Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hot Enough to Melt Metal

Griffins, bulls and monsters, oh my!
Hundreds of adults and children lined up last Friday evening--and even paid a small fee--to cover themselves in dust and watch men in fire-proof uniforms melt metal in a glowing cauldron of unimaginable heat.

It was a "Bronze Pour" at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in celebration the museum's exhibit, Monsters, Demons and Winged Beasts: Creatures of the Ancient World.

For inspiration, the galleries were opened up during the evening. Folks swarmed around minotaurs, sirens, centaurs, gorgons, griffins and all sorts of fascinating and fearsome creatures from the ancient world, most of them cast in bronze.

Then it was our turn to try our hands at creating bronze creatures. More than 100 sand molds were snapped up as kids and adults alike got to work carving creatures, crests, or family symbols. By the time most of us finished carving, we were covered in dust. But such is the price of art, right?

Cooking metal at 2,500 degrees.
As we worked, the folks at the Inferno (great name!) Foundry heated up the metal to a whopping 2,500 degrees. It's hard to tell here (left), but the flames shone green because of the copper.

The liquid metal cooled surprisingly quickly.
When the bronze was sufficiently melted, they laid out the molds and began pouring. The molten metal glowed, then cooled and hardened enough for the artisans to break the molds and dump the still blazing metal pieces into a small sand pit to cool.

While we waited for our masterpieces to finish cooling, we snacked on bar-b-q and drinks, provided by the museum.

Eventually, our bronze creations cooled enough to let us "artisans" handle them. We were given brushes to clean and shine the metal. At the foundry, they sand-blast their work until the metal gleams. Obviously, a small wire brush was no match, so our bronze pieces ended up appearing to have a patina of age.
Ticked-off Starbuck's mermaid at least won't turn you into stone.

My piece was inspired by a stone carving of Medusa. But, since I'm no artist, she ended up looking like a ticked-off version of the Starbuck's mermaid. Oh well.

Still, it was an amazing program that drew a seemingly endless stream of adults, children, artists and college students.

The museum is also hosting a summer camp for teens where they will create their own 3-D metal monsters with the ancient "lost-wax" technique of bronze casting.

For more information on the monsters exhibit or summer camps, go here: http://www.carlos.emory.edu/child-family-programs.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like one great gig which over here across the pond would never happen due to sad health and safety reasons.

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

Oh - I am so jealous!!! I used to sculpt in wax and clay and have even done the 'foundry' work myself - it is SO fun!! Very cool experience. :)

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

@Paul, I asked the museum folks about this and they indicated they were under the insurance protection of the university. They did have to jump through a lot of hoops, though. Still, it was kind of amazing to see just how close we could get to the blazing equipment!

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

@e, how cool! You'll have to show me some of your bronze creations!

Ashes said...

I want to come do this! I also want to seee this exhibit! Sounds great! How long will it be there?

LOVE YOUR ticked-off-starbucks mermaid!! Could it be she's over caffeinated?

Vipsania Agrippina said...

Well done Vicky! I love your Medusa.

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

The exhibit is here through June, Ash. Coming to the ATL anytime soon?

Thanks, Vipsania. I kinda like her myself--despite the Starbucks connection. ;-)

Sarah Campbell said...

I love hands-on art experiences at museums. I must make time for them more often. I love your piece.

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

They are great Sarah. I usually volunteer to help at museum events but I wanted to DO this one!

Marty said...

I am incredibly jealous! I would love an opportunity to do something like this, as the experience would help me with a chapter that I am writing in my book.

Amalia T said...

I am super jealous of this event. I've been agonizing about bronze for a couple of weeks-- I'd LOVE to be able to play with a bit and see how it works as a metal. It sounds like a wonderful experience!