Sculptor Paul Harder works on a clay model of an orangutan, which he spray paints gold to see how light plays off the surface. (Hugo Wong/News staff)

Bronze sculptor opens his doors for studio tour

A challenge for any sculptor is to imbue movement in a static object. Paul Harder, a sculptor in Central Saanich, is showing the public how it’s done as part of the ArtSea Fall Studio Tour, happening October 21 and 22 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Harder, one of many local artists participating in the self-guided tour, will repatriate his sculptures from various locations for people to look at, and he will demonstrate the clay sculpting and mold making process over wine and cookies. He expects about one or two hundred people over the weekend.

A former biologist, Harder began sculpting as a hobby 16 years ago and he said that his preference for sculpting animals reflects his former job.

He is drawn to West Coast animals like wolves and bears — he has a king crab table and a squawking raven on display at the Sidney Fine Art Show this weekend — but he is exploring other animals and subjects. He is currently sculpting an orangutan, and recently unveiled his first bust, of Inazo Nitobe, at the Royal Jubilee Hospital this summer.

“Once you get used to bronze, it’s got an appeal to it. There’s a beautiful feel and texture to it and it lasts for thousands of years. It’s a pretty amazing metal.”

The process of casting bronze is quite complex, but Harder said it is quite similar to the process developed by the Chinese thousands of years ago. He begins by making a clay figure, then uses it to make a mold of rubber and plaster, into which he pours molten wax.

The resulting wax figure is then encased in ceramic, then cured and fired. The firing process melts the wax away, and finally bronze is poured into the ceramic mold at Nathan Scott’s foundry on West Saanich Road. Harder said that bronze’s unique characteristics allow for fine details to show through.

“Just as it’s cooling, one of the final steps of the cooling process is it expands, so that characteristic pushes the bronze into all the fine detail of the ceramic mold,” he said.

He said that collectors from all over the world get bitten by the “bronze bug.”

He displays his work at the Shell Aerocentre at the airport, so private jetsetters are exposed to his work.

He said that while he is exploring other subjects — he will begin sculpting a nude torso over the fall — animals will always be a big part of his output.

“People don’t tire of them, seemingly.”

For a full list of participating artists, visit cacsp.com/category/spring-fall-studio-tours/

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