From MakerBot To Bronze: Interview with Emil Alzamora

Emil Alzamora is an artist who regularly works with Bronze. He's also an early adopter of MakerBot technology. When MakerBot announced the MakerBot Replicator Z18 with it's epic build volume, Emil worked with Robert from our team to create a large model that would show off The MakerBot Replicator's 18 inches build envelope. It's a chubby man who stands tall and it ended up being one of the test objects that ran over and over again as the settings started to get dialed in on the 3D printer. 

One of the cool things about this model is that it was modeled, then scanned, then manipulated digitally, then printed, then a mold was made and hot bronze metal poured into the cast to make a perfect bronze model.

Emil works with Polich Tallix  Fine Art Foundry, world renown for it's capabilities as an art foundry.


Emil agreed to answer some questions about his work and process:

Can you describe your journey as an artist? What inspired you to get your start and what has the journey been like?

I grew up half the time in southwest Florida and half the time in Mallorca, Spain where my grandmother, mother and aunt were working artists. I also had family in NYC that were being shown in galleries and immersed in the  New York art scene.  I've been drawing since the age of two and never really stopped. It always seemed natural to head in that direction although I didn't know which way specifically  I would end up going. Initially, I thought I might get into comic books, then it was architecture, then medical illustration.  I wanted something that had more structure to it as my family lacked that sort of thing. But with a series of very inspiring art and art history teachers and an amazing guidance counselor at Florida State University I entered the Bachelor of Fine Arts program with an emphasis on sculpture. After graduating in 1998, I thought I was finished with the arts (art school can do that too) and would take up sailing the world (my stepfather was a sailor and we spent a good amount of time on sail boats). I went to Spain and ended up meeting someone there who told me about a world class sculpture foundry just north of NYC. It seemed to make more sense than floating around indefinitely. I worked at Polich Tallix art foundry for two and a half years greatly expanding my knowledge of materials, the contemporary art world and my portfolio. I left in 2001 and started showing regionally in the Hudson Valley and shortly thereafter in Manhattan. Since then I have shown my work worldwide and have made a living exclusively from making art. 

Can you walk us through the process you went through to create this model and then have it become Bronzed?   What is the background story of this character?

"Mr. Chubbs" as we are now referring to him, (it seems from the beginning he has inspired his own titles which really works- I'll explain later) was sculpted in 2012 out of plaster at about 14 inches tall.  I wanted him to be a "blank canvas" of sorts to explore some of the possibilities made available through digital technology. I had him super high res scanned and started to experiment with manipulating his form in various ways. I flattened him to 2.5 inches, I blew him up to six feet then flattened him to 18 inches. I squeezed him laterally in progression until he disappeared. This started to get expensive so I began to look into the home 3D printers. Makerbot seemed the way to go so I dove in and bought a Replicator 2 and went print crazy. Needless to say, the large format of the z18 began to look very interesting. Polich Tallix were among the first to get the larger printer. Since I have half a dozen works going through the foundry at any given time, I am there regularly. We started talking about printing and direct casting the PLA models much in the se way the lost wax technique allows for. The big difference is, printing the forms cuts down on much of the time and energy it takes to make a mold, cast a wax version and do the wax rework. We decided to make a full size 18 inch version of Mr. Chubbs and attempted to do a direct (no mold) lost PLA casting of him. It worked beautifully. 

What was the impact of using a MakerBot Replicator Z18?

Using the Z18 allowed for larger scale models to be printed up without having to worry about assembling smaller parts and reworking seems. To make a similar casting without it would have required at least five sections and a ton of rework. For a casting of this size, not using the larger printer would have been enough to reconsider the traditional mold making and lost wax process as being a more efficient option. 

What advice do you have for people who are interested in transforming their digital designs into metal sculpture. What special considerations are there for designing in bronze?

The beauty of this process is that there aren't very many limitations as far as what you can cast. Understanding digital files and the software it takes to prep a model is a bit of a challenge, but for example, Polich Tallix has a great staff that is capable of walking even a beginner through this process and essentially doing it for you. They are able to scan real world objects and original works of art to create the digital file too. They are problem solvers extraordinaire and they are solving some of the most outrageous problems people are concocting these days. So you need not have much or any computer background to get into this very exciting and relatively unexplored territory of digital art and design making. Digitizing the real world and materializing the imagination is essentially one step closer to breaking down the traditional boundaries that have kept these two realms from becoming one. I see this as the very beginning of a paradigm shift in how humans relate to the natural world.