About My Sculpture Maquettes
About My Sculpture
For the past 45 years I have put most of my energy into building a library of cast metal abstract maquettes. Some of them have been enlarged, and some sold as desktop sculpture, but for the most part, the entire extensive library is available for enlargement.
Although the bulk of my work is abstract forms, I am a multi-faceted sculptor working with figurative forms as well. You can view a vast array of my abstract maquettes and other work at www.RichardArfsten.artspan.com. This is not the entire library and it is my goal to continue posting more as time permits.
I am a designer who is also able to do his own foundry work, welding and metal forming. However, the intent of the maquettes is to sell them to clients who would then hire a fabricating facility of their choosing to have the pieces enlarged near where they are to be installed.
I am paid a fee for the design of the maquette and another for the Enlargement Rights. I am not involved with the fabrication or installation of a piece. Of course, I am available for telephone consultation during those processes. This unique concept means there is no gallery commission, no sales rep commission and no supervising fees paid to me. The client becomes his own general contractor and sub-contracts the fabrication, site development and transportation of the piece to the site and installation. The client controls all costs and decisions. It is a win-win situation for everyone involved.
This approach also creates other cost benefits for the client. It is easier and less expensive to ship a maquette than a very large finished sculpture. If the client happens to want the piece installed in a foreign country, shipping a maquette will also save on import duties because the piece of sculpture will be constructed locally so no duties should be due.
The final sculpture can be constructed from any type of sheet metal. There are no compound curves in the designs which means a plate roller is all that is needed to form any curves in the piece. A fabricator has a digital scan made to acquire the form's patterns, then the pieces are cut from sheet metal, formed and welded. Essentially they are a construction of unusually shaped boxes.
About the Casting Process for Most of the Maquettes
I have a degree in Industrial Arts. This gives me a background to understand most manufacturing processes. I am a person who must always be doing something. When I lived with my grandparents in my early childhood my grandmother used to say, "Richard, you have ants in your pants." I cannot remember a time when I did not take night school classes at our local technical colleges. Everything that a sculptor or artist would benefit from I took classes in.
45 years ago a new casting process was invented. It is called "evaporative pattern casting." All metal casting processes involve pouring molten metal into a cavity or depression of something that does not melt, usually sand, and letting it cool and get hard. The difference with evaporative pattern casting is that there is no cavity. You pour the metal onto some substance that burns away and thereby creates a cavity to give the metal a form.
It's a very simple concept but extremely hard to control. The burnout substance I use is a polystyrene foam like what computers are packaged in. You can also buy sheets of it to insulate buildings. It burns out very easily but is so fragile that you cannot pound sand against it without affecting its shape. In order to get past that problem a very fine dry sand is poured next to the pattern and then it is vibrated to try to hold it in place. The next problem is that as the pattern burns away the loose dry sand falls into the space where the foam was and you do not get the design that you wanted.
It took me 10 years of experimenting to identify the 50 reasons why it was not working the way I wanted it to. When this is used an as industrial process they will make many, many, many practice pours for a product in order to control all the variables before the start of a run of 100,000 parts. In my case I only have one chance with my designs. If the pour does not work, all the time I put into the design is forever lost. This is why it is not used in the art world. The success rate is not consistent. An art foundry wants to get paid and the artist wants to see the design come out as planned. I got hooked on this process because for some reason all the stars were lined up on my first try and it worked. But that was not the case for the next 20 tries. It is like winning the jackpot at the casino with the first coin. You are hooked because you know it can happen again if you can duplicate what you did the first time.
Over the past 45 years, after thousands of pours and many different designs of machinery that I invented and made, I now have a success rate of about 60 percent. Unfortunately, most of my very best designs never made it beyond the pour, for a variety of reasons. One good thing is you can remelt the metal and try again. The bad thing is that your design is gone and it's impossible to duplicate it. I do not recommend this process to anyone unless you can deal with failure. I tell people "failure is your friend." Think about it. If it bites you in your pocket book you try to not do it the same way again. That is how you learn.
Now I am old and the foundry has shut down so I cannot make any more of this type of work. Hint - once you cannot get any more of something it increases in value. So this might be a good time to buy some of my work while the prices are still low and I'm relatively undiscovered. I have all the faith in the world that someday I will be famous!