Tuesday 26 July 2011

Reaching the end of my time here :-(

Yep, the end of the month is fast approaching. I can't believe how fast its gone. In five days time I will be flying back to the UK with a head-full of really happy memories. Hopefully (provided I don;t sit here for too long gossiping with you!) I'll also have finished a piece which I will have the pride to see installed here at Sculpture Trails. When I fly, I'll be thinking about all the new friends I've made and how a sculpting extraviganza like this bridges so many gaps in our modern world. Does that sound a bit over-blown? Maybe the furnace fumes and the heat has finally got to me - but think about it: Art as practiced in the western world is about the most overt study in elitism that there is. Think artist, think creative person desperately trying to to work a medium and earn respect (if not money, alas) whilst itching the compulsion. That can lead to introversion and can make artists into slightly lonely people: non creative people often misunderstand the work - and their own peers often denigrate their work as its all part of the critical competition... What do you end up with? Ahem - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhUMRgZjKr8 (a pretty typical example, at least in terms of what I see in the UK...)

Well, an event like the work study programme at Sculpture Trails breaks those barriers. A process as complex as mold making and casting means that no-one can particpate without being absolutely ingrained at every stage - and those few who do sit back and let other do the donkey work miss out on the real value as to what this sort of endeavour is about. It becomes a leveller - you work and exchange ideas with people you might not have given the time of day. It forms bonds of trust and friendship. It makes you re-assess what the value of an individual is and appreciate that we're all different and approach things in different ways - but by being open minded to the other possibilities extends your knowledge. It really is a beautiful thing - no different perhaps to any other group of people who bond through an extreme challenge.

Anyway, I have a final mold to sprue and ram in sand, so I'd better get going.

Speak soon!


Thursday 21 July 2011

breakin' iron

As I type, our artists are busy finishing molds, breaking iron, patching the furnace and doing the 101 things necessary to make an iron pour possible. And thats one of the things which makes an endeavor like this so much fun and so different from other forms of art. You can't melt and pour iron alone. It takes a team of people each with their own individual skills to come together to make it happen. It also takes trust and dedication - after all, this is molten metal we're dealing with: you HAVE to be able to trust your fellows with your life and limb.

We're gearing for a night pour - most of the action should be taking place from about 9.00pm in the evening cool. A few more of my pieces are ready - so I should (fingers crossed) be in a position to let you know how they poured tomorrow.

Other news? Well, I appear to have lost ten pounds over the last fortnight - though I'm unsure at the mo whether that was in sweat or the displacement of blood which ever bug that flies or creeps upon the earth has seen fit to drain from my body. My bites have actually started to overlap! And they said English food was bland eh? The local critters seem to be thriving on it!!!

On the subject of food, I cooked for all last night - cottage pie, which I think went down really well, although it was weird eating English winter comfort food in the sultry warmth of an Indiana summers evening.

OK - I'm off to add thgis to the Sculpture Trails Facebook account. If you're following all of this, please take the time to ask your friends to 'like' the sculpture trails FB pasge. It would be great to hit the 400 mark before the end of the month!


Saturday 16 July 2011

Another day, another pour

Hello all,

I have mentioned that its hot here, haven't I ? ;-) Well, those of you who may have spotted a theme from previous posts will be unsurprised to find out that, once again, the hammer of the mid states summer sun is beating down on the anvil of Sculpture trails. All the fans are running in the workshop (though it is much cooler up in the woodland amongst the sculptures - so don't let the heat put you off visiting folks!)

As I type, I can here the sound of those more accustomed to the heat, pounding iron into fist sized chunks for the 'charges' which, along with batches of coke, provide the fuel and iron which feeds the furnace, our metal matriarch, 'Lady D'. She has a prodigious appetite, and turns these charges into boiling iron at an incredible rate, once she's up to speed.

Last night I had the pleasure of working alongside our very own foundry Methuselah, Nathan Goodeson. Nathan 'wrangles' the furnace, tweaking it, adjusting it and ensuring that all runs as it should. His most exciting - and to my eyes, terrifying - duty is to tap and 'bot' (no giggles at the back please!) the main pour spout. That means breaking through a plug of clay bused to bung the pour spout to release the iron - as well as re-plugging it after the tap to allow the sump inside the furnace to refill. Sounds pretty spectacular, hey? Well, he does this not using some piece of machinery, but by hand. As you can imagine, this requires complete concentration, dedication and a dose of bravery. Nathan is also a thoroughly decent fellow. I'm hoping to tell you more about the process he's developed called 'eclectromelt' in some subsequent postings. Anyway, it was fascinating working with him and to see the operation of the furnace right alongside. Normally when you work as crew for the pour, your concentration is totally absorbed by the ladles and the molds, so it was a great way to be able to see another side to the process.

Right, I'm going to crack on, as amongst my chore list, I've giot to get some links and photos posted up on the Trails Facebook!!

All the best,


Monday 11 July 2011

Hotter still!

Today there was a heat advisory - which means we're doing odd jobs and then hiding back in the shade. I know this blog is starting to look and sounds like a running commentary on the weather - but at least I'm not longer alone on this aspect - we have two new slightly wilted brits on site, the lovely Caro and Phillip.

Duties today include wax oiling a sculpture, whacking weeds (Gerry's stripped to the waist and running the 'hogger' over the main field - lets hope he doesn't burn the top of his head. Wear a hat Gerry!)

Moulds and forms are progressing well - hopefully I'll have some time to post some images later. Works range from Alisons 'interesting' Squid, Devin's form in styro foam and my 'prongs'. I believe Caro has brought some wax patterns with her - these are currently located in front of the air-con in the 'wellness' cabin. Wax things are in serious danger of melting into puddles in weather like this.

Last night saw us take a late night walk and tour into the woods to see the weird phenomenon of 'fox fire' - a brightly glowing fungus which we inadvertently spread around the clearing we had made. It was very unearthly to stand amongst the trees and see this green carpet of flourescent chippings glowing like the feint coals of a camp fire.

I'm off in a minute to go wax-oil a sculpture of Gerry's which has been partly dismantled for renovation. Yes - wax oil (or should that be oyl?) This fine British product has been established as by far the best alternative to paint for the colouring and preservation of the metalwork. (Quick pause for a moment of national pride). That said, after a trip down to WallMart last night for some essentials, its best to concede that our American cousins beat us into a cocked hat when it comes to innovation and King Capitalism. Swept along by a holiday mood, I spent $90 on such essentials as a Millar Lite hat with integral beer bottle opener (for those hot sultry nights) - and an industrial pile of pants and socks (getting through at least two pairs a day due to the heat) - Cheetos cheesy crisps, the unbiquitous Gatorade (who ought to be sponsoring this year's Sculture Trails programme, given the amount we have consumed) and a pound of chewing gum.

Right - signing off for now. I'll be back when its cooler to correct the typos and spelling mistakes and to add a few photos.


Sunday 10 July 2011


We're here discussing the joys of blogging!

Friday 8 July 2011


Another scorching day - filled with mud moving, stone wall building (retaining walls behind new pieces on site), putting down concrete pads and burning fallen wood.

I had hoped to post you a load of images of what I'd been up to, but sadly, the linux photo editor seems a bit crap! A few will have to suffice:

... restoring sculptures... 

... setting up new bases for forthcoming sculptures...

 ...the crew contemplating the next move...

Wednesday 6 July 2011

6th July - 1st pour

Instead of my usual loquatious ramblings, my blog is going to have to be a little on the short side as there never seems to be enough time in the day to put aside to write as much as I'd like.

First off, as the title suggests, today was the first firing of the 2011 Trails study programme. A little over 800lbs of iron hit the moulds in scorching Indiana heat. From fire-up to pour took a little under two hours. I currently feel like a boil-in-the-bag piece of cheap meat, having acted as skimmer and dead-end on three of the four pours. That wasn't exactly the plan during the pre-brief, but necessity was the mother of improvisation - as the furnace they use here melts the metal so quickly, a few of the crew were caught out. Pouring iron always scares me to be honest - and its always a relief when everything is over and done and you can look back and reflect (and quaff a well deserved cold beer). The others are off cooling in the Masse family pool, making sweaty foundry crew soup whilst I type this!

An artist called Mary was the creator of todays moulds - as soon as I have pictures to show you of the pieces she cast, I'll add them here.

Right - time for me to cool off to as I ought to get cracking with my own pieces, though to be honest, I might snatch a sneaky forty winks first!

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Hello at last

I promised try keep a blog of my American adventures. Well the first 72 hours have seen me too jet-lagged, heat-stroked and sweaty hard crafting in 90oF (what is that in centigrade?!) heat. Internet coverage is possible here - but not in the tiny tent which I'm *trying* to sleep in (beers helps with that). I am grubby, sticky and after only three days in, almost out of clean clothes. The death on the onsite washing machine today in a flash of blue sparks has been a source of major horror!

If you want an idea of the countryside in which the Sculpture Trails park is located, have a looks at the links and the website posted previously: We're right out in the countryside - a fairly hilly landscape dominated by maple trees, little creeks and winding roads. The sculpture park is very reminiscent of the Coalbrookdale set-up (if you're non-cognoscenti, go Google!) - but on a far bigger scale - 50 acres of woodland. The sculptures themselves are spread across the site, focusing in glades and cuttings into the trees and hillside.

Gerry's folks have made us very very welcome - and each LONG (12 hour plus) working day has been rounded off with beers and fine food. On the subject of sustenance, I don't think I have ever drunk so much water in an attempt to stay cool and hydrated. Yesterday I had but a single wee, which was the colour of fluorescene. In fact, come the afternoon yesterday, I was spark out knackered and had to 'take an early bath' after being sick: this involved a three hour kip in the 'wellness cabin' - which has a bed, a bathroom and most important of all: AIRCONDITIONING.

The other artists are divided into participants (who have paid) and work/study students (like me) who are trading graft for the chance to cast later on. Quite when and where this is going to happen has yet to be discussed - though the delay will be welcome, as the frikken baggage handlers have managed, in finest slacker tradition, top ensure that the contents of my bags were shaken, stirred and utterly smashed to pieces - included the pattern for the Vulcan which I was hoping to cast. How on earth people are supposed to travel to the states for more than a weekend with a single piece of small handluggage and one piece containing bomb/earthquake/baggage handler proof contents in the hold utterly escapes me.

I shall tell you more anon (maybe even tonight if I don't polish off to many re-hydrating beers) - as my laptop battery is low and I need to go wrestle with the travel adapter!