The creation of a bronze foundry – a workshop for casting metal – at NZMACI extends the skills and knowledge of the Institute’s artists, while also adding to the Māori cultural experience for visitors. “...we are trying to push the limits of the material.” Located adjacent to Te Wānanga Whakairo Rākau (National Wood Carving School), the casting process begins with a silicone mould taken of a wooden carving, with wax then poured into the mould and, once set, removed and encased in a ceramic shell. The wax is melted and removed, before the bronze is poured.
Once the bronze is set, the ceramic shell is removed, revealing the new bronze artwork. Making it a process unique to Rotorua, NZMACI casters will also be making use of the unique natural environment in Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley, using water from the sulphur-chloride pools to patina the bronze. NZMACI Director Karl Johnstone says casting processes have been used for thousands of years and, other than the refinement in some of the processes, little has changed. "We are trying to push the limits of the material, including its ability to capture the finest elements of carving. Our artists and guides will be able to share the Foundry story with manuhiri (visitors).” The Foundry is now in the final steps of the first bronze pour phase – an exciting development.