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Adventures in Metal November 21, 2007

Posted by cbuchanan in Uncategorized.
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Last weekend I took a metal casting workshop at Sloss Furnaces, and, well, WOW! If I thought the Sloss Metal Arts iron pours were something, I was completely enthralled when they brought out the giant ladle full of metal lava on a crane. And the best part is that two of those molds they were pouring iron into were my own creations.

Over three full days, I made two cast iron panels–one depicting the lonely smokestacks of the Ensley Works and another with a jaunty robot of my own creation. I carved them into wax on wood, and then they got packed in sand that hardens; we then separated the mold, removed the wax/wood, reconnected the mold, and waited for the molten iron. Once the metal had cooled a bit, I broke open the molds to see my panels, which retained pretty much all the details of the original carvings.

I’ll definitely be going back to Sloss for more cast iron fun. I have some interesting ideas on how to merge the metal work with my printmaking, and I can’t wait to try them out! (More on those as they develop!)

Three other very cool things about the workshop:
1. A good bit of the scrap metal that got melted down for the pour came from old Birmingham buildings–think radiators, pipes, etc. As I was putting the scrap into buckets, it was neat to see the old designs and patterns on the pieces–and realize that we were actually making the city part of our art.
2. Along those same lines, we were doing our metal art in the same shed that housed part of B’ham’s steel industry. I’d look up at the giant furnace at the top of the shed and wonder what it was like to be there when that thing was running at full blast.
3. The workshop attracted students from as far away as Atlanta and West Virginia. It was a reminder of just how unique Sloss and Sloss Metal Arts are–and how they can benefit Birmingham.

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