This is Virginia Abbott.
Virginia is a nationally recognized sculptor whose current work addresses a variety of environmental issues. She is a member of the prestigious National Sculpture Society and a fellow resident artist at the Banana Factory in Bethlehem, PA. You may recognize Virginia from a previous post where she’d combined some of our Decopatch papers with some of her cast paper sculptures. (Want to watch Virginia demo the cast paper process at our local PBS station?)
Virginia had stopped by my studio not long ago to show me the results of some sketches that she’d drawn in a Rhodia LeCarre notepad. These pendants of sterling silver, brass and bronze were created using the lost wax casting method, a labor intensive process which begins by her carving the three dimensional design model from a block of wax.
The casting process continues by placing the wax model on a base, which is then covered by a flask. The flask is then filled with a wet plaster, (known as ceramic investment) and placed in a vacuum to remove air bubbles. Once the investment has been allowed to dry, the base and flask are removed and the piece placed in an oven to burn out the wax – hence the name, “lost wax”. It is at this point where molten metal is forced into the investment mold by centrifuge. To remove the cast item, the mold is destroyed and the resulting metal piece is cleaned up by filing and polishing.
If you want to make multiple pieces from a carved model, you have to send the finished metal piece back to the foundry to have a mold made – otherwise, it’s a one of a kind.
These are a few images of the original design sketches.
When I asked Virginia “Why trees?” It was a treat to learn the response.
At this point, it might be helpful to know that deer, trees, and irony happen to be a recurring theme in Virginia’s work. Did I mention that she also happens to be a clown?
Virginia also created the deer pendant shown above, which in its antlers, is holding a taxidermists glass deer eye. (I’m totally not making that up)
Looking at the reverse of the pendant, you can see how Virginia used the cast tree design as a “gallery” which is a decorative element used behind a stone in place of a solid mount. The tree pendants shown in the photos at the top of this post are a smart secondary usage of the original design.