HOW TO SELECT A FOUNDRY By Mark Parmenter   The reasons to cast sculpture in metal are numerous. The permanence, intrinsic beauty, and value if cast metals are the traditional reasons. For the professional artist, other advantages are indicated. First is the possibility to cast editions with the attendant economic leverage. Second is the fact that someone else, hopefully someone with technical expertise, is expending time and effort on the realization of the sculpture, thus freeing you to do more creative work. Third the commercial art foundry has the space and equipment to do the job in a safe, timely and professional manner. Let's start at the beginning. You have an idea, a commission. Or a finished work in a material that is not permanent or weather resistant that you would like to have cast into metal. You haven't worked with a foundry or would like to find a new foundry. Keep in mind that there are many kinds of commercial foundries. Look for a foundry that casts artwork exclusively. These foundries have the expertise and staff to cast and finish artwork. They are also used to dealing with the demands of artists. I suggest contacting the International Sculpture Center. 202-965-6066.  Other sources of information are the American Foundryman's Society (800-537-4237) and the National Sculpture Society (212-764- 5645). Probably the first criterion for locating a foundry is geography. The foundry should be close enough for you to reach easily. It is important for you to visit the foundry for an initial tour and for in process inspection and finishing. Let me add here that foundries located farther from major cities' art markets usually have lower prices. So, while you are shopping, do not automatically disqualify distant foundries; even with shipping and an airplane ticket, you might still get a better deal and visit an interesting place in the bargain. I cast work for sculptors all over the country. It is important to contact a foundry as early in the process as you possibly can. This is especially critical if you have a deadline to meet. Working with a foundry is not like shopping at a department store. Ideally, you are entering into a collaboration with the foundry, and a close working relationship should develop. The more the foundry management knows about you, your work and your project, the better they can translate your work into metal. You can also save time, money, and aggravation by making informed decisions concerning materials, geometry, and scale. I would suggest calling at least three foundries for initial contact. As with any first encounter, your first impression will tell you a lot about the foundry, i.e. whether you feel comfortable talking with the foundry's representative. This is important because you will be dealing with this person for the duration of the project. Resist the urge to ask for prices over the phone from a verbal description. Instead, ask the foundry what type of documentation the foundry needs to give you an accurate quote. Photos are best, but a sketch will do; always include multiple views and dimensions. Other questions to ask include number of years in business, the number and qualifications of employees, a list of references, and any technical questions you want answered such as engineering services provided, molding systems, size limitations, edition sizes, various materials cast, patina choices, base fabrication and delivery services provided. If you feel confident about doing some of the work yourself, such as mold making, wax work or chasing, be sure to ask if they are receptive to this arrangement and ask if they will break down the quote to reflect these tasks or combination of tasks. Are they receptive to your working in their shop? Is there a shop charge? Do they have mold storage? What is the payment schedule? Do not be afraid to ask questions. The more you know the better it is for everyone. If you are new to casting, I suggest you read Methods for Modern Sculptors by Young and Fennel, Sculpt-Nouveau, 1980, before you even call. The next step is to initiate written contact with the foundry. The burning question is: how much will this cost and how long is it going to take? Send the photos and sketches. If you have thought about basing get a quote for them. If you want a complicated patina or special finish let the foundry know now. Usually changes cost more after the project starts. Ask how long the quote will be in effect, especially if the project is speculative. The more specific the written quote, the better. Details aid in understanding. Most bad foundry experiences result from a lack of communication. Each party needs to know exactly what the other party is going to do, and when they are going to do it, and it needs to be written down in as much detail as possible. If you are working with a tight deadline, get a commitment for delivery included with the quote. When you have the quotations in hand you must make a decision. I caution you not to make a final choice based on price alone. High quality always costs more---and your reputation depends on this alone. I feel that good rapport with the foundry is most essential, since the process of translation from impermanent materials into metal is a long varied process. Good understanding between artist and foundry staff will make or break a piece--- and your sanity. Call the provided references and ask about their experience. Contact other sculptors and ask their opinions. Get as much information as you can. Then choose a foundry to visit. Arrange for a visit. Bring your portfolio, if possible a model of the work to be cast, and a list of unanswered questions. Go on a tour of the foundry. Keep your eyes and ears open. Note the surroundings. Are things well organized? Is the foundry relatively clean? Is the staff active and engaged. These things indicate an attention to detail that might well influence the quality of the work produced. Talk to the technicians. Look at work in progress and any finished work on display. Ask to see photos of finished work. Look at patina samples. Go over your questions and make sure you understand everything. Nail down the business end of the project now instead of later over the phone. Ask if you can go over the foundry's contract. The contract should address the work to be done (statement of work), payment schedules, delivery, changes in progress (change orders), clauses of relief, liability for defects, product liability, and form of arbitration, at a minimum. Review the contract with a lawyer if you have any questions. Keep in mind that any contract can be modified in any way BEFORE you sign it. Do not hesitate to ask for reasonable changes. If all the groundwork seems to be tedious and overly cautious, keep in mind that you will probably use this foundry again and again. Trust is the key concept in this decision, and trust must be earned through time and experience. This is why it is important for you to be comfortable with the foundry and the quality of work from the beginning. Although
White River Foundry  
Home Home Foundry Foundry Fabrication Fabrication Restoration Restoration Commissions Commissions Sculpture Sculpture Virtual Art Virtual Art 2-D Art 2-D Art About About Contact Contact Created 2012