Molten river flows at UMD
A river of iron flowed on the campus of UMD Saturday, creating works of art and teaching the community about an ancient tradition. "I just love this," said Carla Stetson, one of the creators of the bronze Peace Sculpture in the Sculpture Garden. ...
A river of iron flowed on the campus of UMD Saturday, creating works of art and teaching the community about an ancient tradition.
"I just love this," said Carla Stetson, one of the creators of the bronze Peace Sculpture in the Sculpture Garden.
Stetson, like all the artists at the Northshore Iron Pour, was creating new work out of a substance that humans have been using for untold generations.
But iron, one of the most common elements in the earth, melts at a very high temperature.
"It's really elemental," said Theresa Smith, an artist who came up from the Twin Cities to help with the pour. "It has to be poured so hot, hotter than bronze, close to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit."
It also handles differently and certainly gives a unique result, which is one of the reasons iron pours have become so popular.
"In the '60s a group of people developed this style of furnace so smaller groups of people could cast," Smith said. "They've been pouring for over 30 years at the University of Minnesota."
It's been 20 years, at least, since there has been an iron pour in Duluth, however, and the enthusiasm around the flaming furnace on Saturday was almost palpable, despite the biting wind.
Jeff Kalstrom, one of three instructors in the class and a Duluthian, said 14 artists and students from around the Northland enrolled in the five-day workshop.
"Its a marvelous way for artists to work together as a team," he said. "And it's a chance for the community to see artists working."
The Northshore Iron Pour was held in conjunction with an exhibit at the Tweed Museum of Art, "The Figure in Contemporary Sculpture," that opened March 21.
Two of the other instructors in the class, Jim Brenner, of Minneapolis and Chicago, and Carol Penelope Lambert, a native of England who has been giving iron pour workshops all over the country for the last five years, both have pieces on exhibit at the Tweed.
But on this day, they were helping others create their art.
"It really takes a lot of teamwork to do this," Brenner said, as he waited for the broken-up radiators in the furnace to melt into molten iron.
Usually, it takes about 20 to 30 minutes for the iron and coke mixture to melt, he said.
Pouring is a critically-timed process because the iron cools quickly, which is one of the reasons artists help each other at the iron pours.
On this day, the molds, made out of sand and resin and strapped together by bands of steel, were laid out in lines in front of the furnace.
Each load of molten, day-glow orange iron was poured into a ladle and carried to the molds which were carefully filled.
The process took teamwork, and the first ladle cooled too quickly as the group organized itself for the task.
But the second try was more successful, and the group developed a rhythm of its own.
"These are always social affairs," said Ann Klefstad, a Duluth artist who, along with her husband, Kalstrom, has created several major public sculpture commissions as well as worked in iron. "You don't do this by yourself. The process is very much the appeal of the thing."
The process also gives the artist greater control of the end product, Kalstrom said, as well as being cheaper than casting in bronze.
"Usually when we do iron stuff, we take it to the foundry. Here, you can control all aspects of it. There's more flexibility and creativity," he said.
It's also a chance for the community to see artists at work, one of the reasons he decided to develop the iron pour, Kalstrom said.
Lambert said she also likes the idea of being able to have complete control of the process. "You can add to the fire," she said. "There's a more individual approach so the aesthetics can be manipulated. You can be involved in the process every step of the way."
During the iron pour, the artists mingled freely with members of the community who came from as far away as Ely to see the process.
It was bitingly cold, but that didn't seem to deter anyone.
And by the end of the afternoon, all the molds were filled, blackening in the cold spring wind.
"You never know what they'll look like," Kalstrom said. That's another attraction of this form of art, he added. "They're like Christmas presents."