We all know that Portland is an artistic mecca that fosters an incredible amount of talent in the art world. What many of us do not know is that one of the greatest bronze sculpture artists in the world is located right here in the Portland metro area.
It all started for us on Facebook recently when we came across some amazing pictures and videos being posted by one of our connections. The media depicted a huge bronze sculpture of an elk during its various stages of completion. We found the process fascinating and the work in progress simply beautiful, but what drew us in even more was discovering that the artist producing the piece was located right in Troutdale, so we reached out to Rip Caswell to see if he would be willing to chat with us. He graciously agreed.
We were able to get on the phone with Rip and ask some questions. The amazing details and artistry that was going into this and many of their pieces was so fascinating to us that we had to write about and share it with our readers. You’re in for a treat!
Bronze Sculptures In Portland
First we wanted to share a little bit about the artists. Rip and Alison Caswell are the husband-and-wife team behind Caswell Sculpture based in Troutdale, just East of Portland. They dynamic duo unite their respective talents in the creation of their amazing statue artwork which they sell directly and through studios across the country. Not only to they create the amazing art, but they also own their own casting foundry Firebird Bronze Foundry, as well as operate an event venue called Caswell Sculpture Garden, located across the street from their studio in Oregon.
Owning their own foundry gives them incredible flexibility and control over their art, let alone how utterly interesting and intricate the process is. But what’s even more cool is their event venue which must be what the garden of Eden must have looked like. The beautifully landscaped property blends nature and sculptures done in stone and bronze, and offers a truly unique setting for events, entertaining and weddings.
Creating A Bronze Elk In Portland
In our conversation with Rip Caswell, he explained that the current larger than life bronze elk statue being worked on was originally a much smaller version. The sculpture called “Rivals Response” was inspired by an elk on Mt Hood that he observed, fighting with a rival. When a customer saw the smaller version at an art gallery that displays and sells Caswell’s pieces, they inquired about having it created in a monument version for their new home in eastern Wyoming. So after meeting with the client, they decided that they wanted to move forward and have the Caswell team get to work.
The “Battle” piece depicts the fight between the bull used in this sculpture and another one on Mt Hood as it pushed it down a hillside. (pic on website). The originally art Is currently housed and displayed in the high desert museum in Bend Oregon, while the life-size plus version is on display at The Antlers at Vail Condominiums, a resort property in Vail, Colorado.
The Bronze Sculpture Process
Though it was very clear to us that the complexity of what the Caswell team do is well beyond what most of us could ever grasp, we did try to capture the essence of the process that was used to create the elk monument in a way that we could all understand and appreciate. Fortunately for all of us, as they started building the work of art, they decided to document the process with pictures and videos for the owners who commissioned the work.
Here is a rough outline of the process that the Caswell team uses to create their bronze masterpieces. Wherever possible, we have included some pictures to give you a better frame of reference for each step, and a video that takes it to another level.
1) The “lost wax” process, which has been around for over 6,000 years, without changing a whole lot, uses a series of positive and negative molds. They create a silicon rubber mold off the original sculpture and then pour or paint hot wax into the molds, building it up to about 3/16’ thick.
2) Next, they sculpt the original in clay or wax, then move to a ceramic mold that creates a thick shell, and finally they pour in molten metal/bronze.
4) Next, they weld all of the individual pieces and parts together, followed by detailed sanding and grinding to ensure that the seam lines are secure and invisible as they join everything together.
5) On large-scale pieces like this one, they add structure and framework within the piece to give it strength.
6) They also add a patina to the bronze statue using certain chemicals and heat that oxidizes the metal, which speeds up the process to bring the dark weathered colors and textures out.
7) Finally they seal it with a carnauba wax and it’s delivered to the customer.
We just have to say. Portland is amazing. With our new-found friends and artists Rip and Allison Caswell, just got even better. The skill and talent they bring to Portland and their art that creates treasure around the world, just simply inspires us and we hope it does the same for you as well.