Dr. Miroslaw Mrozowski

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Dr. Miroslaw (pronounced Mir'oswaf) Mrozowski founded Melaloplastic in 1982. He has since retired from chemistry to devote himself full-time to making a variety of work in metal, including icons and Judaic art. He is a member of the American Guild of Judaic Art and was awarded the Medal of Honor by the Nissenbaum Family Foundation. Dr. Mrozowski uses modern technology and his own artistic skills to produce exquisite, affordable reproductions and originals. 

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Dr. Mrozowski has adapted and perfected special electroforming and electroplating techniques that reproduce an original with incredible detail. On the left is a finished icon resting on its mold. To make an icon, Dr. Mrozowski prepares a master, then makes a mold of it. 

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The mold is then coated with metallic dust.

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Electrical contacts are attached to the mold, then it is immersed in a special solution. Here, Dr. Mrozowski lifts a piece that is being electroformed to show how it looks.

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Gradually, a thick layer of copper forms on the mold (wherever dust has been applied), faithfully duplicating all of the fine details. This copper blank was just removed from its mold. Two haloes are on the right of a Christ icon. The pieces will be sawed free, cleaned with sulfuric acid, enameled, then gold or silver plated.

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The faces, hands, and clothing are hand painted with tempera onto masonite. The finished pieces are assembled and prepared for shipment. Since these icons are easily confused with antique icons, Dr. Mrozowski includes a certificate with the date of execution for customs officials.
 

     Secrets of Icons
by Dr. Miroslaw Mrozowski
"Slowo I Mysl" ("Word and Thought"), February 1989, Number 1, Page 9

Icon painting originated in the Byzantine Christian church. Its history is still being written, though, because of sensational new research and discoveries.

     In the beginning of the twentieth century, most people not involved with Eastern Christianity were not aware of icons. The October Revolution (of 1917 in Russia) brought attention to the wealth of icon painting and other Russian art, when the Soviet government used it as collateral to guarantee foreign loans. The early publications of the Central Workshop of Reconstruction in Moscow are partially responsible for the wide popularization and research of this splendid sphere of art. The West also became interested in Byzantine and Early Christian art in the early twentieth century, which created a suitable climate for collecting by museums, galleries, and the private sector.
     The word, "icon", is Greek and means "picture, image, reflection". At the time of the seventh Council of Nice in 787, the term (icon) became more specified and was closer to our understanding as: pictures of Christ, Mary, Angels and Saints, according to Iferos, and found in the Holy Church Of God, on sacred dishes and vestments, on walls and boards, in houses and on roadways and are made from: "paints, stone or of other material". This Council description from the early Middle Ages is also today a dogmatic base for the art of the Orthodox Church. In later years, holy icons included historic representations of events from the life of saints, scriptures, and portraits of people connected with the Eastern Church, later blessed or canonized. This short genesis of the icons gives an idea of the different categories of icons, especially if we consider the material from which the icon was made, the origins, age, school and painting techniques.
     Let us begin with the style of icon painting techniques. In 692, the Council of Constantinople clearly stated that that an icon has to be faithful to the prototype, to its spiritual presentation and done in suitable form and color. No other interpretations were allowed. Painters were forced to follow specific rules of representing figures and of icon composition. The concept of the prototype was developed. It was based on a few selected paintings. The accepted rules and techniques of painting were collected in painter's manuals. It was recommended that an icon be painted on a board, most often linden, with a deep center, where the main painting was. Icon borders (4 to 6 cm) were used to represent scenes from the life of the person(s) in the main painting or scenes of adoration. The board was protected from warping by placing crossbraces on the back. The board was prepared for painting by gluing canvas to the wood, and then it was covered by with a ground of gypsum alabaster and glue. Then outlines were sketched and gold and silver paints were used for the background. The tempera paint was prepared with egg yolks and acid. The manuals based their description on techniques used in the cradle of icon painting, the cloisters on Greek Mount Atos. Typically, an icon included the work of several painters. The faces, hands and complexion were painted by one painter, while the remaining parts were painted by another. Ornamental parts, often richly gilded, were done by other specialists. The finished image was covered with linseed varnish for gloss. Icons were decorated with precious stones. At first the stones were set in the panel around head(s) of the figure(s). In later periods (sixteenth century) icons were adorned with richly engraved metal, repousse, precious stones, and enamel, that often covered everything but the face and hands.
     The ornamentation often represents great goldsmithing achievements. It is not easy to determine the age of an icon. Different icon elements date from different periods and originate from different periods. An icon painted in the sixteenth century may have a seventeenth century decorated border and a nineteenth century halo. By the end of nineteenth century, the rules icon making were no longer followed. This is the beginning of mass produced icons. Workshops produced thousands of icons. Icons became cheap. Poor quality boards were used. Painting was replaced by cheap prints which were glued to a board, and only in the places that were visible or not covered by metal. However, these icons are now about 100 years old and even thought they were mass-produced, they are coveted by collectors. They aged nicely and acquired the mysterious glow of the Byzantine style of painting. (translated by Andrzej Gutek and Carol Ventura)

For more information about Dr. Mrozowski's work, you can write (in English) or speak to him (in Polish) at:

            Metaloplastyka
            ul. Kilejowa 43
            93-487 Lodz
            Poland
            Telephone/fax: 011 48 42 684 41 76
            Cell phone: 011 48 602 287 513

Links: 
Betancourt Icons of Guanajuato, Mexico  
Czeslaw Olma, Polish Wood Carver
Jan Piotr Ledwon, Polish Wood Carver   
Cloisonne enameling in Beijing 
Silversmithing in Andalucia, Spain
Blacksmithing in Andalucia, Spain  
Metal Spinning in Seville, Spain  
Mexican Jeweler, Francisco Garcia Guevara
Metal Casters of Foumban, Cameroon, Africa
 
Lost Wax Casting in Krofofrom, Ghana  
Haida Silversmith, Dave Hunter  
Tinsmithing in Guanajuato, Mexico 
Cloisonne enameling in Beijing
Carol Ventura's Home Page 

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Web page and some photographs by Carol Ventura.