Publications: Society of North American Goldsmiths Technical Article September 2013
“Ice Cream Series” by Alison Pack
In this article, I would like to share with you the creation of my Ice Cream series…. It was an exciting and at times an arduous two year journey that posed many technical questions. This is due to the fact that I combined medium scale castings with fabrication after solely using raising, forming and fabrication techniques in my work for the past 13 years. It also added a few pounds to my waist line, because during those stressful technical moments I always indulged in the sweet treat which soothed away my frustrations. After working on this project while teaching full time, I learned a great deal about myself as both a metalsmith and an educator. However oddly enough, the experiences I had with these pieces have currently brought me closer to my favorite tool: the hammer. Humorously, I must state that while my relationship with metal is both deeply intimate and intuitive; the more I learn about working with metal it constantly puts me in my place — teaching me how little I actually know. The challenges of being a metalsmith keeps me coming back for more of my true love. This is why I always find so much comfort in my favorite quote:
“The life so short, the craft so long to learn” – Chaucer
I want to especially thank James Thurman for inviting me to write an article and allowing me to share the intimate moments of how I created these works. I find this to be a huge honor and feel privileged to share my working process with others in my field. I sincerely hope that you find it both entertaining and enlightening.
This is me pretending to be very Parisian while posing with a giant ice cream cone at an ice-cream stand in front of Marie Antoinette’s private home outside the palace of Versailles! And, this is me, as a beach bum outside of an ice cream shop getting ready to devour the real thing on vacation in Charleston, South Carolina. These giant ice cream cones are what sparked the inspiration for these pieces!
After my first attempt at raising a scoop of ice cream from 18g sheet copper, I realized that it lacked the fluidity that I was seeking. I wanted to capture a sublime moment in time when the ice cream was moving in a liquious state as it begins to melt. This is when I realized that the lost wax casting process would allow me to capture the stylized fluidity of the melting surfaces.
The true to life sized cones were formed from 18g copper and textured by using an alternating cross peen and ball peen hammer texture. I made several copies of the paper model pictured, then cut them up and pasted them onto the annealed copper with rubber cement. This worked as a resist above and below the area that I textured. After hammering each area, I annealed the copper and repeated the paper resist technique. This allowed me to stay neatly within my lines. Once I was finished with all of the texturing I carefully formed the cones with my hands and used a long block of hard wood (in the same manner as a mallet) over a long tapered horn stake. The cones were annealed multiple times during the forming process. I love using scallops as a decorative element in most of my work. To me they imply lace, which gives my work a little extra feminine edge. I wanted these cones to have a whimsy as well as a beautiful implied line where the waffle cone overlaps onto itself. I take pride in the role of being a metalsmith and love to accentuate details that reference the art form in a decorative manner such as using the marks of my favorite tools, hammers, to not only decorate the surface of my forms but to reiterate the fact that they are hand made from metal with traditional tools and techniques.
I spent many hours of trial and error to make the wax models appear visually convincing as ice cream. I manipulated the wax model of the ice cream scoop slowly over a Bunson burner to capture its melting surface. In order to fit the wax model onto the copper cone, I gently warmed the conical form in the flame and allowed it to slowly sink into the wax. To further define and sculpt the surfaces of the wax model, I used both reductive and additive techniques until I was satisfied with its form and surface. I drew the shapes of ice cream puddles that I envisioned to scale on a wooden board. Along the outlines, I made sturdy clay dams that I filled with molten pink injection wax. Filling the dams with multiple layers of molten wax is what allowed me to build up the soft puddle like plain changes. After removing the clay dam and cleaning the wax models of remaining clay residue, I used a small torch tip to gently heat their edges to give them a soft ice cream like appearance. Softly heating the entire surface of the forms with a small torch gently blended the multiple layers of wax into each other the same way ice cream layers would fold into each other in a viscous state. The inside of the scoop and the undersides of the puddles where back carved with the flex shaft and wax carving tools. Once the models were completely finished, I outsourced the wax models to a professional foundry to be cast in bronze.