ISSUE 59  |  L'Amour

Casting Ancient Bronze in a Modern Light

February 11, 2013 7:30 PM

BY Christine Chang Hanway

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In the world of Ochre, the iterative process of designing and making is as beautiful as the end product itself; especially in the magical Seed Cloud chandelier, where the process used to cast hundreds of bronze stems comes from another age with a technique that can be dated back at least 5,000 years.

Intrigued by the courses they had taken in traditional craft techniques in art school, Harriet Maxwell Macdonald and Joanna Bibby founded Ochre, their home furnishings brand with shops in New York and London, and set about reinterpreting their lessons in modern ways. The ancient and evocative Lost-Wax casting process beckoned as they searched for a technique to realize their nature-inspired designs. “Few people have any idea of the research and craftsmanship that go into the production of this particular design,” New York-based Maxwell Macdonald says. “We decided to make a series of workshop images in order for our clients to feel closer to the process, and also understand the complexity and skill that go into these beautiful pieces.”

Unless otherwise noted, photography by Kristin Perers.

Above: The Damselfly Wall Light in its entirety. Photography by Ditte Isager.

Above: A finished arm of the Damselfly Wall Light has two Seed Clouds. "Our pieces require a great deal of engineering, as evidenced in the LED bulb that has been sunk into the arm," Maxwell Macdonald says.

Above: The Seed Cloud, Rectangular 56 Bud hangs above the Whippet Table, a recent addition to the Ochre collection. "As a product it evolves, it takes on its own life," Maxwell Macdonald says. "Thinner, fatter, or in the case of the Seed Cloud, needing more friends?"

Above: Molten wax is poured into silicon molds. The molds are held together by elastic bands.

Above: Opening the silicon molds after they have cooled and the wax has set reveals the hollow wax copy of the original mold.

Above: Heating up the crucible, which is used for melting the bronze.

Above: Damon Rawnsley and Sam Dalton, founders of the Crucible Foundry in their London workshop. Maxwell Macdonald and Bibby met Dalton at the City and Guilds where he was teaching sculpture.

Above: Pouring the molten bronze into the plaster molds. The original wax shapes have been melted out.

Above: Finished pieces of the Seed Cloud Chandelier.

Above L: The plaster is hammered away to reveal the bronze "tree". Above R: The bronze pieces after they have been polished and finished.

Above: The finished pieces await soldering.

Above: The Damselfly Wall Light is being soldered together.

N.B.: Has the Lost Wax casting technique inspired you to seek more bronze moments? See 65 images of Bronze from lighting to door handles in our Gallery of rooms and spaces.