In this series, we take you behind the scenes at Levenger, to see how we created some of our products. In this posting, I’ve asked Levenger Press editor Mim Harrison to tell you about our cast-bronze sculptures.
It was our friend Zenos Frudakis who introduced us to the lost-wax method of casting in sculpture. A sculptor whose outdoor installations are part of Philadelphia (one of many venues), Zenos uses this process to great effect. The bust of Abraham Lincoln that’s in our Webstore is Zenos’s handiwork. Although it’s cast in immutable bronze, there is nothing static about this countenance.
While Zenos works from old photographs, he also draws from the copious reading he does on his subject matters (his studio is filled with books, both printed and audio). The result, as Zenos describes it, is a “visual biography” of the person.
What we learned from Zenos was the ability of the lost-wax process, which is thousands of years old, to accurately transmute a complex form. This was the impetus behind what we refer to as our Featured Creatures, the desk-size animal bronzes we offer. The fact that they’re bronze gives them weight. The fact that the bronze is cast using the lost-wax process renders the fine detail.
And the fact that they’re useful makes them Levenger. Thus our, sea lion, leopard, penguin and sea horse will all hold your pen.
For all these creatures, we commissioned Dean Shipston, a California sculptor whose work is found in many galleries both here in the U.S. and abroad. Dean specializes in—and excels at—lost-wax bronze casting; for Levenger, he creates the design and develops the mold for each creature’s casting call.
Behold the Brownie bronze
Now a different creature is entering our fold: a little imp named Brownie. Another of Dean’s sculptures, he is our first foray into two-legged creatures. We’d be curious to know if you’ve ever heard of him.
Back in the late nineteenth century, a Canadian artist named Palmer Cox created the Brownies, a gaggle of pixies both mischievous and helpful. They were soon cavorting in comics, magazines and books.
The Brownies were a wee bit of Scottish folklore, nocturnal souls that came to life when most of the world was asleep. “No person, except those gifted with second sight, could see the ‘Brownies’,” Cox advised readers of The Ladies’ Home Journal in 1892.
Fittingly, they caught the eye of an American visionary who was about to revolutionize the way people saw the world (and themselves). George Eastman, the founder of Kodak, was democratizing photography, making for the first time a camera that practically anyone could use. You could take a shot…in a snap.
Eastman introduced this snapshot camera in 1900. It cost one dollar and was the iPod of its day. He chose one of Palmer Cox’s pixies as the mascot—hence the Brownie Camera.
We often draw from history for design inspiration. But while some of us knew the Brownie Camera, none of us knew about the Brownie mascot. Did you?
It made us question why we don’t question more things more often. Perhaps that’s the helpful Brownie at work in his mischievous way, reminding us that the world is made up of all sorts of interesting creatures.