Archive for Thursday, May 20, 2004

New sculpture provides platform for Wildcat pride

May 20, 2004

There's something new on the prowl at De Soto High School.
Unveiled at this weekend's graduation, a bronze wildcat will now stand watch in the school's entryway, courtesy of the class of 2004. The artist, De Soto High School art teacher Tim Mispagel, sculpted the cat from clay then turned it over to a nearby foundry for a multi-stage casting process.
Mispagel said a sculpture was the students' idea and would be a nice boost for Wildcat pride.
"I think it's going to be great for school spirit," he said. "For the seniors to give something like this to the school is definitely going to generate a new sense of pride."
This wildcat is neither cuddly nor furry.
For a sleek, modern and powerful-look, Mispagel designed the mascot in a stylized, angular fashion.
The cat rests on a shiny dark green granite platform custom-made and donated by Stonefab of Kansas City, Mo.
This week, students were beginning to warm up to the new fixture.
"I think it's cool," said sophomore Lindsay Thompson.
Sophomore Devin Tenney agreed.
"I think it's pretty impressive; they had to go through all these different stages to make that," he said, gesturing at the bronze from across the cafeteria. "I thought it was a good class gift."
Mispagel said he spent about 180 hours sculpting the cat out of oil-based clay -- and that was only the first step.
"The work the foundry does after I get done with it is tremendous," Mispagel said.
Using a technique called lost wax casting, Eligus Bronze Foundry in Kansas City, Mo., made a series of molds from Mispagel's sculpture before casting the cat in molten bronze.
To create a bronze, founders first make a mold of the clay sculpture.
Due to its size and shape, the mold for the wildcat was cut into four pieces before being filled with hot wax. The resulting wax model is a twin to the original clay model.
Next, Mispagel "chased," or re-detailed, the wax to smooth out air bubbles and recapture detail.
The wax duplicate is dipped into four layers of ceramic granules, each layer with coarser particles than the next.
When the new mold is fired in a kiln, the ceramic layer cures and the wax is melted, or "lost," out of the mold.
Molten bronze -- 1,960 degrees Fahrenheit for De Soto's wildcat -- is poured into the space left behind by the lost wax in the ceramic mold.
After a few hours, the bronze hardens and the ceramic shell is broken away to reveal the unfinished bronze.
Founders weld the pieces back together, polish the bronze, apply a patina chemical and hand-wax it to create a lustrous finish.
Between the material and the foundry labor, creating a customized bronze for the school wasn't cheap, Mispagel said, but fortunately the class of 2004 also had significant help from the Cat Booster Club for the project.

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