Tragedy Remembered: Haumman sisters depicted in sculpture

THEDFORD - - Thedford area sculptor Linda Egle has had the personal goal of creating the lost Haumann girls in bronze for at least 15 years. Linda learned of the girl’s ordeal and she promised herself that some day she would sculpture those two. For those of you who don’t know about the lost Haumann girls, the true story is interesting, and depicts just one of the sad happenings that could occur when this area was first being settled. Tillie (age 8) and her sister Retta (age 4), one Sunday in 1891, were going to walk to see an older sister who was teaching school nearby. On the way, they started picking flowers and soon became disoriented, and separated. People searched for three days, finding Retta (alive), and four more days before finding Tillie, 10 miles north of Dunning. It was estimated that Tillie had walked 75 miles before she died. Now, it looks like the dream of the bronze will become a reality. The Thedford Area Community Foundation has consigned Linda to create 20 small bronzes. They plan to sell them in order to help finance the construction of a life-size version which will be placed on the courthouse lawn. Most people think that in order to create a bronze, all that needs to be done is to sculpt the figures in wax and then send the wax to the foundry. There they will make a rubber mold in which the bonze metal can be poured into numerous times to create a finished product.The whole process is complicated and difficult to explain, let alone understand. First, the artist has to determine what she wants the finished project to say. She must create the picture in her mind and then try to convey that message to her viewers. Sculptors become emotionally attached to their works as they take the heads off, redo the eyes, try a different expression, attach braids, put details in, etc. They must look at their piece from all directions because it will be viewed in-the-round. They must also do a lot of research if they are creating a piece that represents a certain time period or person to make sure that all details are authentic. When the sculptor is finally satisfied with her piece, she will take it to the foundry. While there the artist needs to know how many bronzes she will make so they can be numbered and what the base will be for all of them. She can select wood, stone, or metal, but all those decisions need to be made before leaving the foundry the first time. The wax sculpture will undergo drastic changes during this trip.It is encased in liquid rubber, which will provide a negative. Most of the time, the sculpture comes back in pieces. The artist will take the pieces home and reattach them, shave off excess, and make sure it is exactly how it should be. When the sculpture gets back to the foundry it will go through a process called investment where the wax will be dipped into a slurry solution. The wax is coated inside and outside, but it still remains hollow. This investment is called the shell. When completely dry, the wax figure, fully encased in the investment, is heated in an oven to a high degree. The heat melts the wax causing it to trickle out a tiny opening and “is lost”, thus the name of the process “Lost Wax”. All that remains in the plaster is a perfect hollow which has every detail ingrained in it’s surface. Once the bronze is cooled, the plaster mold is broken apart revealing the bronze. Metal parts will be welded on and all imperfections removed before the bronze gets sandblasted. The artist may decide to patina the bronze (a chemical mixture is sprayed on to give the bronze highlights and make it look even more 3-dimensional). The last step consists of the bronze being sprayed with hot wax. At this point, the artist has completed one bronze. Each bronze will go through all the steps excluding the first step. The whole process is labor-intense. There will only be 20 of the Haumann girls bronzes. Once the 20th is cast, the mold is broken and they are no longer available. Anyone who has seen the mockette (small version of a sculpture) has been very impressed. The sculpture represents a piece of local history that is not shared by any other county. It will be an asset to the community and will attract interest of people traveling through the Sandhills, as well as being a source of pride for local residents. Linda has extended an invitation to anyone who is interested in coming to her studio; she just asks that they call to make sure she isn’t out in a pasture. Her studio is called “Yellow Calf” and is 6 miles West of Thedford, located on the Middle Loup River. Linda can be reached by phone at 308-650-0855.