Orphan relief fundraising at the Gallery

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Portland wood turner, Mel Borg considers himself a Christian first, a ship Captain, a carpenter, a dutiful son to his aging parents and a self-taught master wood turner.

He first tried his hand at turning wood when he was in grade school. His tools were an electric hand-drill and a broken hacksaw blade. He turned out a few bowls during his high school years, but didn’t turn another for decades. Now his principal “roughing-out” tool is a twenty ton lathe found in Wrangell, Alaska while helping his brother maneuver a 65-foot ship. Rather than see the lathe “rust into junk”, the owner gave it to Mel who then shipped it to Seattle on a barge, and eventually to his home in Canby, OR.

Mel’s raw materials are either salvaged from a landscape company or the dump. He has used douglas fir, maple, oak, balsamic poplar, incense cedar, black walnut and Baltic birch plywood. His technique is to rough-out the bowl blanks on the twenty ton behemoth, then put them in the basement for a year before they are placed on a shelf near the roof of his metal-skinned shop, where they finish the drying process. He says he has not yet lost a single blank and relishes the opportunity to enhance the natural attributes of each piece, using the “defects” to the advantage of the piece. Almost all his pieces are of one species, particularly the larger ones.  His largest piece started as a chunk of maple that weighed over a thousand pounds as a green piece of stump and ended up as a “free-form bowl.”  Most of Mel’s tools are virtually handmade. They have been adapted to suit his use allowing him to be a mechanical innovator as well artist. He sometimes uses inlay materials around the perimeter of his bowls. The color variances are achieved from the natural color of the wood, with some enhancement from pigments mixed with some finish material.

Over the ten years Mel has been turning-out bowls, he has only sold one piece. The money he raised by selling that piece enabled him to go on a missionary trip. As talented as Mel is, his real passion is his volunteer work which has brought him to Guatemala and Mexico to build orphanages; and to Liberia to aid orphaned, abandoned and abused children whose orphanages are being closed down due to the abuse of the children by the operators. His guiding statement is Proverbs 19:17, “He who gives to the poor lends to the Lord and he will repay”. Therein lies the beauty of his spirit.

We are proud to be exhibiting Mel’s work at the Gallery for the month of  July. This will be Mel’s first public showing of his amazing work. He will be devoting 100% of his profits to benefit Orphan Relief and Rescue to build a Transition Center for the care of these traumatized orphans in West Africa. 50% of proceeds from the sales of Mel Borg’s work, through Caswell Gallery, will be donated to the organization as well.

The Clackamas County Peace Officers’ Benevolent Foundation, whose members arranged this showing of his work, is partnering with Rip Caswell.You can learn more about Orphan Relief and Rescue by going to the website at www.OrphanReliefandRescue.org.


Our upcoming gallery shows

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We have shown many regional artists over the years and this year will be no different. Here is our lineup for the next 12 months. If you are from the area, be sure to joins us for our monthly First Friday Art Walks. This is a great chance to meet our artists and learn more about their work and process. In future posts will highlight each artist.

July 1-July 31, 2012
Rod Cartasegna
Vision & Hope, Photography

Mel Borg
Extreme Woodturning
Mel Borg does not have a website, but any money he makes from the sale of his work is donated to his favorite charities. Here is a link to one of them: www.OrphanReliefandRescue.org.

August 1-September 30, 2012
Gayle Weisfield
No Reservations, Watercolors

October 1-November 30, 2012
Bev Jozwiak
Life with Life, Acrylics

December 1, 2012-January 31, 2013
Group Show

Ali Peret
Fine Jewelry

Brenda Boylan

Michael Orwick

Katie Hovis
Inspired Handcrafted Jewelry

February 1-February 28, 2013
Cynthia Feustel
Be Still, Oils

March 1-May 31, 2013
Mike Rangner
From the Wild, Oils

June 1-July 31, 2013
Peter Mathios
His Own Nature, Acrylics

Weekend destination: Mt. Angel

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If you live in Oregon, you know we wait a very long time for summer weather. This year has been no exception. Well, the kids are finally out of school, we’ve had a few beautiful days that could pass for summer, so it’s definitely time to leave the city behind.

For an easy getaway consider a day trip or overnighter to the Mt. Angel area. This small mid-Willamette Valley town is home to Mt. Angel Abby, hosts Octoberfest every year, and offers close proximity to Silver Falls State Park, the Oregon Garden, and Salem.

Founded by German settlers in the 1800s, Mt Angel’s Old World charm will make you feel like you’re in Bavaria, if only for a few blocks. Enjoy the shops and restaurants before visiting the Benedictine Abby. The Abby is open to the public and has a museum, library and bookstore. Rip was fortunate to be invited to sculpt Mary and Joseph, and the Crucifix, at the Abby this past winter. This weekend Mt Angel Abby will host their 6th Annual Festival of Arts & Wine. Rip will be participating. This annual fundraiser supports the Abby, Library and Retreat House. For more information call 503-845-3030.

You can’t beat Silver Falls State Park for all the nature you can handle in one place—of course waterfalls are easy to find, but this state park has miles of people friendly trails, picnic areas, and even camping. Silver Falls hosts several late summer events, so be sure to check their website.

If you haven’t been to the Oregon Garden, this weekend could be the time. Guaranteed to be in bloom and really seal the deal on summer, you can stroll the paths, lunch in the café, and even stay over if you can’t turn you back on that extra blast of color. This weekend is the Container Gardening contest. Vote for your favorite, shop the greenhouse and go home and make your own!

If you’re still on the go, make Salem, our state capital, one of your stops. Stroll the Capital Mall, visit the historic Bush Barn and Mission Mill, tour Willamette University, shop and dine. Salem is criss-crossed with wooded walking trails and has a river front city park. Most of these activities are free, so make a day of it.

We tolerate a lot of intolerable fall, winter and spring weather, but when summer finally arrives, it’s hard to beat Oregon. Today is the Summer Solstice—be sure to enjoy every minute of the longest day of the year!

The art of lost wax casting

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It is somewhat a wonder that we still use a material that was discovered thousands of years ago. More astonishing, though, is that artisans and even industrialists, continue to use the lost wax method of bronze casting. This method of production is loved by artists, jewelers, and machinists because it maintains even the smallest detail. For you curious ones, here is a little more info about this fascinating process.

The Art of Lost Wax Casting

It’s not every millennium that you can create beautiful art work using a process that is thousands of years old, but lost wax casting happens to be one of those processes. A technical and somewhat lengthy process, contemporaries use the same steps as the artisans of 2000 BC.

The first step in the process is to carve the sculpture. An oil based clay is often used which will stay pliable and allow the artist to leave the piece for an indefinite amount of time. Most pieces are supported internally by armature which can be made of any number of materials—special foam, wire or even aluminum foil. The finished clay sculpture looks exactly as the artist intends, with all the details in their final form.

The next step is to make a mold of the original, out of which the bronze will be cast. The clay sculpture is divided into sections and silicon rubber is poured over each section creating a soft layer. This layer is then encased in plaster making it rigid and in turn more stable. Referred to as the “mother mold”, it is now the exact negative of the original sculpture. Molds are generally two sided, so when both sides are complete, the mold is opened and the original clay sculpture is removed. This mold will be used repeatedly, unless it is a limited edition, at which point it will be destroyed once the full edition has been cast.

The mother mold is now ready to receive the molten wax. The melted wax is poured on the inside of the mother mold and rotated to create a uniform layer.  This step is repeated using a cooler layer each time, until the desired thickness is reached, usually about 1⁄8 inch. This dimension also determines the wall thickness of the final bronze. The wax liner is now an exact copy of the original. Once it is removed from the mold, the wax is then “chased” using a heated metal tool, which will help smooth out any unwanted marks or seams. The wax now looks like the finished piece.

A wax, tree-like structure, known as gating, is then created by attaching “paths” and a “cup” to various spots on the wax model. The gating provides open pathways for molten bronze to flow and will be removed later in the process.

After the gating is complete, the wax model is dipped alternately into slurry, then into a silica sand material, allowing the piece to dry in between. The process repeated until the shell is least a ½ inch thick. This is repeated as many as ten times and can take weeks to complete. The bigger the piece, the thicker the shell needs to be. Once dry, the piece is then placed in a kiln to harden the coating, and melt the wax. What remains is the negative space, formerly occupied by the wax, hence the term “lost wax casting”. When the shell is cool, water is poured through to expose any cracks or leaks and then patched if necessary.  After this it is finally time to pour the bronze.

The bronze alloy is melted in a vessel known as the crucible, and then poured through the cup into the heated shell. The pouring process takes place very quickly and requires a team of several people.  The bronze cools rapidly and may be handled as soon as one hour after pouring. The investment (the hard shell mold) is then broken open, revealing the final bronze. At this point the gating is removed. The piece is sandblasted to remove any residue from the investment; pits are filled and the piece is chased to remove the seam, welding and other marks. It is worked on in this manner until it looks exactly like the original sculpture. From there patinas are applied and the sculpture is finished.

In a future post we will talk about patinas and caring for your bronze sculpture.

The history of bronze

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We have a lot of interest in the bronze sculpting process, so with that in mind we have written a series of posts that  will introduce you to the medium of bronze. Of course, one really needs to start at the beginning to understand how truely amazing it is that we still make use of the material and the process itself. So…we present The History of Bronze.

The Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age make up the three classifications of prehistoric cultures. Referring to the third phase in the development of material culture in ancient Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, the Bronze Age denotes the first period in which metal was first used. Beginning 5,500 years ago, the Bronze Age primarily took place between 3500 BC and 1200 BC. Although the actual date between cultures varies, the transitional period is referred to as the Chalcolithic Age, meaning the time in which copper and stone were both used. The use of pure copper by 3000 BC was reserved for small or precious objects, and carved stone, for tools. In their earliest forms, artifacts were hammered, but with the addition of tin, bronze became the preferred material, especially for weapons—hard, durable, indestructible for all intents and purposes, and best of all, lethal to the enemy. Bronze was used only rarely at first, but by 2000 BC, its use greatly increased. Around 1000 BC, the ability to heat and forge iron, brought the Bronze Age to an end, thus beginning the Iron Age.

It is thought that the lost wax process of sculpting was discovered In China around 3000 BC. Archaeologists believe a potter may have sculpted an object out of beeswax, enveloped it in liquid clay and placed it in fire, which melted the wax and hardened the clay. The molten bronze would have then been poured into the hollow cavity of the fired clay. Once the metal cooled and the clay was broken away, the first bronze casting was revealed. With this method they were able to make items that possessed both strength and beauty.

It has generally been accepted that Greece and Egypt also utilized the lost wax process as well and more recent discoveries indicate bronze making in Thailand, as far back as 4500 BC. Bronze castings have also been found in Africa from this same period. Ancient “lost wax” bronze castings have withstood the centuries, telling the tale of past cultures, their religions and social structures presenting an intriguing visual history through the work itself. Although certain elements of the process have indeed been refined, little has changed throughout time. Artists love to make use of the lost-wax process which offers a medium capable of revealing even the finest detail. By using the lost wax method of casting it is possible to transform other forms of sculpture—wood, stone, clay, or plaster, into lasting bronze works of art. Bronze has a longevity rivaled by few processes, and the versatility to alter its appearance with the addition of luxurious patinas.

In our next posting we will explain in more detail the actual lost wax process.

Images courtesy of Wikipedia

Our Blog!

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Thanks for visiting our blog. We plan to bring you the latest information on Gallery happenings, and inform you about things we know a little about, as well as new things we are learning. Look for topics on art collecting and investing, bronze casting, new artists, great places to visit in the area, and maybe even a nice wine recommendation! Be sure to come back often!