The Bronze Age

On this, Andy's first Father's Day, I look back at my first honorary day as a parent last month, recalling how my magnificent partner in life went for the bronze—and scored gold.

Andy's flair for gifts for me has always been remarkable. There was the necklace I spotted at the Modernist Show in Santa Monica—a two-inch-wide welded strand of bronze, copper and silver links made in Taxco in the 1940s—which I coveted. He didn't go to the show. But he managed to  track down the piece from the dealer in Berkley.

Other hits: the scarce and pristine copy of Salvador Dali's volumes on gastronimical flights; the skull pendant fashioned from a large grey Tahitian pearl and sterling silver, custom ordered from Michael Schmidt; the limited-edition aluminum Olympus camera released in 1988 that looks like something out of Xanadu and was only available in Tokyo. All of them complete surprises.

So for my first Mother's Day last month, Andy announced I would receive my best gift ever. This, of course, he added was after our daughter, Nina. No thing could ever top that.

Our friend, artist Gordon Bowen, whose flights of artistry and craft have meant dabbling in everything from crochet to metalwork, had recently partnered up creatively with sculptor Erin Barrett to cast bronze. This I did not know. 

Andy took Nina to their studio to have her tiny hands and feet cast from a mold made from alginate, a seaweed-based gel dentists use. Once the alginate hardens it immediately begins disintegrating, giving the mold maker about an hour before the mold breaks down too much to be of use. Erin pours hot wax into the mold. Once it fixes, she removes the wax and resculpts any spots that did not form correctly in the original mold.

When the waxes are ready, Gordon casts them in the foundry. The casting involves dipping the wax multiple times over several days in a wet slurry to create a shell around it. After the shell is about half an inch thick, Gordon melts the wax model away, leaving a negative space in the mold.

Red-hot bronze is then poured into the shell. After the metal cools, the shell is broken away to reveal the casting. Gordon sandblasts the piece and corrects any blemishes that popped up in the casting.

The nearly final step is to give it a patina, which is Erin's specialty. Raw bronze naturally ages to a dull brown, so the patina allows the metal to keep it's lustre over time. Finally Gordon gives it a coat of wax and a polish.

The result is unlike those copperized baby booties so many of us have. These four solid, leaden pieces are sublime, a work of art.

There is very little I can do to match such a divine gift on this Father's Day. But Nina and I have a few of his token favorite things to surprise him with. And my darling Andy will be appreciated today, as he is every single day.

Posted in Current Affairs, Design, Style


  1. Evelyn Black

    What I wouldn’t give to hold my kiddos’ chubby baby feet. Truly a work of art to be enjoyed for years & years to come!

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