaps the single most important factor in determining
the success or otherwise of a casting project.
Whilst getting the creative elements of a sculptural design 'just so' is vital, it is also essential to look beyond immediate artistic and design concerns and consider a range of technical and processing issues – this is because any foundry pattern is much more than a just a ‘stand alone’ sculpture, it is also a template or blueprint for the entire casting process. The next few articles provide a general introduction to art foundry patterns and pattern making
WHO MAKES THE PATTERN?
The vast majority of PATTERNS destined for the art foundry have been created in a studio by a sculptor or designer; some professionals will also employ studio assistants and other specialist technicians to help them with this work.
There are some exceptions to the general rule of 'artist generated' patterns, for example sculptors can create a scale model of the work they want cast (known as a MAQUETTE), then commission a professional create a full scale foundry pattern. Many art foundries have a scaling (enlargement) facility, the personnel working there will typically use digital scanning techniques or a traditional 'analogue' POINTING MACHINE for example, to work the maquette up as a full scale foundry pattern.
TERM: A pointing machine is a scaling tool that uses a mechanical pantograrphic ratio arrangement to transfer points [from a stylus] placed three dimensional object, to stylus points on a scale copy at the opposing end of the pantograph.
Sculptors and designers can also draft accurate dimensioned drawings that enable a specialist pattern maker to produce a suitable foundry pattern - this method is generally only used to produce regular geometric designs (including ancillary items such as plinths, mounting plates and so on). Dimensioned drawings are often used to create a type of pattern that is ideally suited to SAND CASTING, a process where the use of professional PATTERN MAKING skills is common.
For most artists, the design and construction of a quality pattern represents the largest single investment in time and effort for any given sculpture casting project. It is also the part of the whole sculpture making process over which the artist usually exercises the most direct control – dictating at this early stage the success of the finished artwork.
This following articles describe some of the different types of master patterns, pattern materials, and the processes used in both the studio and foundry to prepare patterns for the lost wax casting process. Details on patterns suitable for sand casting can be found in the section on SAND CASTING, which details this specialist foundry process.
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