'Skullpture Series - Small Wolverine 1, 2007' by Shane Wilson (carved bronze sculpture)

Skullpture Series, Small Wolverine 1, 2007 by Shane Wilson (carved bronze skull)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Carving and Patination - Phase 1) by Shane Wilson

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, carving and patination in progress, phase 1 (carved bronze skulls)

The designs for each carving are drawn directly onto the raw bronze prior to carving. (2004-2005) The bronzes below are in various states of design and carving, all preliminary. Two of the skulls (small wolverine and grizzly) were finished and patinated without being carved. I decided to change this later and carved both skulls.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, carving and patination in progress, phase 1
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Carving and Patination - Phase 2) by Shane Wilson

Using power grinders and carbide burrs, designed for metal work, the designs are carved and the bases are completed using black granite. Following the carving the surface is smoothed with sandpaper, depending on the kind of patination to be applied. (2004-2007)

Below are a selection of images taken during this phase.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, carving and patination in progress, phase 2 (carved bronze skulls)
Skullpture Series - Seal 2

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, carving and patination in progress, phase 2 (carved bronze skulls)
Skullpture Series - Large Wolverine 1

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, carving and patination in progress, phase 2 (carved bronze skulls)
Skullpture Series - Grizzly 2

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, carving and patination in progress, phase 2 (carved bronze skulls)
Skullpture Series - Human 2

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, carving and patination in progress, phase 2 (carved bronze skulls)
Skullpture Series - Human 1

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, carving and patination in progress, phase 2 (carved bronze skulls)
Skullpture Series - Wolf 2
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Carving and Patination - Phase 3) by Shane Wilson

Prior to patination, it is important to clean the surface of the bronze, to remove impurities and any surface oxidation. The most effective way to do this is to sandblast the surface with a fine grit sand. It is important to avoid touching the surface of the bronze with bare hands after this process, as it will pick up oils and create uneven application/oxidization of the patina.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, carving and patination in progress, phase 3 (carved bronze skulls)

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, carving and patination in progress, phase 3 (carved bronze skulls)

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, carving and patination in progress, phase 3 (carved bronze skulls)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Carving and Patination - Phase 4) by Shane Wilson

The next stage is to apply the base coat, which in this case is an application of Birchwood Casey applied cold and then rinsed. An alternative base coat would be liver of sulphur, also applied cold. Following the rinsing, the bronze is heated to set the base coat and then the whole is rubbed back with steel wool.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, carving and patination in progress, phase 4 (carved bronze skulls)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Carving and Patination - Phase 5) by Shane Wilson

Finally it is time to apply the patina! There are numerous oxidizing agents available for patination, all lending a unique look and colour to the bronze. I have chosen to use bismuth nitrate (with varying additions of titanium oxide) and silver nitrate for the human skull and some accents on other pieces (eg. wolverine). The patina is also applied by brush, lending a unique, ringed pattern to the finish. The patina is applied to a hot bronze surface, made so with an open flamed torch. Following the application the entire surface is quenched in water and reheated to dry the bronze and set the patina. The pics below show the patination set up and a variety of pieces in various stages of completion. Note the patina seems much whiter than it will appear after the final coat of lacquer is applied.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, carving and patination in progress, phase 5 (carved bronze skulls)

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, carving and patination in progress, phase 5 (carved bronze skulls)

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, carving and patination in progress, phase 5 (carved bronze skulls)

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, carving and patination in progress, phase 5 (carved bronze skulls)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Carving and Patination - Phase 6) by Shane Wilson

The patina is fragile and needs to be protected by a couple of coats of lacquer. Since the lacquer lends a plastic look to surface, two coats of Trewax are applied and buffed to dull the surface down and provide additional protection. Voila, the finished bronzes!

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, carving and patination in progress, phase 6 (carved bronze skulls)

The bronzes will be photographed professionally and I'll post the images as they become available.
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Wax to Bronze - Phase 11) by Shane Wilson

Once the bronze is brought up to the right temperature, the crucible, containing the molten bronze, is removed with a large pair of tongs, operated by two people.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 11 (carved bronze skulls)

The crucible is placed in the carrying device ...

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 11 (carved bronze skulls)

... which allows the handlers to pour the bronze.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 11 (carved bronze skulls)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Wax to Bronze - Phase 12) by Shane Wilson

Once the metal has cooled sufficiently, it is removed to another work area, preferably outside!

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 12 (carved bronze skulls)

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 12 (carved bronze skulls)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Wax to Bronze - Phase 13) by Shane Wilson

I am using a sledge hammer to loosen the shell from the bronze.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 13 (carved bronze skulls)

The bronze appears!

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 13 (carved bronze skulls)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Wax to Bronze - Phase 14) by Shane Wilson

The remainder of the shell is removed using and air point chisel, and hand chisels.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 14 (carved bronze skulls)

The inner surfaces are particularly challenging to free of shell.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 14 (carved bronze skulls)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Wax to Bronze - Phase 15) by Shane Wilson

The freed bronze, with sprues still attached.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 15 (carved bronze skulls)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Wax to Bronze - Phase 16) by Shane Wilson

The sprues have been cut off with a torch and/or hacksaw. Any cracks or holes have been filled with a welder using bronze rods. The irregularities have been 'chased' or ground smooth, using burrs and air tools. Then the whole bronze has been sandblasted to create an even surface prior to carving.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 16 (carved bronze skulls)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Wax to Bronze - Phase 1) by Shane Wilson

Wax has been poured into the two halves of the mold to test the quality of the mold.

Skullptures by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 1 (carved bronze skulls)

The first wax impression from this mold!

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 1 (carved bronze skulls)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Wax to Bronze - Phase 2) by Shane Wilson

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 2 (carved bronze skulls)

The two halves have been trimmed and assembled. Though the cast version will use a single wax taken from the attached mold, this give some impression of the wax prior to casting.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 2 (carved bronze skulls)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Wax to Bronze - Phase 4) by Shane Wilson

This is a pic of the wolverine and seal skulls as they are being sprued up with wax rods. The intention is to create a path for the bronze to enter the sculptures and to allow air and bronze to escape, filling the sculpture completely with bronze.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 4 (carved bronze skulls)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Wax to Bronze - Phase 5) by Shane Wilson

After spruing, the entire assembly is dipped in a cement-like slurry, then covered in fine silica sand.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 5 (carved bronze skulls)

It is then placed on a wire shelf and allowed to dry throuroughly (2 hours). Air tubes are inserted to allow inner surfaces an equal chance to dry.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 5 (carved bronze skulls)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Wax to Bronze - Phase 6) by Shane Wilson

The sculpture is dipped thirteen times and covered in courser grades of sand. This pic shows the wolverine/seal assembly in an early stage of dipping, and the grizzly skull after its final dip.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 6 (carved bronze skulls)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Wax to Bronze - Phase 7) by Shane Wilson

Once dry, the shell is drilled from the end opposite the end that will receive the bronze. It is then turned upsidedown in a kiln and the wax is melted out of the shell, as the shell is cured.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 7 (carved bronze skulls)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Wax to Bronze - Phase 8) by Shane Wilson

The cured shell is allowed to cool, then inspected for cracks. The drill hole is patched and the cracks are repaired with a special cement.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 8 (carved bronze skulls)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Wax to Bronze - Phase 9) by Shane Wilson

The bronze furnace is heated. Note the piece of bronze on the lid, which is 'drying' prior to insertion in the crucible.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 9 (carved bronze skulls)

As the bronze is heating, the ceramic shells are replaced in the kiln and heated/dried prior to the pour. This is necessary to avoid cracking or an explosion, due to the shock of hot bronze contacting a cold shell and or moisture.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 9 (carved bronze skulls)

The final piece of bronze is melted.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 9 (carved bronze skulls)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Wax to Bronze - Phase 10) by Shane Wilson

The HOT shells are secured by chains in the sandpit. Note the protective clothing and gear.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 10 (carved bronze skulls)

A close up of the secured, hot, ceramic shells.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 10 (carved bronze skulls)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Wax to Bronze - Phase 3) by Shane Wilson

The molds have been tested, then sealed up and filled with hot wax. The wax is allowed to cool for a few minutes, forming a shell against the mold. When the shell is about 1/4" thick the remaining liquid wax is poured back into the melting pot. We used a large crock pot to melt the wax and keep it at a suitable temperature over an extended period.

Skullpture by Shane Wilson, wax to bronze in progress, phase 3 (carved bronze skulls)

Not all attempts as pulling a suitable wax from the mold are successful. The beauty of wax is that it can be remelted and used again. Note some of the successful waxes visible along the back of the bench.
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Small Mold - Phase 4) by Shane Wilson

This is a shot of several other of the small molds in various stages of creation. The second half of the small wolverine mold has been completed.

Skullpture Series, Small Wolverine by Shane Wilson, in progress phase 4 (carved bronze skulls)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Small Mold - Phase 3) by Shane Wilson

Once the silicone has set, remove the outer wall of the mold. Leaving the skull embedded in the silicone, remove the plastercine and free the skull from the plywood base. Flip it over and redo the wall, sealing all edges and gaps with plastercine. Spray the entire surface with a release agent and pour the lower portion of the mold.

Skullpture Series, Small Wolverine by Shane Wilson, in progress phase 3 (carved bronze skulls)

These pictures give you a sense of what the top half of the mold looks like. Note that the pencil indentations are now little knobs, which will mesh nicely with the poured lower half. Note also how much excess silicone is used in this process.

Skullpture Series, Small Wolverine by Shane Wilson, in progress phase 3 (carved bronze skulls)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Small Mold - Phase 2) by Shane Wilson

Skullpture Series, Small Wolverine by Shane Wilson, in progress phase 2 (carved bronze skulls)

The silicone has been poured. There are a variety of silicone products available, this is a Smooth On product. Follow directions carefully for the mixing of the silicone components; each product comes with its own specific directions.
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' (Small Mold - Phase 1) by Shane Wilson

To create a silicone mold from a skull there are a few options, two of which I used in the creation of the molds for the Skullpture Series. For smaller items the molds created were of solid silicone. The larger grizzly skull mold was created inside a fibre glass shell, to reduce the amount of silicone used, saving both cost and weight.

All molds begin by securing the skull to a plywood base. Then it is important to decide on a mid point on the skull, along which the mold will divide. There should be no serious overhangs or undercuts, which would hang up the mold and prevent it from being separated.


Skullpture Series, Small Wolverine by Shane Wilson, in progress phase 1 (carved bronze skulls)

In these images, the small wolverine skull has been attaced to the plywood base and a centre line has been drawn on the skull in pencil crayon.

I have fashioned a wall around the skull with a milk carton and filled the carton with plastercine, up to the predetermined midway point on the skull.

Using the other end of the pencil crayon, guide holes have been made in the plastercine. The entire surface has been sprayed with a release agent, prior to pouring in the silicone, which will create the top half of the mold.


Skullpture Series, Small Wolverine by Shane Wilson, in progress phase 1 (carved bronze skulls)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

One further note: the mold is being fashioned from silicone, because it can be reused. If I were interested in creating a 'one off', other materials would have been cheaper and more suitable, like plaster. The process of creating the mold remains the same.

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'Skullpture Series' (Beginning) by Shane Wilson

Skullpture Series by Shane Wilson, in progress begin (carved bronze skulls)
skulls left to right: grizzly, black bear, wolf, fox, beaver, lynx, large wolverine, martin, seal, small wolverine, human

The Skullpture Series begins with real skulls. Each skull has been prepped for the mold making process. The natural holes have been filled with Chavant clay to prevent the intrusion of silicone into the skull.

It is necessary to create molds from each of the skulls in order to create wax duplicates, which will then be cast in bronze.

Skullpture Series, Small Wolverine by Shane Wilson, in progress begin (carved bronze skulls)
small wolverine skull

Since the technique used to prepare the molds differs depending on the size of the object to be cast, we will follow the mold making process for a small skull, small wolverine (above), and a large skull, grizzly (below).

Skullpture Series, Grizzly by Shane Wilson, in progress begin (carved bronze skulls)
grizzly skull
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

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'Skullpture Series' by Shane Wilson

Skullpture Series, 2007 by Shane Wilson (carved bronze skulls) - Artist Statement
"Just as a fossil uncovered is evidence of life, so too, this carved bronze Skullpture Series reflects the architecture of being alive."
Shane Wilson


Skullpture Series, Black Bear 1, 2007 (carved bronze skulls) by Shane Wilson Skullpture Series, Black Bear 2, 2007 (carved bronze skulls) by Shane Wilson
Skullpture Series - Black Bear 1 and 2, 2007 by Shane Wilson (carved bronze skulls)

Skullpture Series, Grizzly 1, 2007 (carved bronze skulls) by Shane Wilson Skullpture Series, Grizzly 2, 2007 (carved bronze skulls) by Shane Wilson
Skullpture Series - Grizzly 1 and 2, 2007 by Shane Wilson (carved bronze skulls)

Skullpture Series, Human 1, 2007 (carved bronze skulls) by Shane Wilson Skullpture Series, Human 2, 2007 (carved bronze skulls) by Shane Wilson
Skullpture Series - Human 1 and 2, 2007 by Shane Wilson (carved bronze skulls)

Skullpture Series, Large Wolverine 1, 2007 (carved bronze skulls) by Shane Wilson Skullpture Series, Large Wolverine 2, 2007 (carved bronze skulls) by Shane Wilson
Skullpture Series - Large Wolverine 1 and 2, 2007 by Shane Wilson (carved bronze skulls)

Skullpture Series, Seal 1, 2007 (carved bronze skulls) by Shane Wilson Skullpture Series, Seal 2, 2007 (carved bronze skulls) by Shane Wilson
Skullpture Series - Seal 1 and 2, 2007 by Shane Wilson (carved bronze skulls)

Skullpture Series, Small Wolverine 1, 2007 (carved bronze skulls) by Shane Wilson Skullpture Series, Small Wolverine 2, 2007 (carved bronze skulls) by Shane Wilson
Skullpture Series - Small Wolverine 1 and 2, 2007 by Shane Wilson (carved bronze skulls)

Skullpture Series, Wolf 1, 2007 (carved bronze skulls) by Shane Wilson Skullpture Series, Wolf 2, 2007 (carved bronze skulls) by Shane Wilson
Skullpture Series - Wolf 1 and 2, 2007 by Shane Wilson (carved bronze skulls)
(bronze skullpture carving, bronze skull sculpture)

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