The evening was bright and brisk, canopied by golden leaves and the fading light of the setting sun when I arrived at Peninsula School of Art for their annual Iron Pour. I’m not an artist – number one. In fact, I’m quite intimated grabbing a sand and resin tile from a smiling Martha Aurelius and sitting across from a woman carving detailed flower designs. “I was an art teacher for 30 years, I better be good at this,” she laughs.
Alongside my friends Danielle Warecki and Samantha Gray, and a free glass of red wine, I grabbed my carving tool – a nail – and went to work while Nick Hoover and Jess Holland filled the air with folksy tunes, attendees streamed in and out of the Guenzel Gallery featuring their newest exhibit “Night Lights: Light Paintings Photographs,” which includes work by artists from around the world, as well as local photographs Heather and Luke Frykman.
All that I would enjoy as the evening wore on, after I completed the task at hand…
1) The process begins by using various tools to carve into molds of sand and resin. Participants created quite an array of images from owls to flowers to cherries, even a freckled man.
2) Once the carvings are complete, the molds are stacked near the pourers.
3) The pourers, meanwhile, focus on heating up crucible. These working artists, sculptors, and/or apprentices who travel to iron pours around the U.S. are lead by Teresa Lind, owner of The Cow Yard, a custom castings company in Chilton and professor of art at the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh.
4) When the temperature rises, the team gears up and gathers for a game plan.
5) Bits of metals are added to the crucible from buckets.
6) The iron melts and becomes like liquid sunshine at 3,000 degrees – brilliant, bright, unworldly. They pour the heavy iron from the crucible to a bucket held by two (experienced) pourers. (No volunteers for this process!)
7) Slowly, carefully, the iron is poured into the carved molds one by one.
8) The molds glow as the iron cools, heating up the air with the same intensity as a bonfire. After many rounds, all the molds are filled. The pourers hug and high-five to the sound of applause.
9) The next day I pick up my iron tile…can you guess what it is? (If you say angel – and not squid like the man sitting across from me – give yourself a pat on the back!)
“Night Lights” will be on display through Dec. 28. For more information about Peninsula School of Art, located at 3900 County F in Fish Creek, call 920.868.3455 or visit peninsulaschoolofart.com.