Every day, our community grows in unexpected and delightful ways. For our Fresh Shops series, sellers who have been on Etsy for a mere handful of months or are awaiting their first sale introduce themselves. Here’s a warm welcome to all our newbies!
My name is Dan Fleming, and I live and work in Arroyo Grande, California. My shop is Small Bronzes. I went to school for business but always knew that was a bad idea. During school, I began to draw and paint a bit. I loved it and tried to learn from looking at other artists’ work. The idea of making a living as an artist was inconceivable to me, but I enjoyed the process and was usually surprised with the finished piece. Once I started to take my painting more seriously, I focused on the human form.
Sculpture had always interested me. One day, I was watching This Old House when they showed a small foundry making bronze doorknobs using the lost wax method and a centrifugal casting machine. With the machine, they could create a dozen or so doorknobs at once. I found the idea of melting metal and making something that would outlast me very appealing — I’ve always loved anything small made in metal. Everything they used to make those doorknobs seemed like things that I could build myself. I thought I could make little affordable bronze figures and mass-produce them on a small scale.
I sculpt the originals out of wax. I don’t use any reference materials, but I always keep the skeleton in mind, bending the figures until I find a pose that feels good. Wax is difficult to work with, but one benefit is that once I find a good pose, I can use my soldering iron to melt the pieces back together and fine tune it. I then attach it to the sprue and hope that nothing goes wrong. (I lost more than a few in the beginning, but have gotten a bit better at the process.) Once I have the original, I make a rubber mold and create duplicates to sell.
I made almost all of my equipment myself. The centrifugal casting machine was made from a treadmill motor attached to a repurposed potter’s wheel set in a metal garbage can with a cut-out pouring area. My burnout oven is made from a large rag disposal barrel. My vacuum table is constructed from plywood and a sheet of rubber with a large heavy gauge aluminum cooking pot drilled with holes for the vacuum gauge and the vacuum pump, and a hole at the top covered with a half inch piece of Plexiglas for a viewing window.
I have been casting my sculptures for six months or so. My equipment is working very well, but I have a number of improvements to make to increase my production capabilities and efficiency. I am trying to make a living off of my art. It is difficult, but I have been getting a nice response. I am having a good time struggling along.