You have a specially-designed furnace, also called a cupola, in which the iron is melted. The fuel, or coke, is added to begin the heating process. Once the furnace is up to temperature, pieces of iron and additional coke are gradually added through the top of the cupola. As the iron melts, it collects around a tap at the bottom of the furnace. When enough iron is melted, the tap is opened and the hot iron flows down a channel into a specially-coated container. For our event on October 6th, the Sloss Furnaces’ metal arts crew will then pour the molten iron into sand molds, which event attendees will have had the opportunity to carve with their own designs earlier in the evening. Once the molds cool, the hardened designs will be released, and participates will have handmade souvenirs ready to take home with them that same night.
The pouring process is not only exciting and interactive, but it also recalls Alabama’s industrial past and the artisans of our region. Sloss Furnaces, a once-functioning blast furnace plant where iron was made from 1882 to 1971, is helping to educate about that rich history and the continued artistry of metal work – examples of which can be seen in several of the sculptures featured in the Out of the Box exhibition that our opening reception is celebrating — through their efforts as a National Historic Landmark.
Contributed by Jessica Hughes, co-curator, Out of the Box: A Juried Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition