The pour side of sculpture

Andy Graham

Photo By Larry Dalton

Upstairs in The Building at 10th and R streets in the Art Foundry Gallery loft is a tiny elevator shaft that has been converted into an art studio. Cluttered by creativity, the small space is filled with a number of canvases, frames and bronze sculptures. This humble cave is where local artist

Andy Graham can be found almost every day, working to master his art. Working at the foundry for the past five years has provided Graham with the unique opportunity to learn the fine arts of bronze sculpture and monotype printing. On second Saturdays, he can be spotted doing print demonstrations in the loft.

How do you make a monotype print?

Monotype prints are made by painting with ink on a small plate of metal or plastic. The plate is laid on a press bed, and then paper that has been soaked in water (so that it’s all soft) is laid on top, and then felt pads go on top of that. After that, it’s all run under the roller of the press.

What does a completed monotype print look like?

It all depends on how you put the ink on the plate. You can get straight lines if you’re very careful and use small tools. Some people like to roll ink onto the whole plate and then scratch it off in a pattern. When the whole thing rolls through the press, things happen to the image. You can achieve a photographic type of look.

Is that what you go for?

I like how it can look very real, but I also like the serendipity of having the ink get kind of smushed around as it goes under the roller. You can do different things. You can add a solvent, like turpentine, or you can scratch an image all up so that it looks more interesting. It’s like finger painting for adults, and kids love it, too.

What do you do here at the foundry?

My title is burn-out technician, and I mostly work in what’s known as the “pour section” of the foundry, not to be confused with the “poor section” of town, though they do have their similarities. After the wax original of a sculpture is invested in a silica shell, I take that shell, drill holes in it and then I shove it inside a really hot kiln. The wax melts out into a pot, and at the same time, it turns the silica into a porcelain that we can then pour metal into. Then, I have to plug all the holes with an industrial putty, and it’s ready for bronze to be poured into it, which I also do often. Those are my main tasks here.

How did you get started doing this?

I was going to Sacramento City College, and I was taking like 23 units, and Mom said, “Don’t take so many units, or at least take a fun class,” so I took three-dimensional design, and it turned out to be a sculpting class. As an assignment, we did a bronze casting through the foundry, and mine got lost. So, I kept comin’ back to check on it. It didn’t get poured right away, and I developed a rapport with the people here. One day, I just asked Alan Osborne, the boss, for a job. Now, I can pretty much do most of the technical tasks here at the foundry.

Did you ever get your sculpture back?

Yes, my first bronze sculpture. I gave it to my mom. It was a person holding a big bowl that’s kind of sitting on the ground, and they were looking in. It was a pretty nice little piece.

Have you always wanted to be an artist?

No, as a little kid, I didn’t want to be an artist because they were slackers, and I didn’t think it was a real job. I wanted to be an astronaut. Actually, I wanted to be the first guy to walk on the moon, but then this other guy did it, and so that blew all my plans. I became melancholy. I didn’t want to do anything else, so I became a slacker. I must have been about 7. I became really good at being a slacker. Then, there were a million other things I wanted to be before I got this job and my associate’s in art. I’ve always enjoyed slacking.

You had a show called Heads. Can you explain the meaning behind that title?

Well, most of the pieces in the show were of heads. I think there were some portrait heads and some monotype heads. I also liked the double meaning of "heads." Someone who did drugs used to be called a head, and, of course, we all have heads—our bodies are controlled by our heads. We’ve got our bodies to carry our heads around, and the most important stuff is really in our heads. There’s other important stuff in the body, but we look out of our heads. A lot of our important orifices are there. Hopefully, we think with our heads. The word "head" looked good in the typeface I used.