How sculptor Steve Lillegard casts a bronze sculpture is a fascinating process. He shares the lost wax casting process below with studio photos.
Over the years, Lillegard’s bronze sculptures have sold well on our eBay store, Kelly’s Collectibles and Online Art Gallery. After each sale, I email Lillegard a pre-paid label and he packages and ships the sculpture directly to the buyer. Teamwork at its best!
If, however, the sculpture is not in stock, Lillegard quickly casts one on his own property in Sanford, Montana. Because Lillegard casts his own work in his own studio, he is able to experiment with the strength of bronze to better depict the story he is trying to tell.
What is a Bronze Sculpture
A bronze sculpture is a three-dimensional piece of art created from molten bronze. Bronze is an alloy of two metal elements copper and tin. Although the ratio has varied in the past, strict ratios must be used today to qualify as ‘bronze’.
Bronze statues are made via a process known as casting which involves pouring the molten metal into a suitable mold and leaving it to cool and solidify. Otherwise known as the lost wax casting process.
Identifying Limited Edition Sculptures
Once a sculptor creates a bronze sculpture, it can be cast and sold as many times as the Limited Edition series allows. If the numbers etched into a sculpture show 12/25, that means you have the twelfth bronze that was cast in a series of 25. After the final piece in the series is cast, the mold is retired and there will be no more produced. If the piece is cast as an Open Edition, then it can be sold indefinitely.
Although the process of creating a bronze sculpture can be costly and time-consuming, the returns are worth the time and investment.
About the Artist Steve Lillegard
Steve Lillegard’s interest and passion for art have been life-long. Throughout school and while majoring in art at Montana State University, he experimented with as many kinds of art and mediums as was possible.
Intrigued by the challenge of working in a three-dimensional art form, Lillegard returned to his hometown of Stanford, Montana in 1981 and embarked upon a career in sculpture. His first commercial success with bronze sculpture was with a piece depicting a white wolf famous in the area to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Stanford. The edition of 75 sold out within weeks.
Continuing with his success, Lillegard won a competition to create a life-size sculpture of a Revolutionary War soldier for a new school in North Pole, Alaska. Following these early successes, he proceeded to interpret the history and wildlife of rural Montana in sculpture.
He has since participated in numerous juried art shows throughout the West and has been asked to do commission work for many individuals and corporations. As a sculptor, he strives to create a mood or tell a story in an interesting way. Bronze allows him to do things that cannot be done in other mediums.
View Steve Lillegard’s bronze sculptures in our Gallery.
How Steve Lillegard Casts a Bronze Sculpture
Courtesy of Steve Lillegard’s Website
First, the bronzes take shape as modeled clay. Lillegard adds, peels and scrapes until the shape resembles what he sees in his mind’s eye.
Silicone Rubber Shell
Next, a silicone rubber shell is pasted around the clay, preserving delicate intricacies. A plaster shell is then added for strength, then Lillegard splits the shell open and removes the clay.
Molten Wax Fills Mold
After re-joining the plaster and rubber, Lillegard fills the mold with molten wax. When the wax hardens, he peels away the rubber. The wax replica of the clay sculpture is then dipped in eight layers of a ceramic slurry.
Heated in Kiln
This ceramic shell is placed in an insulated kiln, where forced gas is ignited and the temperature is raised to 1,600 degrees. At that point, the wax vaporizes. With help from his uncle, Glenn Lillegard, bronze is poured into the ceramic shell to replace the wax.
When the bronze cools, Glenn removes the ceramic, first with a hammer and chisel, then with a sandblaster. Then, Lillegard uses a welder and pneumatic grinders to join parts and to touch up blemishes.
Patina and Finishing Touches
Finally, chemicals are applied which brings out the bronze’s contrasting colors in a patina finish. The sculpture is then attached to the custom-designed and polished black walnut base. A signature plaque is set on the front of the base, and the bronze is ready to go.
Photograph and List for Sale
- Title: King of the Herd
- Medium: Bronze with walnut wood base
- Open Edition
- Brass Plaque features: Title and Artists Name
- Size: 3.75″ tall x 5″ wide x 2″ depth / walnut base adds 1″ to height
- Price $295
How to Find Steve Lillegard Bronze Sculptures
View Steve Lillegard’s bronze sculptures in our Gallery.
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