Four days last week I was fortunate to participate in an iron casting workshop by Carbon Arts at 555 Gallery in Detroit. The week was wrought with challenges and memories.
The backdrop was my childhood neighborhood. 555 Gallery operates in the former Detroit Police Department Third Precinct station. Hard to revisit the streets where I experienced hundreds of firsts, and not take time to reflect.
Across Vernor Highway on Standish St. is Topor’s Pickles, my first factory job. Where I worked a few weeks one summer. Further down the street is Clark Park where I first tried ice skating. The Bowen Branch Biblioteca where I did my first research paper, using the Readers Digest Guide to periodicals. The YMCA where our neighbor Audrey took me and her son Joey for our first swimming lessons.
555 Gallery getting ready for Iron Pour
The workshop is a hands on experience. Some of the first challenges involve figuring out what can be cast. I decide to try 2 driftwood pieces and a glazed clay mask I made a few years ago.
Two Driftwood Pieces to Cast
Glazed Clay Piece to Cast
The first steps involve measuring and cutting wood to make flasks (boxes) to hold the mold material. The clay face required making a wax cast first, to avoid any chance damaging the original in the mold making process. Rachel Wolski, Carbon Arts Operations VP, teaches me how to make a quick silicon mold to cast a wax.
Rachel Wolski Carbon Arts Operations VP
Rachel Wolski teaching mold making for wax
This the first time I can remember, needing to shake sand out of my shoes at the end of the day, and not having been to a beach. Two types of sand are used in the are used in the casting process. The first is a “parting”, foundry/greensand which creates a bed for your artwork and a method to establish a dividing line for the mold.
Casey mixing sand
The second is a fine silica sand, which had to carefully mixed with a two-part epoxy that works as a bonding agent to solidify the sand. Once cured the packed sand creates a hard mold.
Mold and Wax Cast
Wax Cast in Sand
The two driftwood pieces were able to be cast together in one flask.
Casey Westbrook one of the artists leading our workshop, designed the cupolas and iron pour of a sculpture for the Matthew Barney film “KHU”. It was filmed in Detroit in 2010. He helps me with these next steps. Amazing how heavy my mold has become.
Casey Westbrook applying glue to my mold
Casey Westbrook helping to clean up my mold
Rachel Wolski cleaning the furnace
Casey and the Furnace
Me cleaning sand from molds before the pour
The day of the pour is exciting and quite spectacular to watch.
Kat Delph VP Marketing at Carbon Arts
Here’s my piece being poured. Photo credit here goes to my husband David Carson.
Thank you to Kat Delph, Rachel Wolski, Casey Westbrook and the rest of the Carbon Arts crew for making this all possible. I will be busy working to clean up and patina my pieces. Here’s what they look like now. Love that they were cast from recycle iron bath tubs from Detroit.
Cast from recycled Detroit iron