Copper in the Arts

June 2014

American Fine Arts Foundry: Casting Bronze Sculptures to Life

By Nancy Ballou

Trackwalker, by American Fine Arts FoundryTrackwalker, by American Fine Arts Foundry
Originally employed in the high-tech Silicon Valley, Brett Barney wanted a change.

“I wanted to do something new in collaboration with the art world,” he recalls. “As a hobbyist furniture designer and builder, I noticed that the woodworking was rectilinear and I became intrigued with the idea of casting more organic and curved forms."

Barney bought American Fine Arts Foundry in 2004.

"My inspiration was helping artists bring their sculptures to life. We have artists who sculpt their own work then bring it to the Foundry for bronze casting and finishing, plus clients who require turnkey solutions for artworks, including curating a sculptor. Our friendly staff can educate artists about the process, restoration and art marketing. Using the age-old lost wax method, each of our 25 production artisans is a master capable of consistently reproducing fine, accurate details in wax and bronze while maintaining complete artistic integrity. Our staff has an industry leading average of 23 years tenure."

One-time shell molds get used during casting. Wax is lost and then metal, which begins as molten bronze of a warm, beautiful color, is poured from a crucible. Parts are reassembled into their original composition. Welds are "chased" to blend the seams into the surrounding texture so no lines remain.

Barney says, "We buy bronze ingots from key suppliers and pour an average of 350 pounds every morning. We've always been innovators and pioneers in bronze finishing. For traditional patinas, chemicals are used to oxidize the bronze into wide ranges of browns, greens, blues, blacks, even some red and yellow tones. Contemporary sculptures are fun because we can really get creative with new materials and techniques, yet  stay true to the sculptor’s artistic vision. Traditional hot patinas and more modern methods provide unlimited options for clients. After the patina is just right, the sculpture is sealed with either wax or lacquer. We match color and technique with the spirit of the piece."

The American Fine Arts Foundry’s unique patinas and fine attention to detail have helped them acquire several sought after-clients and high profile projects.

The Screen Actors Guild's awards are exclusively cast by the Foundry. Barney describes, "The Actor" holds a comedy and tragedy mask and is on a cylindrical granite base. Each is numbered, made by hand and weighs 16-20 pounds."

Work by American Fine Arts FoundryWork by American Fine Arts Foundry

"A public art project commissioned by Paul Giver and sculpted by Greg Polutanovich for the Naval Diving And Salvage Training Center required sculpting of an 18"-high model and production of limited edition-sized bronze sculptures of the Mark V Diver suit sold to raise funds for a larger version," according to Barney. Nicknamed Jake, the 11-foot monument consists of a hollow bronze naval diving rig on a granite pentagonal base with a plaque representing each branch of the military. It was unveiled by servicemen at Panama City, FL, in 2012.

Castings include artist Sheila Cavaluzzi's Trackwalker, a 7-foot tall bronze dedicated to past Burbank railroad workers and integrated onto a section of old railroad tracks, plus Cameraman, Andrea and Aldo Favilli's monumental public bronze sculpture commemorating the film-making history in Burbank. To help support artists, AFA Foundry has a public art program that seeks out projects for their sculptors. This service identifies opportunities, then partners with clients to execute them.

"A great achievement occurred when Richard Lewis, owner of the only known Leonardo da Vinci mold to survive antiquity, recognized our passion and chose us to have it bronzed. I can’t think of any higher honor in this industry than being invited to reproduce this master’s work. We are very pleased to participate in this piece of history called Horse and Rider, honoring da Vinci’s friend and France’s military leader, Charles d’Amboise."

"With a client list numbering well over 500 sculptors worldwide, reputation is proven in everything that leaves the Foundry. We only do projects with an aesthetic requirement such as artwork, furniture, or lighting; you’ll never see industrial or commercial parts being produced at our facility. In addition to bronze, we cast and finish stainless steel sculptures. Tours and demonstrations for potential clients, students and other groups can be conducted if appointments are made in advance."

Resources:

American Fine Arts Foundry, 2520 N. Ontario Street, Burbank, CA, (818) 848-7593

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