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Richard Downs
The Family in Bronze Pt 1
posted:
I am no wood worker but I have enough skills in cutting mats, making art and working with tools to figure the model out. I bought a Dremel Tool and I never thought much about them but it is a beast of a tool and I am now using it's tiny steel cut off wheel to cut steel on another project.

You can never predict what comes your way as an artist and here is one of those happy surprises. After investing 10 weeks and several weeks of 3 other fabricators I finished a large private commission called “The Family”. I had no idea that I would be revisiting a piece that had consumed so much of my time and energy. What was a 9’ sculpture has been commissioned in a small edition in bronze and at 15”. I said yes of course to the commission without any idea of how or what was involved in casting the piece. My first foundry choice was in Berkeley CA but after some conversations I was told that this piece would be as difficult and close to as much work as making the 9’ version. This was information that I didn’t think was necessary for me to hear and I decided at that point that they were not all that interested in working with me. 

 

After more looking around I have decided to work with Frostad Atelier in Sacramento which is an amazing foundry that was up to now located at the retired McClellan Airforce Base but has moved out and relocated to a new building the size of another aircraft hanger and they will be pouring metal in a month. This is just enough time for them to make the urethane molds from my wood maquette and get the wax ready for the edition. 

 

It is really inspiring to be working toward bronze on this little sculpture. What draws me and I am sure other artists to bronze is that it was mankind’s first casting material used to make objects of importance and longevity. Before casting there was stone and that is why it was called the stone age. I like thinking about artisans of the past and how they didn’t even know that their efforts would become future study and that their work would be placed into their cultural history.  So much of our history is connected to artisan materials or what we call today art supplies because when it is all said and done,,,       what would you keep, a hand made art object or the famiies tax ledger? Another bit of trivia that the foundry pointed out to me was that the only difference from modern casting and the ancient method was that today we have gas. Took a few minutes to absorb how cool that is but I would like to add that we also have power tools but back in the day they had an endless supply of labor to pound, beat and polish materials into form.  

 

I also like to think about my life and how it would have been lived in an early time with all of my artist friends around in a great bazaar hawking our wares while pounding urns or painting mosaic portraits and yakking on and complaining or being envious about so an so’s latest commission, some things I am sure will never change as an artist. 

 

Here is "The Family" at 15” made from hobby 1/4" birch plywood and 3/16" basswood. Every part has been designed as an individual unit to eventually have a rubber flat mold made from it’s shape or if it is a 3D unit it will have a rubber 2 sided mold made from the wooden form. The smallest shape that I could go was 3/16” and still be able to push the bronze through the cavities of the ceramic shell. 

 

The guy from Berkeley was correct in some ways, the wooden sculpture took way more time than I would have imagined and what was so ironic is that it had the same pitfalls in design and challenges in fabrication that the 9’ version had. This model is now at the foundry where mold makers will create urethane molds of all of the components. In a few weeks I will receive every form in wax that I will then do some minor scraping of details. 

The Family | Birch Plywood and Basswood | 15"Tx11"Wx8"D | Fine facial details and others will be created in the wax.
The Family | Birch Plywood and Basswood | 15"Tx11"Wx8"D
The Family | Birch Plywood and Basswood | 15"Tx11"Wx8"D
"The Family" disassembled. 22 flat pieces requiring a 1-sided mold and 4 3D pieces requiring a 2-sided mold.
Richard Downs | The Family | Plasma Cut & Welded Steel | 108" x 58” x 48” | July 2015
It was suggested by the foundry to draw up all of the parts and how they come together so they could conceptualize how to cast it and bid the job.
Once I knew how the foundry was going to cast the work and build the different molds required I then needed to build the sculpture to scale in wood. Exquisite detail was requested from the client and the piece could not exceed 15" tall. I still had all of my wooden fabrication templates from the original sculpture so I photographed all of them so I wouldn't have to redesign much.
I used my original design as a template sized to 15" and then I resized all of the parts and placed them over the design. I then printed out all of the parts and transferred them to the plywood and cut them all out on a scroll saw.
 
 
All images | Richard Downs © 2015 
 
 
Woman #311
posted:
Woman #311 | Plasma Cut Steel and Welding | 18.5"T x 12"W x 12"D | Japanese Brown Patina with Lacquer Clear Coat and Wax | 2015

I have been having a lot of fun moving my work to Steel. This year I made a large piece called “The Family”  which stretched every bit of my abilities as an artist and a newbie fabricator. A few weeks ago I decided to learn welding after I contracted over 200 hours in welding and fabrication time on “The Family” and other projects. I hired one of my welders to teach me how to weld for a day and then, off I went.

 

Last week I was on my own with my new fully digital and state of the art MIG multi processor welder, dang that thing looked cool in the showroom. The learning curve was more than expected with every step being so physical and technical. I melted tips every hour, I created birds nests of spooling wire in the machine which then needed to be removed and taken apart constantly it seemed and it was completely exhausting with all of the stops and starts.

 

That was last week and just like any new tool such as a brush or a new software program the learning curve can be steep but you get the hang of it by doing and quickly you start to feel the touch of it and the sounds that it makes when it is running smooth and soon it becomes comfortable. 

 

Here is a new piece that I made while I figured out how to use my new welder.  Woman #311 is going up to Seattle to my new gallery Frederick Holmes and Company

 

 

 

 

 

Woman #311 | Plasma Cut Steel and Welding | 18.5"T x 12"W x 12"D | Japanese Brown Patina with Lacquer Clear Coat and Wax | 2015
Woman #311 (Back View) | Plasma Cut Steel and Welding | 18.5"T x 12"W x 12"D | Japanese Brown Patina with Lacquer Clear Coat and Wax | 2015
Woman #311 | Plasma Cut Steel and Welding | 18.5"T x 12"W x 12"D | Japanese Brown Patina with Lacquer Clear Coat and Wax | 2015
This is how I number and sign these pieces. I stammered on my R and the 5. I still haven't gotten down the mini sledgehammer and punch.
Here is the full scale cardboard model for a new steel piece now in fabrication. The model was assembled using large binder clips and hot glued tabs. The shapes drawn are the areas that will be cut away. The model will be disassembled and the cardboard shapes will be traced and cut out of plywood and used as templates for the plasma cutting. Walking Man | 79” x 25” x 31” | Plasma Cut & Welded Steel.
The scene outside my studio as I was plasma cutting all of the arcs for Woman #311.
 
 
 
All images | Richard Downs © 2015 
The Family
posted:
Richard Downs | The Family | Plasma Cut & Welded Steel | 108" x 58” x 48” | July 2015

I have finished my first large scale outdoor steel sculpture commission called, "The Family". It was a project that went pretty smooth and when the numbers came in I had invested almost 500 hours of design and fabrication and 3 other welders and fabricators had invested an additional 100 hours of time.

 

I used new technology including CAD plasma cutting while working with a team of fabricators that taught me as much about the current trends in fabrication and installation as I tried to teach them in client relations in the commissioned art world from design to finish. 

 

Now that the piece is finished and installed it feels satisfying to look back over 4 months of development from a sketch on paper to seeing realized steel and concrete and happy clients.

 

This piece pushed the limitations of a neighborhood and a household studio to find new working digs in an industrial park. I am looking forward to taking this type of work away from my living space and the neighbors are thrilled.

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In the future I will not shoot a video at sunrise after I had worked all night. 
My Original Maquette for "The Family"
After the Maquette was approved I enlarged my design in a full scale cardboard model to try and understand how it could be fabricated.
Once I understood every shape I built the piece out of plywood that I later used as cutting templates for the plasma cutting.
Richard Downs | The Family | Plasma Cut & Welded Steel | 108" x 58” x 48” | July 2015. If you live in Redwood City, California you can see this piece on the 2016 Native Garden Home Tour. The work stands next to the bee hives and in front of a wood rat family (that mound of twigs) Only one crew member got stung during installation.
"The Father" detail. This picture shows the joyful interior faces that each portrait portrays.
The families two twin children are the large forms. I designed the children to be bigger than life and looking out upon the world and the parents were designed to feel meditative and looking inward. The child's head at the top of that semaphore shape rotates and it can be moved to look in different directions.
All images | Richard Downs © 2015 
Steel Heads at TEW
posted:
Joyful Face | Plasma Cut and Welded Steel | 16" x 19" x 8" | Gun Blueing Patina | 2015

I am really happy to be showing for the first time my new steel heads in a group show at TEW Galleries in Atlanta this month. These new pieces are an extension from my wire figurative work and what I have learned during the process of finishing my first large scale outdoor sculpture called, “The Family”

 

 

TEW Galleries | Pictorial Adventures | July 24 - August 21

A group show featuring works by: Anthony Ardavin, David Eddy, Stewart Helm,
Susan Homer, Charles Keiger, Charles Ladson and Mario Soria.
Sculpture by Clem Bedwell and Richard Downs.

 

Joyful Face | Plasma Cut and Welded Steel | 16" x 19" x 8" | Gun Blueing Patina | 2015 | Side View
Woman #309 | Plasma Cut and Welded Steel | 20" x 12" x 11" | Gun Blueing Patina | 2015
Woman #309 | Plasma Cut and Welded Steel | 20" x 12" x 11" | 2015 | Gun Blueing Patina | View from Back
Man #310 | Plasma Cut and Welded Steel | 21" x 12" x 13" | Gun Blueing Patina | 2015
Man #310 | Plasma Cut and Welded Steel | 21" x 12" x 13" | Gun Blueing Patina | 2015 | View from Back
Joyful Face | Plasma Cut and Welded Steel | 16" x 19" x 8" | Gun Blueing Patina | 2015 TEW Galleries | Pictorial Adventures | July 24 - August 21
Woman #309 (left) | Plasma Cut and Welded Steel | 20" x 12" x 11" | Gun Blueing Patina | 2015 Man #310 (right) | Plasma Cut and Welded Steel | 21" x 12" x 13" | Gun Blueing Patina | 2015 TEW Galleries | Pictorial Adventures | July 24 - August 21
It isn't so easy signing steel so I bought a vintage steel stamp set off ebay to sign the work.
Joyful Face | Plasma Cut and Welded Steel | 16" x 19" x 8" | Gun Blueing Patina | 2015 TEW Galleries | Pictorial Adventures | July 24 - August 21
I am especially pleased to be showing with the artist, Charles Ladson, I am a big fan of his work. charlesladson.com | Image © Charles Ladson
 
All images | Richard Downs © 2015 
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