When people look at the price tag of a bronze sculpture in galleries, They quite often think sculptors are making a forture. But very few people understand the cost of making a sculpture. I didn’t know it either until I met Gino.
Gino is a well known Canadian sculptor specialized in portraiture sculture (http://www.ginocavicchioli.com). He explained to me that bronze sculpture is normally casted using lost-wax casting technology. After the sculptor completed the sculpture, there are still a lot left to do for mold making and foundry work. It is very labour intensive and time consuming work. With that of course comes the high cost. (Lost wax casting by Wikipedia)
As an effort of cost cutting, naturally both Gino and I thought about off-shore manufacture. Last December, we went to China for a month to investigate this possibility. Before we embarked on this trip, we had already done some research on the internet and through personal networks; quoted one job by a Chinese foundry, the price was 1/7th of the cost in Canada. Everything looked very promising.
We went to PY first, which is the same foundry quoted us a year ago. PY is just on the outskirt of Shanghai. When our car drove into the front entrance, we saw many huge sculptures, some are bronze. Both Gino and I were impressed by the size and numbers. VP Liu greeted us with great warmth and sincerity. He toured us around the facility. The workshop is on the rough side. But we were very impressed with their furnace size: 5 tonne! None of the foundries Gino worked with in Canada has a furnace this size. Large monument quite often are casted in sections because of this (and other) limitation. On the first floor of their office, there is a lab for patina testing, sample colors are displayed outside. Everything was very impressive. After the tour, Gino showed Liu one of his latest monument design and asked for a quote. The price Liu quoted us is about 1/3 – 1/4 of the Canadian price. Factoring in the drop of Canadian currency, the increase is inline with the inflation. And my business-smart sister who accompanied us hinted the price may be negotiated down more when we place the order. What’s more impressive than the cost was their turn around time – it is so fast we could hardly believe what we heard.
I should mention that before we visited PY, we had a meeting with Professor Wang from the sculpting school of Central Academy of Fine Arts, who kindly toured us around the school and gave us a lot information about sculpting in China. He mentioned the quality of bronze casting in China may not be as good as abroad. I thought this may be just the usual Chinese style humbleness. The first foundry visit was very exciting. We still want to visit a couple more fooundries and meet a few sculptors to have a more complete investigation. But we thought the potential was there.
(… to be continued …)