Crafting a Bronze Cremation Urn
10-foot sheets of solid bronze are heavy & awkward. I drag one into the shop and wrestle it up onto the bench. Each design has a set of patterns to be nestled and arranged at one end of the sheet. A few rough cuts and everything becomes more manageable. I settle down and carefully trim the various pieces to their final shape with a plasma cutter and other tools as needed. A variety of anvils and odd pieces of metal are used to impress the bronze with lines, hatches, and small dents. This is an artistic, custom process - it gives the bronze surface complexity and a sense of memory. Hand worked bronze is capable of such a depth of feeling compared to other metals such as brass or steel. I linger with this part of the creative work until it shows a satisfying emotional texture.
The three dimensional curves require a boat builder's eye - all the curves of each sculpture must be "fair" and well-defined. It takes a while to get them just right so that the parts fit together snugly. Once I'm happy with their flow & fit, I tack the corners and edges in a few places with a large welder. Then I use the smaller more intense TIG welder to trace delicately along each corner and fuse the parts into a seamless whole. Its tiny arc is as hot and bright as the sun.
An opening is formed on each funeral urn and a cover plate fitted carefully and bolted down tight. Grinding, sanding, and burnishing bring a satin sheen to the urn and prepare it for the patina. The ancient patina solutions are applied over and over until the bronze glows with the warmth of time & life. The result is an urn that seems both contemporary and ancient. I sometimes wonder if this craft is simply a way of imbuing the bronze with the very mysteries of sorrow, beauty, love - presence and absence.
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