Waxing on....

Lost wax casting is an ancient technique whereby objects can be replicated in metal, and it's this method which is employed to make my anatomical jewelry designs. While a mold of an actual object like a small bone or a tooth could be made and wax replicas formed from this, I prefer to sculpt my designs by hand, even when casting might be an option. 

When beginning a new piece, I like to start with a sketch and develop this before forming the first amorphous glob of pink wax. During this stage, I research the anatomy that will be the subject of a new piece and decide which anatomical features will be needed for the work. Obviously this is an art piece and not instructive illustration, but the more I can borrow from the fundamental beauty of an organ or system that's evolved over millennia, the more resonant the final piece. It's the inherently sound design of the organ or system that's inspiring me after all. And I also work out the mechanical aspects of the jewelry, whether its where a cufflink fitting will sit or how a locket will catch.

The process of adding tiny droplets of hot wax and delicately scraping away hard wax that follows is a more zen-like experience, and I feel a different part of my brain becoming engaged. This is where the three-dimensional shape begins to emerge and the details of shape and texture are revealed. The character of the piece develops and some of the design may shift from the sketch. 

Contrary to common assumptions, while a thorough understanding of human anatomy is required to be a medical illustrator, it's not necessarily an exacting drawing that is the goal. It's not as precise as, say, and engineering drawing. The shape of organs varies from individual to individual - just as some people's faces are longer or wider, so are their hearts. There is also variation effected by position, movement and physiological processes - most of your organs are pretty malleable and therefor move with you. An understanding of how the anatomy works and it's context within the region of the body is more important than textbook knowledge of names and numbers. It is this background comes into play as I develop the wax, feeling my way to the most aesthetic interpretation. 

I'm posting a photo of the nearly finished wax for my newest cufflink design, a thoracic vertebra, and one of the finished piece. I'll add images of a few more steps along the way... I didn't photograph the vertebra throughout the process, but I'm just beginning a piece with the electrical pathways of the heart and will be more diligent about chronicling the steps of that one.

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