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Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Hospital (VESH) - Wichita

Amber's Story

Woman smiling with dog.

A striking bronze sculpture now sits prominently in our hospital’s memorial garden. It is an emotional day as we unveil this winged pig sculpture to honor a beloved team member, Amber Dawn Slankard. At just forty years old, she lost her life to domestic violence and the tragedy has left a void in the hearts of her surviving family, friends, and colleagues.

Amber was an essential piece of the Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Hospital family. She was spunky, cheerful, and a devoted advocate for animals inside and outside the hospital. When she wasn’t working, she volunteered at multiple shelters and had fostered approximately 300 animals. She was particularly fond of pigs and kept several as pets.

Her final act of selflessness was the gift of life. Five donor recipients carry her on a new journey. Her heart will beat on, her lungs will continue to fill with air and her legacy will continue.

The winged pig sculpture serves as an everlasting tribute to Amber’s life well lived and worth remembering. The materials, labor, and love were graciously donated by several individuals and groups. It all began when a happy client hand-cast a bronze award for one of our veterinarians months before. We called ‘Joe’ to ask about commissioning a bronze piece for our memorial garden. Joe is an avid animal rescuer himself, and has acres of sanctuary land for dogs who have lost all hope of adoption. After hearing Amber’s story, he refused the commission, and insisted on donating countless hours of labor and expensive materials in her honor. His vision and artistry led the project from inception to completion and words cannot express our gratitude. But we needed help elevating the bronze sculpture from ground level, that’s where Lucas of Silverdale Stone came in. He and his team went through three versions of expertly carved stone before agreeing on a pillar suitable for it’s intention. Lastly, the base and bronze piece needed professionally installed. Our friends at Hutton, who built our beautiful hospital, eagerly donated their equipment, time, and skills to complete the memorial. Our sincerest thanks go to you all for exceeding our dreams on this.

We welcome you to visit the sculpture and reflect on the joy Amber brought to our world.

Read on for the making of the pig:

Before going into detail describing the process, with images, we want to thank Joe for creating and donating an identical bronze sculpture for Amber’s family. Joe began with a resin pig pattern, placed on plexiglass. A clay dam was formed around the pattern and the first coats of mold rubber were applied in thin coats to pick up detail. Remaining coats were applied thicker to varying widths for clean parting lines. Once cured the base was trimmed back to the dam and the dam was removed.

A clay parting line was formed along the horizon lines at the top of the sculpture and a plastic mother mold section was then formed within the clay parting line. Once the plastic cured, the clay was removed. New parting lines were added with clay to form the next area of mother mold and the plastic was applied. Once cured, the final side was then formed with clay parting lines and plastic applied. The finished mother mold was then removed and parting lines were cut into the rubber. The mold was then reassembled and wax applied in several coats to create the wax pattern.  

Core pins were placed through the wax pattern and the core was poured into the center cavity of the wax pattern. Sprues were added to form passageways for the metal. Top coats of investment were then applied with a blat gun to ensure that all the detail was captured. A tarpaper flask was then placed over the pattern and a plaster dam was formed around the bottom. He formed and installed a chicken wire basket on the inside for the reinforcement necessary to maintain mold integrity and withstand the ferrostatic pressure of the bronze pour. 

The flask was filled with plaster/sand/vermiculite batches. Once solid, a pouring cup was cut down into the plaster to the wax main sprue so that it would be located at the bottom of the cup. The molds were then placed into the burnout kiln. The temperature was ramped to 1000 F and held there for 72 -  96 hours until the wax and all residue were completely burned away.

The crucible furnace was charged and lit. Additional bronze was placed around the top opening in order to preheat and drive away any moisture before it was added to the melt. The melt temperature was checked with a lance pyrometer and once the bronze was at 2100 F the dross was skimmed from the top.

The crucible was then lifted from the furnace with an electric hoist that skates on a monorail. It was then positioned over the molds and the bronze poured. Ingot molds were placed to receive any metal remaining in the crucible after the last pour. After the pour was complete the investment molds were left to cool until the bronze could be handled with gloves.

The investment molds were then broken open with an ax, the cores removed from the bronze, and power washed. The sprues were then cut off and the core pins pulled out of the bronze. The metal was chased back to the original sculpture form and a patina applied.

Joe then created a base to display a memorial plaque and perfectly align with the Silverdale Stone. This timeless winged pig evokes a multitude of emotions for us, and it is a beautiful representation of our beloved Amber’s life.