Kan. -- Art students from around the country are flocking to the Fort Hays
State University campus for the Western Cast Iron Art Conference this weekend.
This is the fourth conference of the Western Cast Iron Art Alliance and the
first at FHSU.
The conferences are always hosted by
a school, said Ashley Carlisle, a WCIAA board member from Laramie, Wyo. The
conferences are held every two years to teach people new techniques and spread
knowledge on working with iron.
"They come from all over,"
said Carlisle. "They know the crew and just come to make art."
Toby Flores, associate professor of
art and design at FHSU and site coordinator for the conference, said the
experience of preparing for the event has been both overwhelming and exciting.
He credits his students and Department of Art and Design faculty for helping
him organize the conference.
Tina Chavera, Jasmine Colgan and
Estrella Fox, students from the University of Colorado, Denver, said they are
looking forward to meeting other artists and participating in the workshops.
Chavera said the mention of "free iron" was a motivating factor for her.
Witnessing an actual iron pour is another point of interest for the women.
"This is the first metal class
for some of us," said Colgan.
Carpenter and Angelina Mazzanti from the University of Mississippi, Oxford, are
looking forward to learning new pouring processes. They also pointed out that a
student from FHSU is attending graduate school at the University of
Mississippi, and they are excited at the prospect of meeting her. Mazzanti said
she is excited for the networking opportunities and meeting people who love
doing the same thing.
The ladies said they drove to Kansas
and plan to extend their journey further west.
"We kind of turned it into a
road trip," said Carpenter. "We're headed to Colorado after
New Mexico Highlands, Las Vegas,
student Fred Turner said he is inspired by the dynamics of FHSU's art
department and looking forward to "just participating" in the
conference. Turner is especially anticipating the large-mold iron pour, as it
will be the largest he has attended.
Rose Marie Oakman of Alfred
University, Alfred, N.Y., said her interest in metal casting prompted her to
attend. She is looking forward to observing the performances and the student
Both professional and student
artists will have works on display at various locations for the duration of the
conference. Kelly Ludeking is one of several professional artists whose works
will be on display in the Moss-Thorns Gallery of Art in Rarick Hall. Ludeking
began working with iron in 1994 and has been creating iron art ever since. He
has numerous friends involved in the conference and has even cast (iron) with
several of them, specifically Lopes.
Ludeking also has his own business,
Ironhead Sculptural Services, which uses a portable foundry. He travels to
different conferences, facilitates pours and demonstrates what students can do
with their craft after college. Unless students remain affiliated with the
school they attended, continuing with iron casting can become a financial
Ludeking said he enjoys observing
new techniques and styles. He also uses conferences such as these to keep up
with his friends and what they have done with their craft.
"You can learn something new at
all of the conferences," said Ludeking.
Ludeking's largest work on display in Moss-Thorns, is an iron light fixture
created as part of a collection for a woman in Minneapolis. She paid for 10,
but only ended up taking one. He created the fixtures by duct-taping tulip
light globes to bowls of a certain size for a mold. He then rolled the mold to
distribute the iron instead of allowing it to settle, which would create a
solid piece. Ludeking has dubbed his technique "no core hollow
Ludeking's works are not strictly
from cast iron. Other pieces on display incorporate blown glass into cast
aluminum and iron texturized by seed pods and bubble wrap encasing blown glass
works. He works with glassblowers in Chicago to obtain glass pieces to
complement his metal works. His distinctive pieces result from constantly
trying new techniques.
This weekend's conference will
consist of several events open to the public as well. Thursday night, a
reception featuring student work will be hosted by the Hays Public Library, and
works will be on display at the Hays Arts Council building and the Moss-Thorns
Gallery of Art in Rarick Hall. All three receptions start at 7 p.m. and end at
Also open to the public are two iron
pours, one Friday evening, beginning about 7 p.m. at the Robbins Center, and
another Saturday, beginning about noon, and a demonstration of the ancient
Japanese iron smelting process known as tatara on Friday.
North Campus Drive has been closed
off from Park Street to Campus Drive and portable bleachers set up for the
various demonstrations in and around the Rarick Hall foundry yard.
The Western Alliance was established
in 2004-2005, and the first conference was presented in 2006. Since that time,
locations of the bi-annual conference were Denver, Colo., Missoula, Mont., and
Las Vegas, N.M.