In this article, we will review everything there is to know about bronze statues and cover the steps on how to commission custom sculptures, the history of bronze statues, and everything you need to know when creating a custom bronze commission.
Commissioning a custom statue is a way to bring class and affluence to a public or private space. Whether you want to commemorate an important event or memorialize an important person, a bronze sculpture is a classic way to pay tribute. While numerous people admire the finished product, few people may understand the process that creates a custom, three-dimensional work of art. From conception to completion, the client (also known as the patron) and artist work together.
This process allows a skilled artisan create a sculpture that represents your personal style or the character of your organization. In addition, the tensile strength and ductility of bronze enables the artist to incorporate the type of subtlety that would be harder with stone or marble. The following guide can help you make an informed decision in transforming any space for the better.
The price difference between mass-produced sculptures and custom sculptures occurs due to major differences in the design and production process. Mass-produced means that the manufacturer makes a standard size of a product in bulk quantity. This standardization reduces overhead cost, and so mass-produced sculptures tend to be cheaper for the customer. In contrast, a custom job requires artist time and talent, custom mold creation, and other unique attributes. This customization makes the statue more expensive to produce and results in a higher price.
Ancient bronzes have a history that date back to around 4500 B.C.E. Around this time, civilizations in China and the Middle East began mining copper. While copper is a malleable and extremely useful metal, these cultures found that using additives of tin or arsenic could make copper stronger. As a result, ancient metallurgists combined pure copper with other metals to produce the metal alloy bronze. This metal alloy became the chief material used for weapons, tools, and sculptures. Ancient bronzes became so ubiquitous in use that historians and anthropologists refer to this era as the Bronze Age.
Although the Bronze Age ended around the first millennium B.C.E., this metal alloy remained essential to statutory and other uses. For example, the Chinese discovered gunpowder in A.D. 800 when royals discovered bronze’s low metal-on-metal friction in firearms. Bronze also became the official material used in third-place medals for Greek athletic competitions. Between the 14th and 19th centuries, the Kingdom of Benin produced some of the most famous bronze sculptures in the history of West Africa. European cities also experienced an upsurge in foundries in the 15th century (most notably Florence with the production of the works of Donatello).
Bronze remains one of the most important metals used in modern statuary. If you are interested in what metals make up bronze in the modern era, most modern statues consist of 90-percent bronze and a metal additive such as tin, aluminum, nickel or zinc. Some sculptors opt for non-metal or metalloid additives such as phosphorus or silicon.
A custom project requires payment for both the artist’s time and talent. You should draw comparisons from the artist’s standard rates, length of experience, and level of expertise. (An artist’s associated gallery may also help make suggestions on the required rates.) Larger sculptures and more intricate sculptures may also increase pricing. Keep in mind that a foundry’s scheduling (existing projects or high-demand seasons) may also increase the price of a project.
Since your project is unique, it cannot use a cookie-cutter mold. A custom mold is a hollow frame or matrix made using a pattern or model of your final sculpture. For some projects, the cost of the mold can equal or exceed the bronze casting.
Casting is the process of delivering liquid or molten bronze into the custom mold to produce the desired shape. After delivering the metal into the custom mold, the factory lets the mold cool and then extracts the metal part (the casting). The modern casting process takes expertise and requires the right scheduling and fees. Casting methods include hot-cast bronze and resin casting.
Does the statue you want already exist?
If you have a general idea of the sculpture that you want, it is possible that a sculpting business has already created that sculpture. You may save yourself time by purchasing a sculpture from existing inventory. However, if you envision a sculpture that is truly innovative and unique, you may need to commission a statue. Compare your ideas to existing statues and create a checklist. This can help you effectively communicate your desires to the artist of your choice.
What styles of sculpture do you like?
Hyper-realistic art emulates a high-resolution photograph. Many individuals prefer this art form because it can bring life to surroundings. Some of the most famous bronze sculptures include hyper-realistic military or memorial statues. If you like your artwork to feel like a snapshot or live-action moment, hyper-realistic art is an excellent choice for you.
Impressionistic sculptures convey moods or archetypal concepts. This type of art can range from abstract to thematic. According to many reviews, the best way to describe impressionistic art is the visual depiction or interpretation of a dream. If you like artwork that captures the scope of an idea, then impressionistic may be for you.
Contemporary sculptures reflect current trends and concepts. This artwork can include modish, global, en vogue, or technologically advanced pieces. Bronze contemporary sculptures are a great way to give an area an up-to-date look using materials that will last a lifetime.
What is your budget?
It is important to be clear about your budget from the beginning. This clarity enables artists to know exactly what they have to work with in terms of cost of labor and materials. In addition, an artist can use this budget to give you a clear estimate or quote on the sculpture size and customization you can expect. Keep in mind that in addition to the down payment and labor payments, you should consider costs of transportation (to the display site) and installation.
If you have a low budget, the artist may be able to make suggestions or referrals for you to purchase an existing piece. The artist may also be able to offer a small discount for bulk orders or for religious or non-profit organizations.
How do you feel about working directly with an artist?
Artists can admittedly be quirky individuals. While this may not bother people who have thick skin, it can bother others who are unaccustomed to unconventional personalities. If you want to work with an artist who truly knows how to make a bronze statue, be prepared for a range of personality types. In the end, it is the quality of work that counts. Either way, an artist typically has professional references or reviews that you can consider before making a decision.
Have you taken the time to visit an art gallery and view different sculptures?
An art gallery represents a group of preeminent artists, and the gallery often represents current themes or trends of an art movement or era. Galleries also serve as the primary agents of the art industry. A gallery can recommend an artist for your project and help negotiate contract and financial terms. Keep in mind the galleries can charge up to a 50-percent commission for their services. If you work with an artist directly, you should also note that many artists keep their prices comparable to gallery rates in order to maintain the industry standard and avoid shortchanging professional relationships within the art field.
How quickly would you like your sculpture to be made?
It is important to note that it takes time to achieve a custom sculpture. If you need a statue more quickly, you may wish to browse through an existing selection. Custom sculptures can take must. First, you must articulate your ideas to an artist. Creative individuals who know how to make a bronze statue need time and inspiration to bring your ideas to fruition. Depending on the size and complexity of the statue, this process can take months.
After the initial artist’s work, the sculpture has to undergo lost wax casting at the foundry. Since foundries serve multiple artists and galleries, these factories often have a large backlog. Within the foundry, craftsmen carefully create rubber molds to produce casting wax for the high-quality bronze casting. The rubber-mold process itself can take weeks (especially for larger sculptures). As you can see, the planning, casting, and sculpting process can take weeks or months to get exactly right.
Craftsmen use unique techniques to create either large or small bronze sculptures. If you are wondering how are bronze sculptures made, the process differs depending on the size. For a large sculpture, an artist may need to create several small models to perfect the design and proportions. The artist may also need to make a larger intermediate model before creating the full-sized sculpture.
Keep in mind that because bronze is a darker material, bronze sculptures can appear smaller in person than in photographs or sketches. If you want a life-sized or large bronze sculpture, experts recommend adding 10-20 percent to the original size to retain the large appearance.
Commissioning a bronze statue is a more detailed process than mere window shopping. Approaching the project with patience and willingness to work with an expert will help bring the sculpture of your dreams to fruition. For more information, contact us. We welcome inquiries on projects for commercial, public, and private sculptures.