Sculpture Maintenance

LOVE YOUR SCULPTURE

Caring for your bronze and fiberglass sculpture and your responsibility as the owner


BRONZE SCULPTURES

Bronze sculptures can be displayed either indoors or outdoors and will maintain their original appearance as long as they are cared for periodically. The maintenance of bronze is simple and easy. The following information will help you to understand the nature of bronze and how to care for it.

What is a Patina?

The color that develops from the chemical interaction between elements in the bronze and chemicals applied to the bronze is called a patina. The patina is not a paint but a very thin conversion coat on the surface of the bronze. When leaving the foundry, the sculptures have a coating of paste wax. This paste wax helps prevent oxygen from getting to the bronze and oxidizing the surface. Over time, this barrier is worn off and water and oxygen work together to oxidize the surface, aging the patina. The best method for caring for patinas always includes regular cleaning and waxing, which is important for both the appearance and longevity of the bronze.

Prohibitions

1)  Never use chemicals, cleaning solutions, tarnish removers, or any other unknown substances to clean the surface of the sculpture. 

2)  Avoid exposing the sculpture to chemicals such as fertilizer sprays, chlorine, pesticides, bug sprays, window washing products, ammonia or other household products. Chemicals will adversely affect the patina.

 

3)  Never use abrasive cleaning pads, steel wool or sandpaper on the sculpture. Use of such materials could mark the surface of the sculpture. 

Care routine

If dust, dirt, bird droppings, or other residues build up on the sculpture, it will need to be washed. Also, if the sculpture looks dull, it is time to wax it. A waxing treatment should be applied at least 4 times a year. It is good practice to keep the sculpture clean and rag buffed between wax treatments. This is to prevent an accumulation of dirt and droppings on the piece.

Steps 

Step 1Wash the sculpture with warm water and a soft cloth. A soft non-wire brush or soft toothbrush may help to get into corners and remove dirt. A little bit of liquid detergent can be used if required. It is important to rinse the sculpture thoroughly.

Step 2: Tree resin and bird droppings are destructive to patinas and should be removed with warm water as soon as they are discovered. Droppings that are difficult to remove may be removed by scraping very gently with a soft plastic spatula. 

Step 3Allow the sculpture to dry. If the weather is warm, a few hours should be sufficient. You want to be sure that all the water has evaporated from the pores of the metal.

Step 4Now you are ready to apply the wax to the surface with a soft bristle brush or soft shoe brush. Use a good commercial clear wax that does NOT have spirits  (alcohol) or turpentine in it, or Kiwi Shoe Polish (Dark Tan) which is great for covering white and green spots on a deep bronze patina. Using a circular motion, rub the wax into the surface of the metal in a thin, uniform coat. If the coat is too thick, the wax may turn white or show brushstrokes.

Step 5: After the wax is dried (usually in about 20 minutes) buff the surface to a good gloss with a soft, clean cloth. Try to remember you are polishing the wax and not trying to rub through the wax or the patina. If a higher gloss is required or desired, harder wax may be used.

Additional comments on sculpture to be placed near water

If a bronze sculpture is placed in a fountain setting where it will be continuously splashed with water, certain precautions must be taken. Your fountain has been equipped with a urethane filter, which should filter out debris in the water. The sculpture will have to be waxed much more frequently (perhaps every 2 months) to maintain the surface appearance. However, areas that are constantly splashed with water may result in discoloration, which is considered normal for a water installation.

A bronze sculpture should never be placed into or splashed with chlorinated water. Chlorine is extremely corrosive and will eventually erode the metal.

Environment with high salt content

Environments such as by the sea will have special concerns. A bronze sculpture which has been installed in an area where the air is heavily laden with salt will cause the patina to turn much faster. The oxidation process may turn, for instance, from a brown patined bronze to a red or a green. While many consider this beautiful, you should be aware that these changes most likely will occur.

Natural wear and aging

It is the natural course of bronze, even when maintained, that the patina will slowly mellow and deepen. This is highly desirable and considered part of the joy of owning a bronze work. While bronze is very durable and will last for centuries, it must be acknowledged that there will be some wearing of the patina if it is constantly touched by people, shrubbery or tree branches, and even birds.
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FIBERGLASS SCULPTURES

Fiberglass sculptures are best kept indoors or under cover away from direct sunlight. They will require periodical maintenance.  We recommend not placing your fiberglass sculpture outside however, if you choose to do so, please be aware that wear and tear will occur. The following information will help you understand how to care for your fiberglass sculpture.

What is fiberglass?

Fiberglass is a common type of fibre-reinforced plastic using glass fibre.

Although strong and lasting, fiberglass has its own issues of wear and tear, especially when used for outdoor sculptures.

Exposing fiberglass sculptures to direct sunlight and the elements will cause discoloration and produce a dull surface after a while.

Heavy downpours can cause water to enter the fiberglass reinforcing layer, causing mould and further damage. 

Damage, breaks, tears or flaking of the paint layer will need repairing. Localized repair involves clearing away worn material and respraying with a new coat of paint.

The best way to preserve outdoor fiberglass sculptures is to undertake regular cleaning and then apply protective coatings as part of the general maintenance. 

No paint layer or varnish will last forever outdoors and re-coating will ultimately be required.

Prohibitions

1)  Never use chemicals, cleaning solutions or tarnish removers to clean the surface of the sculpture.

2)  Avoid exposing the sculpture to chemicals such as fertilizer sprays, chlorine, pesticides, bug sprays, window washing products, ammonia or other household products. Chemicals will adversely affect the painted surface.

3)  Never use abrasive cleaning pads, steel wool or sandpaper on the sculpture. Use of such materials could mark the surface.

Care routine

If dust and dirt build up on the sculpture, it will need to be washed.  Do not use chemicals! Clean the sculpture with a soft sponge, some water and mild soap detergent.

Steps 

Step 1Wash the sculpture with warm water, soft brush and a soft cloth. A little bit of liquid detergent can be used if required. It is important to rinse the sculpture thoroughly.

Step 2: Tree resin and bird droppings are destructive to the paint layer and should be removed with warm water as soon as they are discovered.

Step 3: Allow the sculpture to dry.

Your responsibility as the owner of a bronze or fiberglass sculpture

From the moment the sculpture is purchased it is your responsibility to take care of it and maintain it. Bronze and fiberglass sculptures are highly resistant and can last for many years; however, damages can occur if the sculpture is mishandled in any way.

Bronze and fiberglass can be scratched by sharp objects. Dropping bronze and fiberglass can cause breakage and dents and can crack the paint. Graffiti can destroy the surface of the sculpture. 

So please love your sculpture and it will love you back!