Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"Well, It's Not a Deal Breaker. . ."

March 13th, 14th and 15th were three phenomenal days! I participated in a Metal Arts Workshop offered at Sloss Furnaces. Sloss is one of the best kept secrets in Birmingham, if not Alabama. Take a couple of minutes to check out their website and then come back here when you're done.

Joe McCreary is the Metal Arts Education Coordinator, at Sloss, and he was my instructor for the weekend workshop. He's a laid back Mississippian whose strength is in his quiet confidence. He's intuitive. Most Mississippi natives are, you know. Oh, have I mentioned that I'm from Tupelo? Joe leads a team of iron artisians. You would have been hard pressed to find anyone in the foundry with an ego. And if they had one, they must have checked it at the shed because it was amazing to find so many creative people in one place working together, effortlessly.

One of the first things that you notice when you arrive is that everyone and everything is in constant motion. It's obvious that each individual, on the platform, follows his or her own bliss (bliss meaning that each person has tapped into the energy that makes him or her tick). But Joe is the one who points a finger with authority or quietly nods in the affirmative when questions are asked and answered; directing, shaping the day. It's an unspoken language that you would miss if you were easily distracted. And believe me, there are soooooo many distractions on the platform where the studios, lifting equipment, casting sheds, foundry and fabrication shop are located. Oh, and the trains! Locomotives are passing on either side of the foundry, all day. Throw in the deafening roar of a cupola being stoked for an iron pour and you have an exotic orchestration of craftsmen and tools and processes and sounds and music. Great music . . . blasting from speakers strategically placed near the tool shed. They had me at "hello" when someone played the roots reggae tune EXODUS sung by the legendary Bob Marley & The Wailers. Rich.

I brought several mounted linoleum blocks to the class which I had designed and cut. My goal was to see if I could create an iron casting from one of them. We decided that I shouldn't use any of the blocks that I still needed to ink, press and complete an edition of prints with. So I "sacrificed" an 8" x 10" lino block that I had made a duplicate of, last year. It took one and one half days to prepare the block for the iron pour. I, also, created two additional forms on site. The preparation was labor intensive and required more attention than I had anticipated. However, in hindsight, I understand how important it is to set up properly on the front end. If you don't focus, your project will reflect nicks, nubs and residue material which you will invariably have to reshape or correct. Prep work requires A LOT of patience!

There were moments when I felt like I just couldn't spend another minute melting, dipping and massaging wax. Joe would say, "Well, it's not a deal breaker." Then he would grin e'va so slightly. It was a grin that all Mississippians recognize. I got it.

I melted, dipped and massaged wax until the sun went down.

Great workshop!

Kudos to Joe, Remy, Bones, Heather and to all the artists at Sloss Furnaces.

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