Artist Bart Thomas’s design method has evolved from classical design in clay to 3D design from soldered copper wire.
My sculptural process has changed over the years. In the early years, I made a model in clay from which a plaster mould was created. Next plaster was casted in the mould to obtain a copy of the original clay sculpture. I gave up this method of working over the years because it is too time consuming, makes it difficult to design light, spatial sculptures which limited my creativity.
Nowadays my working process starts with making a 3D model made of copper wire connected with soft solder. I draw the sculpture in the 3D space, as it were. The final sculpture often deviates from the model. The elaboration of the forms evolve as I continue to build up the sculpture
Sometimes I cover a wire structure design project with paper to get a better view of the shape and proportions in the space.
Working process of copper plate sculptures
I design a new sculpture by bending copper wires and connecting them with tin-silver soft solder. In this way I draw the sculpture in the space. During the design process I can fold, shorten or lengthen the wires without limitations until I have finally formed the main lines of the design. Such a design is very important to me. It always determines the character and dynamics of the final sculpture.
The realization of the sculpture begins with annealing the copper plate. Then the copper plate is hammered onto moulds until the desired shape of one surface is created. The different planes are connected with twisted copper wires (somewhat similar to braiding a steel fixture for reinforced concrete). To determine the shape of the next plate, I “draw” the shape of the next plate with metal wire in the space to make a mould of the next plate.
New pieces of copper plate are added each time. To lose as little of the precious copper plate as possible, I make paper templates that I use as a guide to cut out the copper plate.
The shape of the sculpture is mostly finished here. All the plates are fixed together with twisted copper wires.
The sculpture is now brazed with a chalumeau and silver alloy. Then the edges are ground off and the sculpture is polished.
The final step is to apply a patina by working the sculpture with acids and a large open burner.
Working process of mixed media sculptures
Based on the model, I make the sculpture full size. For my multimedia sculptures I start by folding and welding the metal wire structure into the space. This wire structure is then coated with a two component epoxy resin or a self-composed curing paste. After curing, the form is finished by grating, filing and finally by sanding until the hollow and convex shapes are smooth and the arcs clean and tight. In order to perpetuate the look I want to give the sculpture, I add a patina as the final step in the creation of a sculpture.