Bronze Age

I’ve recently been hunting around for an artist to help with a project we’re putting together here in Auch.

Thankfully  I found one – Laure BELLION , and while we were discussing the project, she mentionned the fact that she was involved with another project in Auch which was all about a couple of artists from Burkina Fasso and making bronze sculptures.

This sounded interesting from a photographic point of view, so last Saturday I visited the Atelier des Berges du Gers (Gers Riverbank Workshop) and this is what I saw:

The previous week, various budding artists following the course, had made wax sculptures which they had then covered in clay. This week, Ibrahim and his father Bamadou made a fire in an old oil drum and heated up the clay molds to melt the wax.

Once the molds were empty, another fire was lit, this time inside a circular drum made of refractive (heat resistant) bricks. On top of the charcoal used to create the heat was placed a crucible containing brass taps, bits of copper pipe – anything and everything that would melt and create the ‘bronze’ alloy. Air was blown into this ‘furnace’ by the simple expedient of an electric fan and a piece of old motorbike exhaust pipe!

Fresh charcoal was added every few minutes and after about an hour the crucible was glowing with the molten metal inside. Ibrahim then lifted the crucible out of the ‘oven’ …

…and poured the molten bronze into the molds.

The molds were left to cool down for about three hours before they were broken apart with hammers and chisels to reveal the bronze statue inside.

After a fair bit of chiseling and thumping, Ibrahim then attacked the sculptures with an angle grinder to remove the excess metal.

The black material is simply the carbonised clay which came into contact with the molten metal, at 1500°C – fine work with a small brush and a screwdriver will be needed to get everything clean and ready for polishing.

A really interesting workshop – surprising by it’s contents. With any luck they will be coming back next year!

Last but by no means least, here’s a portrait of Ibrahim and his ‘magic’ glasses!