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Myanmar bronze art, casting & sculptures

 
Bronze casting in Burma is a traditional art used since hundreds of years. Items made are religious images, bells, musical instruments and various household items, such as spice pounders, noodle-cutter, loom pulleys etc. most is done by the lost-wax method.

Because of the hot, dusty and smelly nature of the work, workshops were and are usually located on the outskirts of towns where most work was done under open-air shelters made from wood and bamboo.

The craftsman made a crucibles of clay, of up to 60 kilograms which had a lip for pouring, cradles were of bamboo or wood.

Most of the equipment required, such as hammers, tongs, pinchers, chisels, and files, were specifically made to the foundry's specifications by the local blacksmith.

A shallow hole in the ground served as a hearth. In pre-colonial times, the charcoal fuel was kept at the required heat by a steady flow of air pumped through a pair of cylindrical bamboo bellows with feather-covered pistons, a simple but ingenious device, which was at one time widely used throughout South-East Asia.

With the coming of the British, double leather bellows were adopted.

Bronze art casting at Mandalay
Bronze art casting at Mandalay

Metal casting at Mandalay

During the early Konbaung period, with Ava as capital Ywa-taung in the Sagaing area was the major centre for Myanmar metalwork. After Bodawhpaya moved his capital to Amarapura in 1783, the Tampawadi quarter on the outskirts of Mandalay developed into an important copper and brass working centre. The founding of Rangoon as the capital by the British led to the location of a number of iron and brass casting concerns in the Kemmendine area. These three centers continue to operate until today, but on a smaller scale.

Bronze Casting Foundry
Bronze art casting foundry at Mandalay
Creating Brass Buddha Sculpture Making Brass Buddha

Casting Buddha sculptures

To cast the sculptures or statue a inner core of the same shape as the final object is built up from clay. For sculptures more than 1 meter high, the inner core often is reinforced under the surface by bands of iron.

Once the core is dry, wax is mixed for molding; about 10 parts of beeswax are mixed with 10% of a resin called indwe (Dipterocarpus tuberculatus). To maintain plasticity some splashes of oil are added. The mixture is melted and poured into a water basin of water, where it solidifies in thickness to that of the metal. The wax is then applied around the clay core, finer details are cut or etched into the wax surface, while wax in various designs are added to create surface relief .

After the wax image is coated with fine red clay and powdered paddy husk, care is taken to make sure that every crevice is completely covered with the slip. The outer mold is then created with a heavier mixture of clay, sand, and paddy husk. To hold it in place some thin iron rods are inserted into the wax to the clay core. They later act as escape for the wax and the replacement by molten metal, it’s then left to dry.

For the casting process, metal is smelted in a crucible depending on the composition desired. For brass the mixture is about 8 parts of zinc and 10 parts of copper; for bronze, 4 parts of tin is mixed with 6 parts of copper.

Making Bronze Buddha

The object is placed upside-down in a wooden framework and suspended over a hole. Clay is heated, causing it to become a hard substance. It liquefies the wax which runs out of the mold via some of the escape holes.

Molten metal is then poured in, first through the lower holes to make sure that there are no air pockets left by the flow out wax. The pouring of metal for a large statue can take quite a while and needs a good knowledge who to handle this. After cooling for about three day the outer mold is broken off and removed. Any excess metal and surface roughness is removed with a chisel and the sculpture is smoothed over and holes are filled.

Marble sculpturing and wood carving

is not only with metals, actually very often it's a marble Buddha the people buy.

Making a Marble Buddha Sculpturing Marble Buddha
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