Join Us on the Journey – Back to Philly for Patina
Join Us on the Journey back to Philly for Patina!
Just when you thought that this whole thing couldn’t get more complicated…wait, there’s more! After being cast in California, the Nolcha Four made the long cross-country trek to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for their patina. (If you have been following the journey so far, you will remember that Philly is where all the molds were made for the collection). For this caper I roped Teri, my good friend and business partner, in on the adventure. We left Stafford, Virginia, at ‘O dark thirty’ and headed north, arriving in Philly by 9:30 am, excited to get started!
You might think the patina process is straight forward. Actually it is not. It is a combination of art and science. When any metal is left unprotected, it will naturally oxidize and turn green, brown, or black. Bronze is no exception. Being susceptible to moisture, it needs to be protected to prevent oxidation and corrosion. Most people think of bronze as a color. Actually it is a metal. The color you see on an art piece is created using either hot or cold chemicals to effect changes in the color of the metal before sealing with a coat of wax. Applying a hot patina creates a chemical reaction with the bronze and changes it color. Applying exotic sounding chemicals such as bismuth nitrate, cupric nitrate, or sodium thiosulfate can create a wide variety of color possibilities.
The hardest part for me is deciding on the look that I am going for and describing it to the person doing the patina. For the Nolcha Four, I wanted something modern and contemporary with an “edgy” feel. I talked this over with Julia, the patina expert who was confident that she could deliver the look I described.
The process began with bead blasting the entire sculpture to ensure that the surface was slightly abraded and free from all contaminates. A mixture of bismuth nitrate, bismuth chloride, stannic oxide, titanium dioxide, nitric acid, and a quart of hot distilled water were mixed as the base color. The sculpture was heated with a blow torch and the mixture applied. This particular chemical combination created a white base upon which multiple other colors were applied before achieving the look I envisioned. Getting the right color and tone is definitely a process. It’s one of those “I’ll–know–it-when–I–see–it” kind of thing. Lots of trial and error. It was probably worse for poor Julia because there were two of us weighing in on every little thing, dissecting what would be minutia for most people. Teri and I share the gift of attention to detail or obsessiveness, depending on who you ask! It took four hours for the first piece to be completed and four for the next. The pieces had to be cooled completely before waxing and buffing. We did not leave the foundry until 8:00pm. Calling it a long day is an understatement. Nevertheless, it was well worth the effort.
Next stop Nolcha Shows New York Fashion Week!