CHOOSING A FOUNDRY
There are a significant numbers of art foundries across Europe, Australia/Asia and in particular North America, where most US States have at least one art foundry, some like California and New York offer dozens to choose from. The number of art foundries currently operating (despite some closures and consolidation during the recent financial crisis), gives the prospective foundry client a great deal of choice as to where they can send their work for casting, especially if they are prepared to consider foundries outside of their immediate locale.
One of the best ways of finding a good founder is to get another artist's recommendation, or better still, get a personal introduction to a founder. An introduction is especially useful if the person introducing you is an important client of the foundry. Of course, finding a strong recommendation is not always possible, so it may be necessary to locate a foundry by other means. Yellow pages business directories are one starting point, also specialist arts magazines often carry classified adverts placed by art founders. The internet is another rich source of information, often with the added bonus of images, detailed service information and full contact details.
Whatever method is used to find a potential founder, there are a number of issues artists need to consider before placing an order, some of which are briefly discussed here.
• Location – there is much to said for using a local foundry, provided it offers the facilities and service levels demanded by the artist. Remember that a sculptor should ideally inspect all of their foundry waxes and also approve the finished cast before patination in person. Many artists also like to personally supervise the patination process. Fulfilling these commitments can mean repeated visits to the foundry as the work progresses. Attendance is easier if the foundry is local, or at least in a large city where other business (such as gallery visits), can be conducted in the same trip. As a rule, transporting artworks and travelling long distances is more acceptable if the sculptural design is of a large scale, or if a quantity of smaller pieces are being produced (which is one reason why some sculptors have their work cast in 'job lots').
• Process – and facilities available. For every ten lost wax casting foundries specialising in sculpture and design casting, there is perhaps one (or even less), that also offers sand casting facilities; even fewer will have access to centrifugal or vacuum casting equipment. If a large sand cast is being considered, the sculptor may have to travel some distance – unless of course they are lucky enough to be located near a foundry with the necessary facilities. Whatever the process used, there are simply more art foundries casting work on a small scale than there are on a large scale, so an artist with a big commission may be obliged to look further away if their local foundry lacks the capacity to deal with the job in hand. In Australia for example there are no art foundries that offer both sand and lost wax casting 'in-house'.
• Cost – as noted above, most countries house plenty of art foundries to choose from. This generally keeps prices at a competitive level, especially in regions where there is over capacity. Cost naturally has to be balanced with the quality of work produced and these two issues typically go hand in hand. Few artists would be happy with a cast that is riddled with faults or poorly finished however low the founder’s price. It can also be a false economy to locate a cheaper foundry in some distant part of the country if the savings available are then diminished by transportation inconveniences and other expenses. It is a simple fact of life that the very best foundries will be able to charge premium prices and maintain lengthy waiting lists, whatever the general economic or competitive climate.
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