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Economics of casting


#1

I read in Charles L-B’b book (Cheap Thrills) that one could use a
fridge compressor for vacumn casting. Has anyone done this? Know
how? Is it safe, loud, troublesome? To now I have mostly brought
nice, pretty, new tools, but I have recently opened up to
modifying/making/improvising tools.

-I currently pay an outside caster. Two questions. What are
thoughts on the honest of this? I mean, presenting work as
"handmade by the artist," when the casting was done by another? I
know this is common in the jewelry industry and many people in the
industry think nothing of it. But I am uncertain as to the feeling
on this in the crafts community. I know it would be okay if I had
an assistant in the shop who did things under my direction. Since
the caster is operating under my direction, is that diferent or
not?

Next question…My wonderful caster, naturally charges for labor.
I would appreciate opinions on whether it would be economical for
me to purchase casting equipment and learn to do it myself. I am
hesitant to spend all that money, and I am also concerned about
safety.

Thank you.
-Elaine Luther
Studio 925
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Rainy/Sunny/Rainy/Sunny/Rainy/Sunny, oh it must be spring in Chicago!


#2

Dear E Luther,

Your question is very interesting, about the outside caster. I did
a lot of castings in all shops where I worked when I was starting
in jewelry. When I starts my own shop in 81, I stopped castings and
gave it to an outside caster. I realized that it takes a lot of
time and cost a lot of money for a new business. Still, today I can
do, for my pleasure, a little of my own castings at school but for
the most part I use the outside casters because I do not want to
have this in my shop. Plaster in the draining, big ventilation,
furnace, waste of time and money but I like to do it by myself too.
It could be different, if you do a lot, but a lot of this. For
your there is castings shop close from here in
Montreal where they cast 14 carats gold for 9.80$ canadian per
gram, yesterday prices, and the castings are very good and the gold
is soft enough to set stones easily, even the white gold is soft. I
think that a lot of creators in small shops, who carves waxes or
mounts wires and sheets whit no thinking about the fact of casting
could do one of a kind jewelry whitout casting pieces by themselves
and be recognize by there pairs. Big shops are happy to do it for
us at small prices and, for myself, I think that there is no
special skilfulness, nice word right from the dictionnary, to do
castings especially with gold. This technique require a good recipe
and that’s all. It is easy to do whit good equipments and do not
alter the skill of a creator. Don’t you think the same?

Vincent Guy Audette


#3

How is this different from a painter selling prints he has sent
out to have printed up? Or sculptors who send out things to be
cast in bronze? If the original is yours, I would’nt get too hung
up about it. anne


#4

i have a lot of “home made” equipment for casting and can give you
some ideas about making it and where to get it. the bright and
shiny new stuff is lovely, but you can save a lot of money and do
it safely. contact me at: @prycelessg


#5

If the designs are yours, than who does the casting is irrelevant.
A Frank Lloyd house is still his house even though he didn’t
actually build it himself.

Karen Christians
Fly Fish Design
282 Lexington St.
Woburn, MA 01801

@metalart

Current Artwork:


#6

Elaine in order for you to say it is “handmade” by the artist the
piece has to be fabricated not cast. Many people say “designed” by
the artist. This seems to be acceptable and has a romantic appeal.
As far as casting there is up front expense but unless you cast
alot it may not make since. Remember it is just a mechanical part
of making jewelry.


#7

Elaine,

As long as you create the wax and do the finishing I think you are
safe to call your work handmade. What I have a problem with is
when jewelry artists make a mold and cast hundreds of the same
thing and call it art. I have been at shows that don’t allow a
painter to sell prints but there are jewelers there who have mass
produced most of their work. There is nothing wrong with mass
production but it does not belong at art fairs, it belongs in
jewelry or department stores.

Since you are in Chicago, I am wondering if you have had any
contact with a group called AIM (artists in metal)? I live in
Rockford, IL which is about 90 miles west of you.

Good luck to you-
Deb


#8

I do lots of fine art/craft shows and I have pretty strong
feelings about re-sale that somehow ‘slips’ in. I would say that
if the design for the casted part is yours, * and * you add to the
casted parts (stone setting, additional fabrication, finishing,
polishing, etc), * and * you are NOT having hundreds of the same
thing made over and over, it is handmade. On the other hand, if
you do nothing but receive it from the caster and put it out for
sale, then - its resale - not handmade by the artist. If its the
latter, do the festivals and mall shows that allow re-sale and
stay away from the art/craft shows. The reason being that good art
shows need to keep their reputation of providing the public with
high quality handmade by the artist art work in order for the
customers who purchase art to continue returning. Many shows that
once were good aren’t anymore because the customers have seen too
much re-sale and don’t come back anymore. Then the artists suffer
and stop exhibiting at the show as well.

I have friends that sell re-sale items at festivals, malls and
flea markets and financially they are better off than I am and they
don’t work so hard. Makes me wonder sometimes if I’m in the wrong
place, but only for a moment, and only when I’m really broke!

I don’t mean to offend, but as you can tell I do feel very
strongly about this. Which ever kind of work you do, I wish you
good luck.

Nancy
Bacliff, Texas Gulf Coast USA


#9

OK here’s my two cents… I believe that there are some sort of
official, legal, definitions for things that are hand made, hand
crafted, hand fabrictated ect. There is also an obvious difference
between one of a kind, a limited production, and a full blown
production line. But the way the piece came into being is not
important. One of a kind’s can and are cast. Full blown production
work can be hand fabricated. So the burden of what is “art”, and
what is “re-sale” falls on those who run the show and the consumer.
It is not the fault of the craftsman if the quality of shows is
slipping, but the fault of those producing the show. If we the
makers want to improve the quality of work available at art craft
shows three things come to mind. One, educate the consumer and the
people running the show. Two, become involved in running the
shows. Three, refuse to enter into shows that let just anyone in.

Eddie
Ed Colbeth Metalsmith, UMASS Dartmouth
Taunton, MA
508-823-9704


#10

I’ve seen a lot of FLW buildings around here and I’ve never seen
one with the claim “handmade by the Architect”. I think that if
one didn’t make a piece one shouldn’t claim you did. Try “designed
by the artist” instead of “handmade by the artist”.

Chunk Kiesling


#11

Everyone to their own opinion…mine being that casting and
fabricating complement each other. I can’t see how any of us can
say that fabricating is the only way or that casting is the only
way. Mechanical shmanical!


#12
As long as you create the wax and do the finishing I think you
are safe to call your work handmade.  What I have a problem with
is when jewelry artists make a mold and cast hundreds of the same
thing and call it art. 

Deb,

So what would a quantity limitation for “art” be? 10? 25? 50?
100? Rembrandts are still considered art, even though any home in
America could have a copy. Seriously, I’d like to hear what you
think.

Tammi


#13

Hello Guy & E.Luther, I have been casting for 20 years and have run
a casting shop for the last 12 years. Good casting begins with a
good model. On a very “creative” but maybe not so well thought out
hand carved wax model there is much “special skill” needed to
produce a quality casting. Most of the best casting, I believe,
happens in private shops. At our company we endeavor to treat every
customer’s one-of-a-kind piece or prodution run as if it is our
own. No doubt you have the expertise, Guy, to produce quality
casting time and again, but don’t underestimate your skill. It is
special. I have customers come to me without giving a thought to
casting quality, only design. Thats fine with me. I understand
they want the best possible casting available. When folks are
considering a production run I don’t hesitate to critique the model
and offer time and money saving suggestions. Most of the tool
supply companies can sell you very expensive, handsome, and
technically dazzling casting machines they say will solve your
casting problems. I have seen such machines turn out perfectly
awful castings, and simple old machines turn excellent results. The
reason?..Skill. To answer your question E.Luther. I believe your
creative designs are unique to you. You may not mine your own
diamond or other precious stone, you may not cut the stone
yourself, you may not mine or refine the gold, you may not set the
stone or polish the jewelry yourself. We all need each others help
to make it in this world and it is nothing to be ashamed of. I am
proud to help many fine artists with their creation. Most designers
would rather spend their time exploring new designs. Production
work from a few dozen to a few thousand can get monotonous. A good
caster can free you to do what you love to do. J.A.


#14

Elaine:

Full disclosure - I’m a caster so naturally I’m biased. What
matters are that the designs are yours, not who casts them. Unless
you have a real high volume, it makes sense to have someone else
cast them. You could buy the basic casting equipment for $2000 or
so, but a professional caster will have invested 5 or 10 times
(minimum)that in good state of the art equipment. You should get
consistant, quality castings (no fire scale or porosity, silky
smooth surfaces) from a professional. All the equipment in the
world will not make up for not having the years of knowledge that
is vital to quality casting. I don’t recommend trying to make
equipment yourself. In my experience, it’s not worth the time and
hassle. If you are a hobbyist and want to do it for the fun and
challenge thats one thing; but if this is your livelyhood, you need
good reliable equipment. In another post you ask about making molds
without a vulcanizer. To get good molds every time, spend the $400
and get a vulcanizer. Of course having a vulcanizer will only
enable you to make the mold, thats only one step. You also need to
know how to pack it and cut it. Cutting a mold properly takes a
lot of practice. Your caster should be able to make molds for you
for $15-25.

Brett


#15

Tammi- I agree with Deb. As I said, water colorists do this all
the time. THEY number their editions, and perhaps jewelry should
too. I would think that 25 or 50 would be a gracious plenty for
any one casting. They could be numbered and signed, just like
paintings. IMHO, of course- anne


#16
 I would say thatif the design for the casted part is yours, *
and *  you add to thecasted parts (stone setting, additional
fabrication, finishing,polishing, etc), * and *  you are NOT
having hundreds of the samething made over and over, it is
handmade.

A couple of people have posted “hundreds,” which inspires me to
wonder, is there a number? Is there a cut off? Should works with
multiples be limited? Offered as limited editions (if not
specifically numbered, then just limited to whatever)? -Elaine


#17

This will be my last message for a while until I cool off!!!A
few days ago, a member of this forum put out a plea for help in
acquiring equipment that was reasonable for a person to start the
casting process with and for about possibly building
some of it presumably to keep down the cost. Having read this
plea, and having had the fun of doing some creative inventing a
number of years ago to get started, I responded. In response to
the help offer, I received 4 e-mails asking for I’ll
help where I can. Before the e-mails had even had a chance to be
responded to, the commentary started, not offers of help to those
needing it but rather, statements of why they shouldn’t do their
own casting and why equipment won’t work unless it is the very
best. PHOOEY!!! I’ve been running my own business and supporting
myself very nicely for the past 8 years using all of the "amateur"
equipment that my husband and I built just to make it possible for
me to get up and rolling. Next, all the hassle and criticism
against Mr. Kretchmer for wishing to keep the formula for blue gold
to himself is unworthy of a group of supposedly caring people who
are loving their trade, hobby or whatever. Just wish I had such a
wonderful discovery and I guess so do a number of the people out
there. To conclude, this forum is for people to SHARE, HELP and
ENCOURAGE each other and I for one would like to see this happen
instead of tearing down! Thank you!


#18

Elaine,

I would suggest that you look in your area and see if you can find
a jeweler, art school or caster who offers classes or instruction.
If you were close to us, we offer our facilities and help on an
hourly basis to competant folks (our decision on this one). We
would be able to give you a basics instruction (with preparitory
reading on your part) in 1-2 hours, and in this time get a piece
ivested and in the kiln. We would generally burn out the can in
such a way that you would be back to cast it, rather than you
waiting around for hours for the burnout to take place. Also, you
could sprue up numerous pieces for discussion and if you wanted to
cast them and see the results of your work. The basics are just
that, basic. But the little tweeks and pulls and pushes make the
difference and those are mostly learned by time and experience.

Basically, see if you can find sombody to show you what goes on
and let you try your hand at it and see if you think this area is
something you would like to get into.

John and Cynthia/MidLife Crisis Enterprises
Maiden Metals/C. T. Designs/ Bloomin’ Wax Works. etc.

PO Bx 44, Philo
CA 95466
Ph 707-895-2635 FAX 707-895-9332

The playfulness of the Universe
is reflected in the dance of the stars!


#19
  Hello Guy & E.Luther, I have been casting for 20 years and
have run a casting shop for the last 12 years. Good casting
begins with a good model. On a very "creative" but maybe not so
well thought out hand carved wax model there is much "special
skill" needed to produce a quality casting. Most of the best
casting, I believe, happens in private shops. At our company we
endeavor to treat every customer's one-of-a-kind piece or
prodution run as if it is our own. 

Well, we treat everyone’s one of a kind as if it were our own too,
and don’t you just love it when they send you 28 gauge sheet with
detailing hand engraved 4 inches long by 1/4 inch wide twisted and
wonder why it’s a bear to cast?

   When folks are considering a production run I don't hesitate
to critique the model and offer time and money saving
suggestions. 

As a fellow caster, bravo!

 Most of the tool supply companies can sell you very expensive,
handsome, and technically dazzling casting machines they say will
solve your casting problems. I have seen such machines turn out
perfectly awful castings, and simple old machines turn excellent
results. The reason?...Skill. 

I particularly like the “spin 8 flasks at a time with perfect
results” machine. Uh Huh.

  Production work from a few dozen to a few thousand can get
monotonous. A good caster can free you to do what you love to do.

JA- Yes, they/we can. My sympathies, I really do know what you go
thru :slight_smile:

Tammi


#20

Thanks very much to everyone for the helpful input on casting! I
have decided to make my own molds, but to not cast for now.

I am facinated by the philosophical end of this conversation. To
date my only influences on this topic have been from The Craft
Report, and from being in the jewelry industry. From the magazine,
I got a very pure idea about handwork/casting – yet in the jewelry
industry (which, I understand, is not the market where I sell) no
one understands when I explain about doing your own hand work. In
fact, one woman in the industry was surprised when I explained to
her she had to actually make the jewelry for a certain design
contest she wanted to enter.

Philosophically…I find this interesting…what are other methods
which are production oriented as is casting? Die-striking perhaps?
I suppose people would say the same thing as they did about
casting, that the piece must have additional work done to it, hand
finished by the artist, etc. This delicate balance we all must
achieve is interesting; how to utilize production techniques enough
to make a living, but not so much that we lose the ability to call
it handmade.

Bruce Baker, at his workshop on booth design, tells a story of
working with his bus. partner to get out a big order. His partner
sighs, and says, “I feel like I work in a factory,” and Bruce
says, “You do work in a factory.”

And what of Thomas Mann? With his production divided into small,
low skill tasks so that employess without art/jewelry background
can complete the work. Yet, he maintains that the difference is
that his work is created in a studio atmosphere, under his
direction.

The earlier poster’s analogy to other art forms…sculptors,
prints by painters, etc. are interesting. I suppose that’s what
separates us from the people in the art world – we care who made
it, craftspersonship matters to us. I’m not trying to persuade
anyone of a point of view, I’m interested in the philosophical
aspects, and in discussing these issues with people who have
thought about it alot.

Thanks. -Elaine