Reminiscent of the foundries that the American Industrial Revolution was built on, heating scrape iron in a cupola to its melting point of 3,000 degrees has become a Kenai summer tradition and celebration thanks to Scott Hamann of Metal Magic. “For the 7th year we’re casting iron into molds making art work and usable artifacts from melted scrape and having all kinds of fun,” Hamann said as the homemade furnace was being stoked with coke and pieces of broken metal. “This type of thing doesn’t happen much anymore unfortunately, America was built on its foundries but most of them today are in other countries and now smelting is staying alive mostly as an art form like we are doing here today,” he said. Metal Artist Pat Garley formerly from New Mexico and now from Wasilla has come to the Peninsula for each of the Metal Magic pours and says there is something very special about the medium of liquid metal, “There is something really attractive about it and being able to play with fire like you’re not suppose to. There is an excitement that is a lot of fun, a little bit thrilling, little bit dangerous, you can get hurt if you don’t know what you’re doing or if you’re not careful, but we train and back each other up so that it’s a lot of fun,” said Garley as he described the process, “What we’re doing right now is burning in the coke that is the fuel we use to fire the furnace and then we add broken up recycled iron on top of the fire that will melt and the liquid metal will collect in the bottom of the furnace. We’ll then tap it, poking a hole at the bottom and draw out about 100 pounds of liquid metal and then carefully carry it to the molds. The whole process of creating a sculpture in metal and going through all the phases necessary to complete a sculpture from start to finish, using techniques that in some ways are modern but would be recognizable to a person from 3000 years in the past. Though some of the tools have changed the basic technology is the same,” explained Patrick.
New Kenai Peninsula College professor of art Cam Choy was on hand for the first time and was excited to link up with the local metal community, “I started teaching art classes at KPC this spring and this is a medium I became familiar with in the lower 48. I had the opportunity to meet Scott and the great crew that is here today and was glad to take part in the event and connect with the iron community here in Alaska. I’ve done quite a bit of it and hope to continue it here and at KPC,” said Choy.
This year’ event was a great success according to Hamann, “I feel awesome about it! It really is an exciting thing to be able to put this on for the community each year. The comradery that develops here is great, you come here once and you’re a friend for life. Every year we have new people come out but gathering with old friends that come back year after year and sharing what we’re doing through the year is just something I truly love. You spend four hours just waiting for things to get hot, sitting around and sharing ideas, I love it and can’t wait to do it again next year,” he said. To view finished pieces go to www.patgarley.com or visit www.metalmagicalaska.com .