Passion, Emotion and Joy: the making of Apassionata

Passion, Emotion and Joy: the making of Apassionata

When Minnesota Orchestra subscriber and sculptor Richards Poey and his wife Heidi met Kathryn Nettleman, the Orchestra’s acting associate principal bass, before a concert last fall, an idea sprang to Poey’s mind. Nettleman’s personality and musical energy inspired Poey to create a sculpture of the musician with her instrument.

“Passion, emotion and joy were three of the things I admired most about the way Kate played, and that’s what I wanted to convey. You could tell she really loved music. So that was my message. I wanted to interpret the passion of the player, not sculpt the intricacies of the instrument,” Poey explained about the concept for this sculpture.

How was it created? We are lucky to have photos and the artist’s own descriptions of the complex creation of this sculpture, which has become an artful representation of one of our fine Minnesota Orchestra musicians.

The completed piece, Apassionata, will be on display in the Orchestra Hall lobby during this weekend's concerts.

A Step-by-Step Guide to the making of Apassionata by sculptor Richards Poey

Apassionata sketch

My initial idea for Apassionata was to sculpt the bass using negative space. I didn’t really know what a bass looked like, but I soon learned!

Apassionata build

The sculpture began as a twisted wire figure sitting on an upright 2x4 covered with a sheet of wax. The wire figure functioned as the body’s skeleton and was rigid enough to support the heavy clay that I would be adding.

As I applied clay to the armature, I modeled it to give an initial likeness of Kate. Early on, I only had low-light photos of Kate in casual winter clothes, but these were good enough to get me started.

Kate Nettleman models for the sculpture

I found a beautiful photo of a bass and took measurements. The instrument had to be scaled correctly to fit the already sculpted body.

I realized I had to have good photos of Kate in concert attire. So, one Sunday morning, she met me outside Orchestra Hall to be photographed as if she were playing bass—sans bass!

Kate Nettleman views an early version of the sculpture

Using these photos, I adjusted the shoes and clothes on the clay figure. I also found that the heat from my hands as I worked made some of the clay too soft and fragile, so I had to cut off the hands and the head and put these parts in the freezer to harden them! Finally as the pieces were re-assembled, the arms, hands and bow were correctly positioned and the initial sculpture was complete. It was ready for Kate’s approval!

Casting Apassionata

Once approved, I took the clay model to the foundry for casting. The first thing the foundry did was cut up my model into seven pieces and make individual molds for each piece.

These molds were used to make wax replicas of the different sections. I refined each wax replica, correcting any imperfections. This process is called wax chasing.

Casting Apassionata

Each wax was fitted with an exterior “plumbing” system that would be used in the pouring of the bronze pieces. The next step was to dip the wax pieces into a ceramic slurry that coated the outside surfaces, as well as inside surfaces for the body parts that were to be hollow. Once dried and hardened, the ceramic shells were ready for casting.

Casting Apassionata

Before the bronze pour, the ceramic shells were placed in a kiln so that the wax figures would melt and drain out. This is called a “lost wax” technique. A furnace then melted bronze ingots and the 2000 degree Fahrenheit molten bronze was poured into each of the hollow shells. Once the bronze cooled, the ceramic shells were chipped off and the pieces then welded together, sandblasted, and wire-brushed.

Finishing Apassionata

The sculpture was then cleaned to remove any grease or fingerprints, and the bronze was heated so that acidic chemicals could be brushed on to create various colors. After this patination process, the complete sculpture was lacquered, waxed, and buffed.

Finally, I created a thick maple base to which the final sculpture was bolted. This was the grand finale to my 6-month creative adventure.

Finished Apassionata

Apassionata will be on display at Orchestra Hall during concerts on November 13 and 14, 2015. Concert details »

Before and after both concerts, Richards Poey will be in the lobby to chat with audience members and answer questions about Apassionata.

Following Friday night’s performance, the members of Minnesota Orchestra’s bass section will also be in the lobby for a special meet and greet.

For more information about Richards Poey, please visit

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