From scraps to art, public Iron Pour showcases transformation

From scraps to art, public Iron Pour showcases transformation

Photo taken by Randy Knauf

The March 19, 2022 Inter-collegiate Iron Pour hosted by the Western North Carolina Sculpture Center (WNCSC) offers attendees a glimpse at what co-founder Joseph Bigley describes as, “an extremely visually seductive process to witness.”

Located at the Patterson School Foundation, WNCS specializes in metal foundry, blacksmithing, metal fabrication (welding) and working with other stone, wood, and mixed media projects.

Bigley, who co-founded the WNCSC with Zachary Smith-Johnson in 2019, said their public iron pour events spawned from a fundraising campaign to replace the roof of their 10,000 square foot studio space.

“Casting iron is almost exclusively done outside and we recognized early on that community iron pours would be an exciting and viable way to engage with the public while the roof was being addressed,” he said. 

An iron pour is a very labor intensive process, both in terms of preparation as well as execution, Bigley said.

“We utilize discarded cast iron bathtubs, radiators, sinks, etcetera, which need to be broken by hand through being struck by hammers,” he said. “The iron is broken up to accommodate the inner diameter of the furnace which is being run, in our case for the furnace being run on March 19, the iron is broken up roughly to the size of a potato chip.”

Each participant is suited up head to toe in safety leathers, safety glasses, a hard hat and a face shield.

“The process seems to be chaotic from an outside observer but safety is the priority and it is highly coordinated to result in an efficient and safe pour,” he said. “Typically the next morning, those with molds present return to the pour site to open their molds to reveal the state of their iron castings.”

Bigley said the public is also invited to return on Sunday morning, March 20, to witness this as well.

This is the center’s third full year of hosting such events, and this year’s iron pour will also include a fundraising workshop for ages five to 95. 

“We will be offering blank scratch block tile molds to be purchased by attendees,” Bigley said.  “These molds are easy to manipulate and participants can engage in this hands-on creative workshop, create a custom personalized design, and watch their own mold be poured in person.”

Bigley said public and participant interest is what keeps the iron pour events successful.

“It is not uncommon for casters to drive across state lines or across regional lines to participate in a pour and make cast metal sculptural works,” he said. “Last year we were thankfully able to welcome a group sculptor residency which included artists from across the U.S. and as far away as Las Vegas, Arkansas and the Minneapolis region, to live and work at WNCSC for a few weeks.”

This year’s intercollegiate focused iron pour will include faculty and students from several academic institutions including the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, Appalachian State University and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

While previous public iron pours at WNCSC have included food trucks, live music, and other demonstrations, Bigley said this event is solely focused on allowing the public to view the process of the iron pour and the collaborative nature of the project. 

"Witnessing the iron casting process enriches one's understanding of the production of material which we take for granted on a daily basis," he said.

“The work on the sculpture park consists of a wide range of aesthetic interests from the representational to the abstract, and includes a variety of materials,” he said. “The atmosphere found in a creative community might be something that individuals are not afforded as much as would be ideal, this and future events allow for the public to be part of a creative community to where our intentions are to inspire personal creative exploration and new feelings of personal accomplishment.”

Those in attendance to the event are welcome to walk the park and the sculpture trail to experience the over 70 sculptures that the sculpture center currently has on display, as well as have the opportunity to view and purchase additional art made by in-house sculptors associated with the center, Bigley said. 

WNCS March 2022 Intercollegiate Iron Pour

March 19, 2022 at 12:00 noon to 5:30 p.m.

4612 Patterson School Drive

Lenoir, NC 28645

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