Mr. Manolis and his wife welcomed us with great cheer, and I quickly saw that this is a man who loves his work. When he found out that I have a degree in sculpture, he proudly showed me around the shop and explained the casting process. From what I understood (my Greek is still limited) it's as follows:
First, a prototype is commissioned, carved from soapstone; this piece is very detailed, but it is fragile if dropped!
The prototype is laid into a bed of sand, removed, and the molten brass is poured into the depression. This is done for both front and back, and then the two pieces are joined. Then, the edges have to be cleaned and the piece gets sanded and polished. This first casting then becomes the working prototype, and the stone version is put safely away.
While I've made molds out of plaster and latex, I've never seen one made of sand, and I was grateful to see the process. The amount of detail retained by the sand impression is amazing, and the cast sculptures are beautiful, even more so after Manolis finishes them with an acid oxidation process, adding mottled green and black and brown tones, and finishing with a wax process to make the piece smooth like glass.
After showing me the process, Manolis threw one of the statues on the concrete floor and I startled, but he laughed saying that they never break once cast in brass-- if you burried one today you could dig it up a thousand years from now and it'd be the same. The same for the patina; the color is fast.
Of course, I can't help but entertain the idea of immortalizing one of my own sculptures in bronze... and I am grinning because Manolis has promised to demonstrate casting on one of our next visits!
Two large brass helmets with a black patina; they will have more work done to the patina and then they will be polished with wax.