Kan. -- An ancient Japanese method of smelting iron, the tatara furnace and
tradition, was the focus of a lecture on Thursday at Fort Hays State
University's Albertson Hall.
The presentation by Wayne Potratz, a
professor of art at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, was part of the
Western Cast Iron Art Conference, under way at various locations at FHSU and in
A demonstration of tatara is
scheduled to last all day Friday, May 25, in the foundry yard of Rarick Hall on
the FHSU campus.
lecture included detailed descriptions on how the Japanese construct the
furnaces and the smelting process that converts the ore to iron. Potratz said
the craft dates back to around 400 B.C. and is thought by some historians to
have followed the course of Buddhism from India.
The tatara practice is still honored
in some Japanese communities. Potratz has made tataras of his own, and
dimensions are critical during the construction process, he said. Even the size
of charcoal used to create a continuous fire requires consideration. The
furnaces can be created using clay or brick.
"You cannot deviate from the
process," said Potratz.
Potratz spoke of his experiences in
seeing the construction of the tatara, scooping in ore, and the final product:
an enormous piece of steel known as a "bloom." The metal, known as
"tama-hagane," is used for making blades for swords and knives. In
Japan, he has attended tatara festivals, which bring communities and
neighboring cities together for the work -- hard work -- he said, and after
three days of it, the tatara is torn down to reveal a huge piece of steel.
Potratz said the community has a huge celebration afterward.
Jenai Virgil, a student at the
University of Colorado, Denver, and one of about 150 registered participants in
the conference, said the tatara process was all new information to her. "I
had no idea about this before," she said, adding that she is looking
forward to the demonstration on Friday.
addition to the tatara demonstration, Friday and Saturday include a number of
other events, including, on Friday, a performance of iron pouring at the
about 7 p.m., and a sand mold workshop in the Rarick Hall foundry and a ceramic
shell workshop in Rarick Hall, room 124. Both workshops will last all day,
beginning about 8 a.m.
Saturday has another iron pour
scheduled, beginning about noon.
Sunday is scheduled for cleaning up
and an brief exhibition in Rarick's foundry yard of the work produced during