Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Iron Pour At Sloss Furnaces!

I'm currently shooting a doc for APT about the significance of Sloss Furnaces as a titan of industry in the American past and it's contemporary role as a mecca of sorts to the metals arts world. It's an incredible site, for those of you in and around Birmingham that haven't spent time there, you NEED TO GO! As a civic duty to teach yourself about your home and as an aesthetic gift to yourself. It's really a beautiful dead giant. Or so it seems. A fantastic metaphor for the industrial giant's demise can be found on Woods Quad at the University of Alabama.

It is a cast iron and steel sculpture called Goldie 1971. It's creator, Joe McCreary says that it represents the dormant state of the American iron industry, and specifically Sloss Furnaces, which is now a museum filled with pieces of decommissioned machinery. The figure helps recall the contributions of the dismissed human workers, signs of which are harder to find at the museum [borrowed from Bhamwiki.com]. Joe is the education coordinator for Sloss Metal Arts. Turns out Sloss is very much alive. The Metal Arts program at Sloss is a big deal. They have several resident metal artists that create iron products, create original works, work on commission, and above all, educate. The National Metal Arts conference is held at Sloss. University-level metal arts students, as well as metal artists from around the country - even a few from around the world - flock to Sloss to work with their peers and participate in large metal pours and iron based performance art.

Right now, the resident artists are instructing high school students in an eight week long program called the Summer Youth Program. Twenty-three high school students go through a tough application and interview process to be highered to work for two months at sloss learning metal work and iron production as their summer job. I've had the opportunity to be out there the last two weeks and have observed what I can only call the coolest summer job a high schooler could ever have.

I was at the national conference earlier this year and got an idea for a gift for my dad. Today is his birthday and I made him an iron gift. If you ever visit the metal arts side of Sloss for a special event, or pay to take casting lessons you will receive what is called a scratchblock. This is a special sand and resin mold that you scratch into with a nail to make a shape or word. Then on pour days, like last Friday, they will pour molten iron into your scratchblock after they've finished pouring iron product molds and sculptures.

This is a picture of the scratchblock I scratched for my dad's gift:

This is a picture of the cupola furnace that heats the iron to pour:

Shown above are metal artists and summer youthers pouring metal into sand resin molds.

Here are some smoldering molds after being poured:

And here is my dad's iron birthday present:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!! sorry for the low quality photos, I took them with my phone. The Crumpler Crustacean Club now has an official iron icon. In a few centuries, someone studying the habits of early southern life will find this and deduce that there were once a people who, they presume, worshiped crawfish.


Laser McNeal said...

Very nice. Your dad will love that. Doesn't he worship crawfish? I thought that that was the whole point of that club.

Falcon Steele said...

i guess you could say he worships the taste of their live brackish insides.