This is an all time best travel highlight. Because in all the years that I have visited Paris, walked her streets and discovered special places, the Susse Fondeur is unique.
While in Paris this September, Amy Ernst and I had the pleasure of meeting with Hubert Lacroix, the director of the Susse Fondeur at the foundry which is located in Malikoff, a banlieu just south the of the périférique. About 15 years ago, he bought the foundry when it was floundering to survive and then turned it around. He saved an institution of high regard in the business of art sculpture that began in the mid 1700’s. To drop a few recognizable names, here are artist whose works have been realized at the foundry; Arp, Brancusi, Chagall, Dali, Ernst, Giacometti, Hepworth, and Miro. They are from the impressive list posted on the foundry’s website. To his credit, Monsieur Lacroix kept all the employees whose skills were needed to continue the tradition and the success of the company.
To Begin the Tour
Susse Fondeur was surprisingly a smaller building than I expected. But once inside, I could see how the space was utilized in total efficiency thanks to the melding of technology and tradition.
I asked if I could take some photos to document our visit. Unfortunately, there were areas that I was not permitted to photograph and I understood why. The foundry has the reputation of discretion for its clients while providing the upmost expert skill across all needs in this specialty. So to respect the director’s wishes, this is what I saw without revealing any specifics. There was a storage room illuminated by natural light. This created the most interesting atmospheric intersections of light and shadow over the shelves, castings and moulds. I saw a sculpture from a prominent Paris museum that needed restoration and I witnessed the patina expert working on a sculpture from a private collection. Excluding those areas, I was still able to capture some views of the foundry which will give you an idea about the inner workings. The foundry continues to use the lost wax method although there have been some technological tweaks.
Mould Making Area
Monsieur Lacroix led us first to the mould making area where there was a finished mould being prepared to be moved. Wrapped up like a package, it was impossible to tell what was inside. There have been some advances to improve details with the introduction of silicone in the mould making process.
Our second stop was the area where restoration takes place. Sculptures, decorative elements and such are brought here for repair. Damage may have occurred by exposure to the elements, being broken, vandalism or any other possible calamity.
Our third stop was the patina room. It has the messy resemblance of at painters studio. There are paint brushes, empty jars stored in corners. This is the last step in the process for a sculpture. Patinas are chosen to match a restored work or chosen to bring a new sculpture to life.
Furnace and Casting Area
To end the tour, we circled back to the furnace room. Molten wax and bronze are poured in different steps of the mould making and casting processes. Yes to repeat, they still work with the lost wax method to create bronze sculptures.
On an important environmental note, the foundry has installed a special ventilation system that not only protects the workers but also the neighborhood from any unwanted dust, smells and exhaust fumes. While touring there was no distinct smell at all, even though patina work was taking place.
Before leaving Susse Fondeur, Monsieur Lacroix offered each of us a small bronze of sleeping cat that is the size of a paper weight. On the underside is the Susse stamp reading SUSSE in caps in a circular design with the initial FP in the lower opening of the S. What a wonderful gift!
And lastly, I want to extend a special thank you to Monsieur Lacroix for gracious hospitality, generosity of time and for sharing the inner workings of the foundry.