Friday, November 04, 2011

Capitals Sculpted By Andrew Wilson Smith at Clear Creek Abbey

Andrew Wilson Smith has now completed the capitals for Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma. However, you can see more images of the finished work at his site here. Some readers may remember that I showed some photos of the work in its early stages earlier this year, here.
The technique that Andrew uses is very interesting. He models it first in clay (this is the work we saw earlier). Then he makes a mold and plaster cast. Using this cast as a model he then sculpts the finished product out of stone. To help him he uses a device that was developed in the late Renaissance and was used a lot by sculptors in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is an external frame that is fixed to the cast at three points. Then within the stone he creates three identical points. This means that the frame, which sits around the cast, can be fixed to the stone in an identical position. From there moving armatures are used to measure positions on the cast relative to these three fixed positions. When the frame is transferred to the stone, the movement in the armatures tell him how far into the stone he must now cut in order to fix the surface in the stone carving in an identical position. In this way he builds up a series of reference points, just like using a grid in two-dimensional drawing, from which he can carve the final sculpture in stone. This method was used, for example, by the Nordic sculptor of the 18th century, Bertel Thorvaldsen.