Nano Lopez

Nano Lopez: From Clay to Bronze

Like most artists, Nano Lopez begins the creation of a new work of art with the stroke of a pencil.

Lopez begins the intensive process of creating a sculpture by sketching it. From those drawings he makes a clay model that serves as the original for the sculpture. When the anatomy is to his liking, he adds texture to the clay model as well as elements like letters, gears or buttons. All details the artist wants on the final product must be on this model.

sculpted in clay

Creating a mold

The sculpture is coated with multiple layers of silicone, using air blow guns to ensure it covers all the details. Once dry, the model is encased in a thick plaster of fiberglass mixture to hold the silicone in place.

silicone coating

After the plaster hardens it is opened and separated. The original model is removed from the silicone, and by closing the two halves of the silicone, a mold is formed.

Melted wax is poured into the mold, thoroughly coating it so that all the details are maintained. Once the wax has cooled it is removed from the mold, and any imperfections in the wax are fixed. The wax is given a gating system with wax spruces to provide channels that the molten bronze will travel through.

rubber mold

The ceramic shell

The gated wax sculpture is coated in liquid ceramic slurry, then immediately covered in sand to help the slurry breathe. These two steps are repeated until there is nearly half an inch of a hard, ceramic shell encasing the wax.

The ceramic “cap” on the bottom is removed and the shell is placed in a kiln. The “lost wax” technique receives its name from this step due to the wax melting out of the shell.

Begin the bronzing

The melted bronze (about 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit) is then poured into the empty ceramic mod. Once it cools down, the ceramic shell is removed with pneumatic hammers and sandblasting. The metal chasing starts with large grinders to remove any large pieces of unwanted metal, such as the gates, then more refined tools are used to re-create the textures found on the original.

If the sculpture is made up of multiple pieces, they are welded together and the weld lines are smoothed over.

Coloring metal

For Lopez, coloration begins by heating the sculpture and spraying it with a chemical that turns it black. The sculpture is sanded, making the surface smooth and shiny while leaving black in recesses to bring out the textures.

fire in kiln

A gold dye is sprayed onto the sculpture. From there, patinas made of chemicals and pigments are applied with a brush and torch. By heating the bronze, the colors are essentially “cooked” onto the metal.

firing the paint

Finally, a few coats of lacquer are sprayed onto the sculpture to protect it from wear-and-tear and UV rays. If needed, felt is attached to the bottom of the sculpture.

UV coating

felt to the bottom

On average, a sculpture takes three to four months to complete.