Vilem Zach

The Artist

Born and raised October 23, 1946 in Prague, Czech Republic, Vilem Zach spent numerous years studying privately under the mentorship of art professor Tesinsky. He later then found life unrewarding under communist rule, so he left his home land and moved to Canada in 1969.

Once settled in a new and free atmosphere, Vilem had the chance to explore mediums such as acrylics, oils, pastels, and even clay. He was able to transform his childhood dream into a full time profession. The subjects Vilem focused on mostly (and still does) is the Western Canadian Culture. Mainly known as the "Cowboy" and "North American Indian". With such emotions put into his work, Vilem shows us the candid moments in detail of the western heritage.

On the summer of 1977, Vilem Zach exhibited his work at the Calgary Stampede, which is known as the "Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth". He displayed his two dimensional works along with seven other artists at the time. Ever since, he has been attending the show, and still does till this day.

In 1978, he started putting more time into sculpting and also has enough money saved to have his pieces casted. This is now the medium he is internationally known for. He has many life size statues and heroic monuments that can be seen at numerous tourist attractions and in private collections. Some of the monumental awards are: "The Calgary Time Capsule Monument", "Olympic Torch Runners Monument" (to commemorate the 16th Winter Olympic Games held in Calgary), and the "Me. W, C, Van Horne Statue" which is placed in front of the Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Alberta.

There are collectors such as the Canadian Embassy in Washington D.C., Petro Canada, Canadian Pacific Hotels, The Banff Museum, and the Calgary International Airport. Some private collectors include President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic, Prince Andrews of England, Governor Frank Heating of Oklahoma, Ralph Lauren, and many more.

If you look closely (usually placed at the bottom in the back) on every one of his sculptures, Vilem uses an emblem as a signature that is an imprint of a ring. The ring has been a longstanding family tradition passed onto him, which he still wears to this day.

The Work

I'm sure you are asking yourself "how is it made?" Well, to help you understand the production of Vilem's sculptures, he uses what is called the "Lost Wax" process which originated in 2500 BC.

Before starting anything, you need to create your piece from wax or clay. Vilem uses clay as it is much easier to shape, and once that step is completed the mould is created. If the piece is too large, or has longer parts that may not mould properly it is usually cut into two or more parts, depending on size and complicity. Lets take the life-size "Torch Bearers" for example. This piece was divided into roughly 100 pieces in order to fit into the kiln.

Once the cutting part is complete, a done made of either plaster or fibreglass then surrounds the clay to support the rubber that is later poured inside, thus producing the "negative" of the original.

The original is removed and replaced with three coats of hot wax. Each layer must be evenly applied and completely cooled before the next layer. This produces a hollow wax copy called "chased"

The wax piece is then inspected to make sure all bubbles and imperfections are filled/fixed before it is "spruced". These are rods of wax that are attached to the wax mould, allowing air or any gasses out while the pour is in process. There is a silica mould poured on both inside and outside of the wax shell. Then it is fired in the kiln at an approximate temperature of 1000°-1250°F (538°-678°C). Most of the wax is melted if not burned away, which is where the term "Lost Wax" comes from.

To replace the wax, the bronze is finally poured into the mould. Once solid (yet still hot) the silica mould is chipped away. Remember the 100 pieces made out of the life size "Torch Bearers"? This is when the sculpture is then welded together.

The bronze is once again "chased" by re-sculpting and sandblasting and remaining imperfections before the final step of colouring. This is all done by using different patinas (easily recognized as various chemical compounds or acids.) A torch heats the bronze before applying the acids to archive the desired coloration. Finally, to get the perfect shine and coat of protection, there is a thin layer of wax put onto the final pieces.

Each and every bronze should be signed, numbered, and accompanied by the artists signed certificate.