The process of making the wax work bench starts by taking a silicone mold of a pre-existing work bench. Then the silicone is peeled back off the bench and brought to a work space. It is then sewn together at the ripped seams and braced for pouring wax into. The wax pulled from these molds are cropped, and tightened to fit the vision of the final presentation of the piece. The is a lot of back and forth to make sure the gaffer and assitant match up in the scene and line up with the blow pipe.
There are many tricky and technical aspects of this project. Recreating the individuals in wax is one. After pouring and pulling the wax of from the life cast there is many stages of sculpting the wax goes through. It has to be pieces together with the rest of the body to look like it is in the pose intended. In this case he is about to blow into the pipe. An armature has to be created to support the wax figure and the limbs have to be "pinned" with screwers to keep from falling apart. The gesture and facial expression is continually altered as it comes together.
The live model for the gaffer in this sculpture was Yazzie Graham. After taking multiple molds from her body and head, I poured wax into the silicone life molds, pulled the waxes and started assembling them together. This is a time consuming, tedious endeavor where the wax has to be warmed, manipulated slowly, fitted, trimmed and placed.
After waxes are poured, they have to be pulled from the silicone molds and assessed. I had to pour and pull multiple waxes in various thicknesses to get the wax with the best details. The wax has to be thin enough to pull and push it into shape and thick enough to hold together and not fall apart. Once I am happy with how the wax is going I can start to set it up on an armature and work with clay to fill in areas of the figure.
There are many steps in my process toward achieving a finished piece. First off I have to decide on who the models will be. After the models have been chosen and have agreed to being part of the process, we then take life cast molds directly from their physical form using a special effects silicone rubber and medical grade plaster bandages. There are many sections of molds that have to be taken if we want more of the body as part of the final piece. This can be enduring for the models. In this particular piece for Glassroots we have taken 8 body sections, 2 tools molds, and 3 bench molds. When all the molds have been taken, they will need to be used to make the figures out of wax. I use a microcrystalline wax called Optimus 3.0 that is sometimes mixed with a harder wax if weather becomes too hot and interfers with keeping the form stable. Before I pour hot wax into the molds I have to check for holes within the rubber. I pour water into the mold and If there are any holes that the water leaks out of, I have to patch them with more silicone and then re-check again after the patch sets. This is a time consuming process of checking, repairing, waiting, and re-checking. When the molds are ready I pour the hot wax into the molds at about 180 degrees F. In some molds, depending on their orientation, I have to alter how the wax goes into the mold. It may have to be painted, splashed, swished, etc. The inner mold form has to be completely covered and thick enough to be modeled with the other waxes to become a whole form. This can lead to multiple wax pours and even re-doing some of the initial molds depending on what is captured in the initial life cast.
Dean Allison is a studio artist working with portrait sculpture and the figure with glass. His studio is in Pittsburgh PA. Dean is working on a commissioned sculpture for our new space in the Newark Arts Common. Follow Dean as he works to create this new significant work of art.