Copper in the Arts

May 2011

Foundry a la Femme

By Ashley Morris

Bronze Olympic sculpture Bronze Olympic Sculpture

Photograph courtesy of Frostad Atelier

When artist Ronnie Frostad decided to open a foundry, she had no idea she would enter a fraternal order of foundry ownership that was molded mainly by men.

"Women don't have foundries---I didn't know about that when I got started [in 1998]," she says. "I wasn't well-received by the men in the industry. It's a down-and-dirty business--that's the fact of the matter, but now it's really evolved for me."

As the owner of Frostad Atelier Foundry in Sacramento, Calif., she and her nearly dozen employees have since gained the golden reputation for precise quality, experience and service. But it wasn't without a tough start, a couple burnt eyebrows, a broken elbow and an uber-supportive family.

"If I would've known in the beginning, how tough it was going to be, I don't know if I would have stuck with it," admits Frostad. "I had been commissioned to do two life-size pieces for a library and didn't have the foundry then, so I had to take it somewhere else. When I was waiting and waiting for my work and it wasn't coming back to me for my deadline, I told the foundry owner that I'll work for free if you let me clean up the business end. He wound up leaving, and I met with his staff and just started pouring metal. Turns out his employees were the ones running the place."

After the deadbeat owner did finally return, he claimed he couldn't run a business with a woman, so Frostad promptly left, and opened her own small foundry. She moved to a bigger location, the former site of a World War II foundry that poured plane engines, which is where she is today. "I had a space and a handful of people that believed in what I do," says Frostad. "I learned that it's more than just doing art. You work as a shipping company and in structural engineering."

Bronze Lion sculptureBronze Lion sculpture

Photograph courtesy of Frostad Atelier

The former dental hygienist and mother of five is a self-educated painter/sculptor and she runs a tight ship with her team at the foundry. "I'm organized, clean, and the formula I use with my clients works," says Frostad. "My employees are like my family. I can do every single process in my foundry and they know that and respect that. I may sculpt and have a foundry, but I'm nothing without this crew."

Frostad and her talented crew have crafted, poured and patina-finished everything from boat parts to elaborate artwork. A few of their most recent projects include the installation of a bronze falcon with a 24-foot wingspan at a university in Ohio and specialized sculpture pieces for a garden at Stanford. Projects on Frostad's personal plate are the sculpting of a double front door for a restaurant in Sausalito, bronze reliefs for an aerospace museum in Sacramento and a bust commissioned by a family. "Sculpting busts are my true joy," she says, "and this one is emotional because it's of a Vietnamese father who went missing in the Vietnam War.

"And one of the best works I've ever done are these heirloom cases commissioned by [Mike Nicolaou], who retired from Disney," she adds. "He had a concept, we did the drawings and they're amazing - 'Eternal Guardians' and the 'Immortal Stallions.' Oprah bought one."

Everdur, the type of bronze Frostad uses for these projects, is what she calls, "the Rolls Royce of fine art. It's 95 percent copper, and the cost of copper is killing me," she says, "but it's the longevity, it's why we're digging up art from 5,000 years ago and finding these things made out of this material. Doing this is what identifies who I am."


Ronnie Frostad, 5225 Luce Ave Ste 243-C, McClellan, CA, (916) 929-5225

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