About the Bell Bowl series

by Nick Duval-Smith

About the Bronze Bell Bowl Series

The Bell Bowl series started in February 2001. I was commissioned to make a bronze bird bath for a private customer in Fiordland. This is what the stone original looked like:

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The night before I sent the finished bronze piece, I had it sitting in a courtyard. It was raining, and water was dripping from a balcony upstairs, and hitting the lip of the bowl, making a soft pinging sound. This gave me the idea for bowls which ring like bells.

These are made through a fairly involved process. First, I take a solid block of stone. I draw a few starting lines on the block…

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…then I make a series of cuts with a hand saw:

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Then I do some work with an angle grinder. Before too long, however, the bowl becomes too fragile to work with a power tool, so I then move back to hand tools:

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I move from a gouge to rasps and finally to sandpaper. The bowl gradually becomes lighter and lighter, more and more fragile; so thin I can feel the stone resonate. Sometimes they break at this stage, and I have to start again.When the original is finished, the small to medium sized ones are light enough to hold in one hand:

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Next, I take the original to the foundry to be cast in bronze. I use ‘sand-casting’ rather than the ‘lost wax’ process because I can get it done here in Dunedin. Bronze casting is charged partly by weight and partly by the volume of sand required to encase the object, so the bowls, although not very heavy for their size, are more expensive to make than, say, a solid object that is much smaller but the same weight.

After the bowl is cast, I work on it again with an angle grinder and sandpaper:

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This stage is about taking off the rough bits from the casting process, but retaining the great texture produced by the combination of an Oamaru stone original and the sand-casting process. I also polish the lip of the Bell Bowl, to emphasize the texture with some contrast.

Then I put a patina on the bowl, which involves heating it up to about 100 degrees and then dipping it into a solution of lime sulphur. The patina has to be rubbed off the lip, then finally the bowl is reheated and waxed with beeswax.

The Bell Bowl series is now up to the 20th iteration, with editions ranging from one -off to 10.

Nick Duval-Smith; September 2014.

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