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Tallest encrustation ever made

Publié le 31 May 2023


Eric Papon has taken up a new technical challenge: the reproduction of a 2-meter-tall tree trunk. Find out about the making secrets of the tallest calcium creation ever made.

That calcite tree trunk is the tallest encrustation on mould ever implemented. It results from many years of research and experimenting. The master craftsman in Petrification has used the various techniques applied on his projects to create that major piece. From the wood moulding to the delicate de-moulding one year later, let us unveil the making secrets of that calcite trunk.

The master craftsman in Petrification’s know-how

Mastering an ancestral technique: encrustation on mould

That technique of encrustation on moulde, which 7 generations have held at the Fontaines Pétrifiantes, allows the creation of calcite artworks. The thermal mineral springs get harnessed and canalized to the petrifying fountain. Calcium carbonates precipitate into the moulds put on the ladders.

The calcium matter may be turned into many shapes and sizes, offering endless creating possibilities. Traditionally, the Atelier has made low-reliefs but today new applications of the calcite potential are developed. Within the contest of that constant research, Eric Papon, Master Craftsman in Petrification, has taken the challenging creation of a 2.15-meter-tall tree trunk entirely out of calcium.

The craftsman’s experience and his previous artistic collaborations

The making of such a complex piece was considered following upon the successfully implemented previous creations. Those creations had allowed the craftsman to experiment the techniques and remove some restraints. To make Lusus Naturae with Thibault Huguet, Eric Papon set up a moulding technique specially for wooden supports. Wood required namely a specific treatment proceding the making of a silicon mould.

LIt was also necessary to make a 1.10-meter-tall prototype trunk. That allowed to define the necessary adaptation of the petrification ladder to a very tall piece. One major aspect of that challenge is the complex daily handling as to the weight and size of the created piece. Moreover the tall cylindrical shape makes it complicated to obtain a regular calcium deposit onto the entire height of the mould. Having succeeded in reproducing that first trunk, encouraged the craftsman to launch his ambitious project: making the tallest encrustation on mould ever created.

The stages of the calcite trunk creation

Making of a mould by applying silicone with a stump

Having selected a trunk, the veins of which relate the tree life, the craftsman actually starts moulding. Firts he creates at the extremities of the branches water induction points. Then he uses a stump to apply many layers of silicone onto the trunk. His gestures are precisely directed to inscribe the silicone into the smallest lines of the wood and to avoid the forming of any air bubbles. After many hours of drying, Eric Papon separates the mould from the trunk. He is careful not to tear the mould up. Since silicone is a supple matter, a resin shell must be made to hold the mould during its stay under the petrifying water. That rigid shell is made of several parts to anticipate the de-moulding. That will be a crucial stage when the pressurer and tension points are essential to avoid spoiling the calcium piece.

Many months under the petrifying waters

A special fitting out of the tool is necessary: a water conveyance pipe gets built to fill up the mould, too big to be placed on the petrification ladder steps. The craftsman also sets up a solution for putting down the held-in-its-shell mould to the lower part of the ladder and allowing its removal once the encrustation ready. The piece will weight 80 kilograms then

During 12 months, the craftsman organize the deposit of calcium carbonates into regular crystal strata. According to the Atelier’s ancestral technique, he analyzes the calcium deposit and conducts the necessary handling and shifting to obtain the required quality. A cable system to hold the mould during that daily handling was also created. It enables the turning of the mould to get a reversed water inlet and a better sharing out of calcium deposits onto the whole mould height..

De-moulding the calcium creation

After the mould has stayed a year under the calcium-rich thermomineral springs, the craftsman removes it from the fountain and starts de-moulding the trunk. The different parts of the shell get unscrerved and taken off, unveiling the silicone. The latter gets at first roughly removed then more precisely. It is a risky operation: the craftsman’s mastery of his gestures enables him to avoid spoiling the more fragile parts of the incrustation.

A unique calcium piece with a matchless finish

The result is at last unveiled; the effects of time on the original wooden trunk are perfectly duplicated by calcite. Every vein, every crack, every furrow have been reproduced, truly re-transcribing the story and life of that tree. Soon that original piece will find its place in the new visiting premices. Everyone will be able to discover that encrustation on mould and to appreciate the smallest details perfectly rendered by calcite.


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