Bronze Age comes

to Englewood Art Center

May 18, 2006


Read the article below.



What: Bronze sculpture lessons at Englewood Art Center

When: June 3, 10 and 17

Where: Englewood Art Center, 350 S. McCall Road

Cost: $330 for members, $380 for nonmembers; includes materials to make at least one small work in bronze.

Information: 941-474-5548

For an artist, working in bronze isn't easy and it isn't cheap. But while a painting may fade, a ceramic may break and art glass is subject to all sorts of mishaps, a bronze sculpture is permanent.

"It will last forever unless there's a meltdown or a volcano," said Sean Colson, who is teaching bronze casting at the Englewood Art Center.

Colson knows bronze. He practically grew up in his own Bronze Age. His father, Frank Colson, is an accomplished artist and sculptor and established the Colson School of Art in Sarasota and built the city's first art foundry. Sean Colson, 45, has been casting in bronze since he was 14. He also paints, teaches art and sculpture and runs a mail-order foundry supply business.

A member of the Englewood Art Center, Colson wanted to share his passion with others. However, there were a couple of problems. At more than $300 for members, the class was on the expensive side.

And the art center doesn't have a foundry.

Colson decided to do it anyway. All he needed was two students and two words -- road trip.

He got his two students.

Natalie Quinlan is a fixture at the art center.

"I'm constantly taking classes," she said. A potter and sculptor, she had never worked in bronze and decided to take a chance.

She and Colson's other student, Conrad Rosenberg, said they signed on because they liked the idea of creating something permanent and wanted a challenge.

They got the challenge. While Rosenberg has worked with a variety of materials, including metal, he admitted that molding a clump of wax into a letter opener was harder than he thought it would be.

"I find it obstinate," he said. "But I'm a complete newbie," he said.

While Rosenberg focused on creating the perfect letter opener, Quinlan, who has some experience with wax, created three small abstract sculptures.

Creating a wax model is the first step in the process.

Once the artist is satisfied with the wax figure, Colson takes over at the Sarasota foundry where he coats the pieces in 10 layers of ceramic, and the wax is melted out, leaving a ceramic shell. He then pours molten bronze into the shell. When it cools, the shell is broken revealing the sculpture inside.

The big risk at this point is a miscast when the metal is poured, the hot metal breaking the mold. But, said Colson, the smaller the piece, the smaller the risk, which is why he has the students work on pieces that
that will require less than five pounds of metal.

When the students get their piece back they sand it and choose a patina to finish it.

The entire process takes the student 18 to 24 hours, and, Colson said, he puts in a lot of extra time.

"We come here and play with the wax and he does all the tedious tasks," said Rosenberg.

Colson said that he hopes to eliminate the need for a trip to Sarasota by building a bronze casting set-up at the Englewood Art Center. He said they would do the wax and ceramic shell work inside and cast the bronze outside. He said the cost of the set-up would be $700 or less, and that he has the support of the center to start building in three to six months.

"We're moving ahead," he said

Rosenberg said he was pleased with his letter opener, which came out a bit sharper and more menacing than he imagined.

"It's going to work -- too well," he joked.

Quinlan was thrilled with her pieces and said she plans to put at least two "in very conspicuous places." She said she hopes Colson does build a bronze casting set-up in Englewood.

"I think many people who are into sculpture would be very interested, as permanent and forever as bronze is," she said.

Rosenberg said he, too, would work in bronze again in a heartbeat, even though it wasn't easy.

"This is art that makes your heart start pumping."