November 06, 2013

School of Art and Design holds iron pour Saturday

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Maybe it used to be an old bathtub, but 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit later and with the attention of a sculpture student, it’s a cast iron work of art.

Art students in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s School of Art and Design invite the public to their fall iron pour from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 9. The pour is at the SIU Art Foundry, at the white buildings at the intersection of Pleasant Hill Road and Evergreen Drive.

For the students, the iron pour is partly a matter of practicality.  Other favored sculpture metals, such as bronze and aluminum, are expensive -- as much as quadruple the price of scrap iron. 

The iron pour is also a learning experience where students participate in traditional sculpture processes, linking them to their own artistic heritage even as they learn to make their own unique artistic statements.

Graduate student Dena Aouassou, a master of fine arts candidate in sculpture, chose SIU because of the university’s respected standing among cast metal artists.  She noted that a large-scale iron pour like this one is something that requires teamwork and people who know their individual jobs.

“For the spectator, the pour floor looks like a choreographed dance,” she said.  “Charging the furnace, cleaning the airways, tapping, catching molten iron in a ladle, and pouring it into molds is labor intensive, and everyone has his or her job to make the pour go smoothly.”

The students want the community to do more than watch.  Spectators can join, in a limited way, by buying a scratch block -- a small form they can use to make their own iron tiles.  To design a tile, an aspiring artist scratches a design into the base of the scratch block.  The iron pour team will pour iron into the form.  When the scratch box cools, the iron tile will bear a raised design from the scratches in the block.

To gather metal for this year’s iron pour, one of the students, Jillian Thompson, called upon the Southern Illinois community to donate unwanted bathtubs, radiators, sinks -- anything iron.  To donate for the next pour, contact the School of Art and Design at 618/453-4315 or