By Eric Stevick
Back to the Bronze Age
Old art form has students all fired up
It would be hard for Tucker Cooper or
his sister, Madison, to comprehend the
heritage in their hands on the recent
afternoon they sculpted red wax into
The kindergartner and first-grader at
Totem Falls Elementary in the
Snohomish School District were
engaged in the lost wax method of
bronze casting, a craft first introduced
in 1570 B.C. Egypt and honed by the
Greeks during the seventh century.
Tucker created a penguin, Madison, a
coiled snake with a fly on top.
Their statuettes-in-the-making will be
cast in bronze through an unusual
“Out of the Foundry and Into the
Classroom” after-school program
offered by the Sultan-based Northwest
Artworks Sculpture Center.
The rare opportunity was not lost on
Peter Cooper, Tucker’s and Madison’s
dad, who sat alongside his children
offering encouragement in the
elementary school library.
“It’s the first time I have ever even
heard of something like this program,
especially for kids of this age,” Cooper
The chance to explore bronze casting
as an art form is unusual for children
and adults, said Todd Pettelle, co-
owner of the foundry.
It can be an expensive craft because
of the equipment and expertise
involved. It simply isn't part of existing
public and private school curricula and
few colleges offer it, Pettelle said.
“I don’t think there is any other
program like this in the country,”
Northwest Artworks offers a long list of
disciplines that can be learned through
sculpture, such as math through three-
dimensional proportional thinking,
social studies through the importance
of sculpture in history and cause-and-
The classroom is a growing area of
business for Northwest Artworks while
being professionally fulfilling, Pettelle
said. In March alone, Northwest
Artworks teachers will be in 15 schools
from Issaquah to Okanogan. The
company hopes that half its work will
be through classrooms from
kindergarten through college in the
next two years.
It is also looking to teach beyond the
conventional classroom to hospitals
and rehabilitation centers as a form of
The bronze sculpture workshop and
casting from wax ingot costs $30 a
student and includes two sessions,
tools and instruction.
At Totem Falls, Barbara Keithly,
program coordinator and an instructor
for Northwest Artworks, introduced 6-,
7- and 8-year-olds to art vocabulary
and guided their hands-on work.
In one session, they created works out
of clay that would become models for
their wax-to-bronze sculptures. The
children learned to talk about form and
texture and to use their fingers as
pincers to manipulate the wax.
The students also got to inscribe their
initials on the bottoms of their
sculptures and began to understand
the enduring nature of their work.
“Bronze doesn't break,” Kiethly told her
young charges to a wide-eyed
reception. “Bronze is going to be
around for centuries.”
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