04 December 2017

The Samantabhadri in Berlin

It has been a pleasure to revisit the Samantabhadri in a private commission to create a smaller 20 cm statue. She is the first to be completed in the new Buddhist Sculpture Workshop in Berlin.

Sketches for the commission

I visited four bronze foundries, all located within central Berlin, and was amazed by the history of bronze sculpture and casting in the city. It was a unique opportunity to begin to create Buddhist sculpture here, at a time when Buddhism is spreading throughout Europe and the West.

Unlike Asia, where it is commonplace for artists and foundries to create Buddhist works and artisans are familiar with the style and iconography of Buddhist art, I found in Berlin that I was in a position to introduce both Buddhist iconography and aesthetics to the artisans I spoke with. 

For this project, I selected a small family-run foundry Kunstgiesserei Krepp, located in the northern Berlin district of Pankow, in former East Berlin. 

Naturally, having only knowledge of the Buddha Shakyamuni, they were curious about why this statue was female. (To learn more about Samantabhadri, please visit the Buddhist Sculpture Workshop and earlier posts on this blog.) Their frame of reference are the bronzes of classical European sculpture or abstract and modernist works. 

Michael, Mr. Krep's daughter, creates the molds for the lost wax process.
Sample patinas are presented on miniature heads on a board of copper in the workshop.

Wax models must be repaired and refined before a mold is created to receive the bronze. 

I came into the foundry to work on the wax cast of the Samantabhadri. (You can see the clay original on the left.) Seams from taking the wax cast must be smoothed over, air bubbles filled, etc. so that the bronze is as close to the master as possible.

A peek at other pieces waiting to be refined after being cast in bronze.

Finishing involves hand-hammering, machine polishing, and other (rather noisy) techniques. 

 Together, everyone's skill, effort and micro-level decisions are reflected in the work of art. So naturally, I feel the result reflects a Buddhist tradition manifesting itself in Europe --as it has done uniquely on every continent touched by Buddhism in the history of Buddhist Art.

A first look at the bronze that emerges.

After gold-leafing the first cast of the small Samantabhadri in Berlin 

A special thank you to Kunstgiesserei Krepp and Yuko Ishida for working as part of the team on this project. 

If you would like to commission a cast of the Samantabhadri, 
please write to the BuddhistSculptureWorkshop (at) gmail.com. 

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Thanks, appreciate the mindful comment! - Minette