8th Annual Intercollegiate Iron Pour

By Julia Johnson

Heat, flames, sparks, sweat, hard work, and the distinct smell of iron are what hot metal casters live for. This weekend during the Intercollegiate Iron Pour there were seven furnaces on site, and hundreds of students and iron - enthusiasts up to Salem Art Works for the event. As the sun set on Saturday and each furnace dropped, the red - orange glow of the iron complemented the colors of the fall foliage illuminated by the changing light. In the dark, the last furnace bottom dropped, and Ron Bakerian played the bag pipes to concluded the iron pour. The iron crew congratulated each other with warm hugs, high fives, and handshakes. The most rewarding part of the Intercollegiate Iron Pour is that iron veterans with years of wisdom pass on their knowledge by teaching less seasoned casters and first time pourers their techniques. 

Friday started with registration and the Meet & Greet. Marjee Levine and the Mass Art Crew performed "Prometheus' Disco", a hot metal and flame performance. The Mass Art Crew performances are theatrical and geared toward audience entertainment. This year, the theme was a colorful and high energy fire dance. Performed at night, to the sounds of disco and dub, the performers danced for the audience, spun colored flames, and poured exploding metal. The minimal visuals make the flames, sparks and explosions, pop and excite. 

Saturday started with a hearty breakfast. Then at 10am, Anne Forschler-Tarrasch, Senior Curator of Decorative Arts at the Birmingham Museum of Art, spoke in the upstairs of Barn 1 with a slide show about the history of cast iron, ancient iron processes, and iron masterpieces. Anne talked about her interest in the Berlin cast iron collections and other unique cultural castings. At 2pm the furnaces were hot. While the pour was happening, the Renegade Exhibition Show was being installed. The merchandise tent was packed with crowds watching the silk screen designs get printed on leathers and shirts. The scratch block station was in full effect, with molds being ran over to the pour floor. In front, we had sausage and burgers on the grill drawing in the crowds who lined up for their meal. Across the road was a blacksmithing demo by Ron Bakerian who showed onlookers how to make forged tools. Dung mold demonstrations were presented in Barn 1. 

Individuals were smashing iron all morning until the first tap. They separated charges into two buckets, one for iron and one for coke.  (the fuel that heats the furnace). Eager casters and students grouped and teamed up for their jobs. Students who were new to casting were introduced by working as the "safety crew." They used shoves of sand to control fires, block radiating heat from molds, and protect sand/ metal from getting into unpoured molds. They then graduated to "skimmers" taking the slag out of the iron ladle. The ladle has two operators, the "dead end and the live end". The "dead end" holds the ladle steady and follows the lead of the "live end". The "live end" controls the ladle, listens to the "mold caption" and is the one pouring into the mold. The "mold captain" calculates how much iron is in the ladle, tells the crew which mold to pour into and coordinates which team will pour. More experienced casters are on the furnace crew. They maintain the furnace with charges of coke, charges of iron, tapping it, boting it, timing, and maintaining the slag hole. The iron pour was a long hot day, with tons of molds on the floor. After the pour, bonfires were shared by the pleased and relaxed casters.

On Sunday, after another hearty breakfast, the students cracked open their sand mold to see how the iron poured. Cast iron is a beautiful material that forms around the mold and if poured correctly can pick up a ton of detail. The proud artists showed off their pieces and headed home. 

GOOD POUR GUYS! See you next year!