Behind the Scenes of Porterness Studio Design Process
About Lost-wax Casting (also called "investment casting" or "precision casting") is the process by which a duplicate metal sculpture (often silver, gold, brass or bronze) is cast from an original sculpture. Dependent on the sculptor's skills, intricate works can be achieved by this method. The oldest known examples of this technique are the objects discovered in the Cave of the Treasure(Nahal Mishmar) hoard in southern Israel, and which belong to the Chalcolithic period (4500-3500 BCE). Conservative Carbon 14 estimates date the items to c. 3700 BCE, making them more than 5700 years old. Though the process today varies from foundry to foundry, the steps used in casting small bronze sculptures are fairly standardized. (In modern industrial use, the process is called investment casting.) Variations of the process include: "lost mold", which recognizes that materials other than wax can be used (such as tallow, resin, tar, and textile); and "waste wax process" (or "waste mould casting"), because the mould is destroyed to remove the cast item. The lost-wax casting was widespread in Europe until the 18th century, when a piece-molding process came to predominate. (Wikipedia)
Images of our tools during parts of the creation process.
DESIGN FOR 3D PRINTING
Interview - Indie Untangled Blog January 2018
How did you get started making and selling jewelry?
My first real foray into the jewelry business actually happen in my childhood. I fondly remember my sister and I, age 11 and 12, making and selling handmade pompom animal pins to friends, family and door to door around the neighborhood. It was wonderful to see the neighborhood adorned with our humble little pins.
However, my official jewelry-making career began in 2007. I started out offered jewelry on Etsy which was inspired by and incorporated beautiful mid-century German glass beads. In the early days, I would search high and low for these tiny colorful glass sculptures and once found, I would spend hours combining them into one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry. Little did I know that the spark of intrigue and fascination for these unique beads would lead me to discover the allure of many processes of ancient jewelry-making. Eventually, my curiosity for these early techniques inspired me to enroll in my first lost wax casting course.
I was immediately enthralled with the 6,000-year-old lost wax casting technique and has maintained its ranks as my favorite and primary method of my design process.
After over a year of intense study, practice, and personal refinement of this ancient process, I created Porterness Studios.
How did you choose the method that you use?
I chose the lost wax casting method for not only for its place in ancient art history but because of a personal desire to preserve and showcase what this amazing process can create. While it is not the quickest, or the easiest process to master or utilize, the results are simply amazing and create beautiful heirloom pieces.
You still crochet and knit? What are some of your favorite things to make?
My knitting story is hardly unique, I’m sure, and is standard for most of our fellow knitters and crocheters. My grandmother first taught me how to crochet when I was 10, and I would pick up the hook from time to time.
Fast forward to the day I stumbled upon the magical world of indie dyers. I immediately was reminded of those first few German glass beads that really fueled my journey into lost wax casting. This was one reason why I wanted to design a collection specifically intended to harmonize with heirloom knitted and crocheted garments. If I would have known about hand dyed yarn when I was 10, I probably would never stop. Now, I’m finding myself buying yarn just to look at it as a spirit object in my home.
As a relatively new knitter, I’m firmly ensconced in hat and scarf-land but I plan on casting on a poncho very, very soon. Wish me luck.
When did you decide to create shawl pins and buttons?
I have been secretly making shawl pins and buttons as gifts for my mother for quite some time now. She is the prolific knitter and designer in the family, so I must credit her amazing designs for the inspiration to create the Porterness Studios Fiber Age Collection. It was really just a matter of time and encouragement before the yarn bug would bite me too and lead me to create pieces that can harmonize with knitted garments.
What inspires your designs?
I draw inspiration from all over but art history, ancient cultures, and Modernist and Mid Century design have all played a significant role in my collections.
As of late, I have been nerd-ing out on all of the mind-blowing fiber art garments and hand-dyers on Instagram and Ravelry and are quickly becoming a huge inspiration to create new designs.
How often do you create new designs?
I start my day with a cup of coffee and new design. I’ll wake up to design for 20 minutes or hours depending on the day (or my level of productive procrastination). Designing is my morning meditation and mental yoga. A small percentage of those pre-coffee designs make it into production, but it is a daily process.
What are some of the best things you’ve learned running your handmade business?
Learning how to transmit my passion for my designs and my design process to others has been one of my biggest challenges, and something that I have spent considerable time working on this year. The lost wax casting process is mystical and fascinating and I am absolutely thrilled that so many other people seem to share this excitement and passion once they learn about it too.
This year I also began learning and integrating 3D modeling into my design process and it has opened up my design potential in ways that previously would have required a team of people, with 20+ years of experience, and thousands of dollars of equipment. This new skill allows me to create work with a small eco-footprint by cutting out waste and designing within a small workspace. The versatility of 3D molding opened my design process so I can offer items that are complicated and refined right out of the gate. It’s also really exciting to be at the forefront of a new production process that combines the ancient art of lost wax casting with new and modern design and manufacturing technologies like 3D modeling and printing.
But I am always striving to learn and grow. Since starting Porterness studios and developing each subsequent collection, I have worked to refine and further develop all of the techniques and processes I utilize both modern and ancient, and this ancient modernism toolbox has manifested itself into every facet and design of Porterness Studio.