The Making of...

How Sandcasts Are Created...

By Sarah P

I find with sandcasting that it is a love or hate affair. I know my Mother does not understand them and calls them big, ugly lumps of glass, but my Uncle who is 78, loves them and has a couple on display in his house - we can never please everyone! I have been designing and making sandcasts sculptures since launching my first design - Flower Tower in 2003. I don’t know if any of you saw the Antiques Road show a couple of years ago when one member of the public had taken her Flower Tower in to be valued, sadly I missed the show but was inundated with phone calls asking if the design mentioned was mine! I was told that the expert had called the piece an antique of the future! We will have to wait and see if this happens!

The process has three stages, creating the mould, colouring the mould and casting the glass. Firstly the mould is created using sand, the same sand found in metal casting foundries, it has a high clay content which helps it stick together when it is wet enabling the patterns to be formed on its surface. The damp sand must be pushed through a sieve to get rid of any lumps, bumps and impurities. Once sieved, the surface of the sand is flattened and pressed to create a flat surface to work on.

Now shapes and patterns can be imprinted onto the sand surface by using wooden shapes, nails and metal bars.

Each sandcast has its own specification sheet detailing which tools and shapes to use, this helps keep the design as close to the original as possible. If a mistake is made at this stage, the sand can just be sieved and flattened and the design started again.

To stop the sand sticking to the surface of the glass a resist must be applied, a sooty torch flame is waved over the surface of the sand to create a layer of black carbon.

Now the colours can be applied using laminated stencils, powder glass colour, a small tea strainer – and most importantly, a very steady hand!

And now we comes to the hot part - a graphite frame is heated and then positioned over the sand mould. A ball gathering iron is used to gather the glass from the furnace which is then dropped into the mould, it takes Scott 2 huge gathers to fill the mould to the appropriate height. Once the glass has been cast it is left to cool for 2 minutes before being put into the kiln to cool for 12 hours.

Over the years my sandcast designs have developed from stylized, abstract forms to expressions of landscapes to the most recent, more intricate, but realistic designs of beach huts and Scottish landscapes.

It would be interesting to know what you thought of these changes, do you prefer the abstract shapes and colours of the older designs or the new ‘paintings in glass’, the finished Sandcast Poppies is pictured below. This launched in July 2011.

Contact me via this page and let me know

I always take pictures of the before, and after, glass casting stage. The colours always look much more muted and subtle in the pre-cast image, it is only when the molten glass is poured into the mould that the colours are awakened and their true vivid shades appear. The image on the left could quite easily be a painting that could be hung on the wall, not a sandcast mould waiting to be cast!

I thoroughly enjoyed researching the Scottish landscape sandcasts, I spent may hours on the internet, but even more looking through photographs of past family trips up the West coast, breath taking views that I have hopefully captured forever in this range of sandcasts.