Tuesday, October 18, 2016

38th Annual Tri-State Iron Pour Molds and Castings

For the 38th Annual Tri-State Sculptors Conference Iron pour, I made 2 reaction molds in my shop to take to the pour. Normally a mold for iron-casting would be made of resin-bonded sand or ceramic shell, as traditional plaster and investment molds react poorly to the molten iron resulting in poor quality castings. Reaction molds, however, are specifically designed to react with the molten iron and create a brilliant display of sparks and flames. Usually constructed of wood elements, they can be incorporated with other mold methods such as resin-bonded sand to provide structure and strength to the mold, as wood behaves very differently when in contact with molten iron. It has instantly shrink, expand, crack, and break down in unexpected ways, resulting in a rupture of the mold that allows the metal to run out. If one can manage to construct a wooden mold in such a way as to withstand the heat of the iron long enough to allow it to begin to solidify and cool, some very interesting textures and effects can be created.

The Mold:

I constructed 2 wood molds, of which the main mold is shown above in 2 pieces prior to assembly. The double layers of plywood are staggered to prevent iron from leaking out of the mold as the wood burns and expands. After assembly all seams and joints were sealed with 3000 degree refractory cement for added security.


Once the molds were poured, the wooden forms burned away completely over the course of the next hour or so.

The Aftermath:


The Results:

The resulting main casting turned out fantastic, with an amazing texture and surface that I did not expect. It turned out far heavier than I anticipated, at least 80lbs, as once the wooden mold began to burn when in contact with the molten iron, the interior space increased and as a result, so did the overall mass.

The voice you can hear on the videos talking about iron casting and the process is that of James "Dudders" Dudley, a fellow artist, maker, and ECU alum. Thank you for the unintentional narration, sir. Check out an awesome podcast he is involved with along with a host of other highly talented and creative individuals, Damn Art Majors.

Friday, October 14, 2016

4th Annual World Championship Belt Buckle Competition Honorable Mention!

I am very pleased to have my recent sculptural jewelry piece, "Crypt of Wonton Riches" awarded an Honorable Mention in the 4th Annual World Championship Belt Buckle Competition. The competition drew submissions from 40 artists in 4 countries, with 21 finalists being selected for the online exhibition, from which 1st-3rd place and 4 Honorable Mentions were awarded. I am honored to have my work included in such a strong grouping of talented makers, artisans, colleagues, and teachers.

"Crypt of Wonton Riches"
Bronze, Brass, Sterling Silver, Yellow Sapphires, Cognac Diamonds

My sincerest thanks go out to Bryan Peterson and Nash Quinn for all their hard work and efforts to organize, coordinate, jury, and present such an excellent exhibition. Check out all the finalists, award winners, and honorable mentions on the Gallery page of the World Championship Belt Buckle Competition website:


Monday, October 10, 2016

2016 Tr-State Sculptors Conference Iron Pour

This past weekend I attended the 38th Annual Tri-State Sculptors Conference in Seagrove, Asheboro, and Star, NC. The conference was a collection of excellent presentations, gallery openings, lectures, and demonstrations. The conference concluded on Saturday night with an iron pour put on by Liberty Arts from Durham, NC, which I participated in.

Iron pours require days of preparation and planning to execute, from making molds to weighing out and sorting the iron and fuel needed, and running the cupola furnace, which is a team effort and requires careful attention to detail and teamwork.

The molds I created for the iron pour and the resulting castings that were created will be featured in a later post. Below are some images of the actual iron-casting process as I (on the right in the fireman's protective helmet and jacket) poured my two reaction molds with my former sculpture professor from East Carolina University, Carl Billingsley (on the left wearing leather protective gear), and the rest of the excellent pour team guiding us and protecting us from excess heat and flare-ups with shovels.

Check out Tri-State Sculptors and Liberty Arts:



Tuesday, October 4, 2016

“Irrational Insecurity Module”

Irrational Insecurity Module”
Bronze, Garnets
15”H x 2”W x 1”D

This new art jewelry necklace features a cast-bronze bat with bead-set 3.5mm faceted garnet eyes on a 24"chain fabricated from cast-bronze scale model units and bronze findings. This piece began its journey several years ago while still in grad school when the bat casting was first conceived and executed. The dead bat was found dried up and perfectly preserved in an attic, and was sealed with acrylic spray and the thin and delicate structures supported and built up with wax to ensure a successful casting. During the investment process, it appears that the acrylic spray did not completely seal the fur and skin of the dead bat, resulting in investment getting inside the bat. The unintentional consequence of this accident was that much of the skeletal structure of the bat became viable in the final bronze casting upon de-vesting and cleaning, in particular the shoulder-blades, spine, and pelvic bones. Once again, I only had one such bat casting, and the indecision of how to properly utilize such a unique piece prevented me from doing anything at all.

Years later, I was able to fabricate a bronze chain from other bronze cast elements I previously made, and went looking for a unit or element that would properly complement its aesthetic. The bat casting was finally brought out, properly finished and turned into a pendant, and was mounted onto the chain, which was then polished and given a dark patinea with hand-rubbed bronze highlights. The piece existed in this state for several weeks, as I would pick it up, inspect it, and put it back down, never quite sure what exactly kept bringing me back to it. Finally it occurred to me that the piece, while successful in form and structure, was missing some visual and contextual element of detail that would bring all the elements together and make the piece more interesting to the viewer and wearer. 

This led to the setting of 2 3.5mm round brilliant-cut garnets into the empty eye sockets of the bat casting, which was a surprisingly difficult and tricky procedure due to the angles and geometry of the setting. What would ordinarily be a simple procedure to use a setting bur to cut the seats for the stones became challenging due to the presence and location of the bat's ears and forearm structures. After struggling a good deal to make level, smooth, even bearings for the garnets, the stones were press-fit into place, a round graver was used to push burs of metal over the girdles of the stones, and a properly-sized beading tool was used to form the curls and bulges of metal into proper beads.

And with that, another successful piece properly considered and completed.