Steven E. Lillegard Studio and Foundry

Close-up of bronze pouring
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. 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. After re-joining the plaster and rubber, he 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. 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, Steve uses a welder and pneumatic grinders to join parts and to touch up blemishes. Finally, chemicals are applied which bring out the bronze's contrasting colors. 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.

Parts ready for mold.
Rubber mold
Building the ceramic shell.
Pouring bronze outside at night.
After the pour.