After coming back from Changsha, we arranged to visit another foundry (SGY). This is the foundry professor John told us. Mr. Zan also told us this is one of the better ones for the quality of lost wax casting. This foundry used to be part of a state owned corporation, now changed to private ownership. Its president happened to have last name as Liu as well, so we visited two foundries and met two Mr. Lius in this trip.
Walking into the gate of the foundry, we didn’t see as many finished sculptures on display. The workshop seems to be better organized with smaller separate rooms for wax work, mold making, etc. We saw a female technician working some small wax pieces. Mr. Liu explained to us, the artist decided to do some change after mold making and wax casting, so the technician was painstakingly making the change on each wax piece now. There had to be at least 30 pieces cast. I guess it would only make sense if her labor is cheaper than remaking the mold and wax casting. We paid more attention of the equipment this time. When we saw the dipping tanks, Gino noticed the large dipping tanks didn’t have a mixer built in. When we asked, Mr. Liu said they used a hand mixer during the dipping.
Gino asked Mr. Liu to quote on the same job we asked the other foundry. Mr. Liu specifically asked about the quality requirement. For the obvious reason, Gino wanted the best quality they were capable of making. The price was higher, and the turn around time was more than doubled as well. The price in Canada is only 2-3 times of the quoted price now.
We met Paul and his wife Wu at the foundry. Their home is in Netherlands. Ms. Wu is an artist. They had been working with the foundry for the last 3 years. Gino was very excited to hear the first hand experience from an artist working with the foundry. They actually bring their own patina supplies from Netherlands.
Mr. Liu mentioned their foundry made most of the bronze sculptures on the Duolun Rd in Shanghai. We drove directly there after we left the foundry. Ten bronze sculptures representing the famous writers and political figures in the history were installed on the street in 2006. We paid close attention to the casting details of the sculptures. The overall quality is good. But similar to the sculptures we saw in Changsha, casting defects such as small cracks, cavities exist on all sculptures.
The place we found the most sculptures in China is Shanghai Oriental Land – 167 bronze sculptures can be found along the “Wisdom Avenue”. It is a very impressive site. Important figures from Chinese and world history are represented in the park. The park was only open to public in 2001. Still, we concentrated our attention to the bronze casting qualities. Surprisingly, some bronze sculptures showed visible sign of rust. That is a sure sign of impurity in the bronze material. Similar defects were observed on most of the sculptures; some of them have even large cracks.
After one month of investigation, we came to this conclusion: Chinese foundries have the capacity for casting large sculptures, and the turn around time can be much shorter. They also have real price advantage over the western foundries. However, the quality of casting could be a problem. The patina technology in China has much to be desired. The bronze material commonly used in the foundries is inferior to what we used to see in Canada. The quality can be improved by tighter quality control and more frequent inspection and follow up from the artists. But this would present a problem for artists abroad because of the added traveling cost and time required.
China has a very active domestic sculpture market. A number of sculptors outside of China have already set their eyes on the Chinese market. We saw a few studios of foreign artists in Beijing and Shanghai. And both foundries we visited have experience dealing with foreign artists. We believe the quality will improve over time and eventually be able to match what we see in western countries.