August 18, 2008

Fire, Metal, Form

For almost as long as I can remember — at least since seeing the ancient Chinese bronzes at the Sackler as a teenager — I've wanted to learn metal-casting. To my great good fortune, Carly Jean Parrish and Ed Parrish (of hot metal happening) offered a class on iron-casting for beginners this summer at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts near my house, which I've been taking. This Saturday the class cast our molds. (Here's mine, before and after.) It was one of the most awesome things I've ever seen or been part of; I took a few pictures, but really you needed to be there.

Fortunately, our teachers will be performing on Saturday the 23rd at the PCA, as part of the closing of the biennial exhibit; you will not find a better entertainment value in the city that evening.

(Of course, lots of the things which went towards making it an incredible experience as an occasional spectacle — the heat of working under layers of protective clothing, the noise of the furnace, the hammers, the yelling, the flames, the muscle-tension of carrying and controlling a big bucket of molten metal, the adrenaline shock of noticing that your glove doesn't quite meet your sleeve around your wrist and there are sparks going everywhere — are also the things which go towards making iron-working a very unpleasant job. As for doing it twelve hours a day, six days a week, with periodic 24-hour shifts and no insurance, the way Mr. Carnegie and co. used to run the plants — well, there was a reason a visitor called old Pittsburgh "hell with the lid off", and they had to keep the unions down by shooting people.)

Update, 17 October: I somehow forgot to post a link to the actual product. I am a bit disappointed that the metal which should have been the bottom of the vessel fell to about its lip — I need to form the negative mold better next time — but not so disappointed that I'll stop; and I'll keep this as, you should pardon the expression, an object lesson.

Self-Centered; Heard About Pittsburgh PA

Posted at August 18, 2008 14:45 | permanent link

Three-Toed Sloth