Lessons; Casting in Detroit


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

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.

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.

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

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.

The two driftwood pieces  were able to be cast together in one flask.

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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.

The day of the pour is exciting and quite spectacular to watch.

Kat Delph VP Marketing at Carbon Arts

Kat Delph VP Marketing at Carbon Arts

Here’s my piece being poured. Photo credit here goes to my husband David Carson.

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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

Cast from recycled Detroit iron

About Babs

I'm a narrative sculptor navigating her way through the ever-changing currents in what feels like an art ocean. Whether appreciating the calm rhythm of calls for art and exhibiting, or waiting to catch a big wave of inspiration to take me to the top. I just love being in the water. Formerly a pickle packer, theater major, crisis counselor and occupational therapist with a BA in Communications and a BS in Occupational Therapy, only to discover I've always been an artist. My work grows from a strong connection to people and a passion for discovering the beauty in ordinary things. I sculpt figuratively in clay, utilizing the female form and women’s themes. Frequently my inspiration is drawn from childhood memories and my own short poems. Like each of us as humans every work is uniquely influenced by the past and present and has a narrative.
This entry was posted in Inspiration, Michigan Art, sculpture and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Lessons; Casting in Detroit

  1. Susan Robinson-Heaslip says:

    Excellent Barb! You left out the part when our hands were sticky with the mixture of oil based clay, used motor oil, and sand and a few other steps that required a literal “hands-on” technique. The instruction/assistance and team effort among everyone there added to a positive experience…and I want to thank you for doing the driving during our four day commute in rush hour traffic! Susan

  2. Thank you for sharing Barbara! As my EMU sculpture teacher, Prof. Pappas said, as he was helping me learn to use a blow torch, “Isn’t sculpture exciting?!” You proved it. It is!!!

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