10-foot sheets of solid bronze are heavy & awkward. I drag one into the shop and wrestle it up onto the bench. Each of the urn designs has a set of patterns to be nestled together at one end of the sheet. A few rough cuts and everything becomes more manageable. I settle down and carefully trim the various pieces to their final shape with a high-tech plasma cutter and a low-tech bench shear - each has an important role in my shop. A variety of anvils and odd pieces of metal are used to impress the bronze with lines, hatches, and small dents. This is an artistic, custom process - it gives the bronze surface complexity and a sense of memory. Hand worked bronze is capable of such a depth of feeling compared to more common metals such as brass or steel. I linger with this part of the creative work until it shows a satisfying emotional texture.
The three dimensional curves require a boat builder's eye (the kayaks I build show up here to give me a hand). All the curves of a sculpture must be "fair" and well-defined. It takes a while to get them just right so that the parts fit together snugly - gentle persuasion by hand required here - mostly gentle. Once I'm happy with the flow & fit of the parts, I tack the corners and edges in a few places with a large welder. Finally, I use the smaller more intense TIG welder to trace delicately along each corner and fuse the parts into a seamless whole. Its tiny arc is as hot and bright as the sun. This is a magical moment in which the many parts disappear into something singular & whole - something new has appeared. I need this miracle as much as my client does.
An opening is formed on each funeral urn (usually on the bottom, sometimes on the back) and a cover plate fitted carefully and bolted down tight. Grinding, sanding, and burnishing bring a satin sheen to the urn and prepare it for the patina. The ancient patina solutions are applied over and over until the bronze glows with the warmth of time & life. The result is an urn that seems both contemporary and ancient - expressing our complicated sense of both an absence and a presence - as if one could possibly give shape to a great, collective memory.
all images and designs on this site copyright 2005-2016 David Orth