The Way of Casting : 鋳物道 Imonodo or maybe Chudo

"The Way" of : Tea 茶道 or Chado; of the sword 剣道 or Kendo; of the bow 弓道 or Kyudo, and so on…

This idea of "the way" is widely known, originally from the East but now popular in the West. But is there a recognised "Way of Casting”? l have never heard of such an idea, but to those who know, the art and craft of casting metal might well qualify as a "way".

Casting molten metal is an ancient technology, and has long been invested with mystique. Modern industrial processes have almost entirely replaced the artisan founder, but in sculpture studios and small businesses the world over the craft does continue.
Practitioners are all involved in broadly similar activities. When in Japan some 20 years ago, I felt an extraordinary affinity in a room where some 100 or so members of the Japan Casting Artists Association (Nihon Chukinka Kyokai : 日本鋳金家協会 ) were meeting. Although my knowledge of the Japanese language was at best rudimentary, I felt in the company of kindred spirits. This feeling would seem to have been reciprocated, since they subsequently made me a member (the only Westerner). This was a great honour for me, my researches having led me to respect the skills and traditions of Japanese artist-founders. In particular, I admire the way many are designer-makers, every step of their art being the product of the one pair of hands. I strongly identify with this.

The Way of Casting, could be described thus:
First there is an idea, this is realised in some plastic medium, be it clay, wax, whatever, or perhaps carved and then moulded. An original form is created. Very often the next stage involves firing a mould, wax burnout, drying of water, curing of the mould medium... there are a variety of means, but the end is the same - a refractory vessel, one which will contain the molten alloy, to reproduce the form of the idea in metal. An element of anxiety inevitably accompanies the wait, so a somewhat meditative, resigned mental state is good here. A mindful approach is even more important as the metal is melted, a very real element of danger inevitable when liquid at 1000+ degrees C is handled. After the climax of filling the mould(s), another wait whilst the metal solidifies and coolsl. The results are uncovered when the mould is broken off. Pleasure and relief at a successful outcome is celebrated with suitable refreshment. My own preference is a nice cold beer.

Now this sequence is one I have experienced many times, first as a student, most often in my own studio foundry, and occasionally in other places, most memorably in Kashi-san's foundry in Tokyo. The rhythm is everywhere the same whenever an artist is casting his/her own work.
To do all this well requires study and practise. It is immensely satisfying.

Filling molds with bronze at Duncan of Jordanstone Art College, Dundee, I filmed this in 2015

See also my section on metal casting under Making on this site.

© Gordon Lochhead 2018. All photographs and text content on this site are by Gordon Lochhead, unless otherwise attributed.