"Art on Fire"
Iron Pour Art Fest
June 26, 2021

Time for another hot, Hot, HOT Iron Pour! For the 14th year, the Valley Arts Alliance Art on Fire Iron Pour Art Fest was held at the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry in Wasilla.

The Valley was buzzing with artists from across the country, gathered to cast unique iron sculptures, create Raku pottery, and engage in other similar “fiery” events.

A team of skilled foundry men and women, consisting of Pat Garley, who owns Arctic Fires Bronze in Palmer and Donnie Keen a commercial foundry owner from Houston, Texas, and other local sculptors and skilled metal workers demonstrated the fascinating 5000 year old iron casting process using a custom designed furnace known as a cupola.

In the weeks preceding this event, Pat Garley offered workshops in metal casting and mold making at his studio in Palmer. These workshops continued at the VAA Art on Fire Iron Pour Art Fest, when these molds were poured with liquid iron. See scenes of last year’s event on our Art on Fire archives pages... and for examples of completed iron sculptures that were displayed at the International Gallery of Contemport Art in Anchorage, see our 2012 Art on Fire Sculpture archive page.

At this Art on Fire Iron Pour Art Fest, visitors created their own small molds, for their own unique iron plaques. These small mold blanks, approximately 6 inches square, were etched or “scratched” with a design which, when filled with molten iron, rendered a unique keepsake. Known as a “scratch block”, these blanks were available for $10.

Throughout the day, artist Sandra Cook, who owns “SL Cook Pottery and Fiber Werks” in Palmer, conducted her Raku pottery workshop.  Sandra provided each participant with a vessel or pot of unglazed ceramic ware, known as bisque, which the participants decorated with a variety of glazes and then fired in one of Sandra’s special Raku kilns. After a short firing, the “red hot” vesses was placed inside a metal can full of combustible materials, a process that draws the oxygen out of the glaze and is responsible for the unique and completely unpredictable Raku look.

Other artists demonstrated and displayed their fiery art throughout the day including Judy Vars, who demonstrated encaustic wax painting, Erica Case-Phillipsen, who demonstrated lamp work glass, and the Association of Alaskan Blacksmiths, who demonstrated blacksmithing techniques. Several local painters setup their easels and demonstrated their work, as did fiber artists and more!

Outstanding music was provided by Josh Fryfogle; Long Nights Moon, consisting of Mark and Kelly Williams; Ellie Cullison; Maddie and Scott Helle; Hillary Saffran with Rod Schultz, Dwane Guisinger, Tamara Johnson and John Stroup.

The 2021 VAA Art on Fire Iron Pour Art Fest was held at the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry, located at 3800 W. Museum Drive (near the airport) in Wasilla, from noon until 5pm on Saturday, June 26. This day was an extraordinary Iron Pour Art Fest in the Valley!

-Photos by Doug Ferguson and Carmen Summerfield