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Hunk of Burning Love

Fire sculptures sizzle at WinterFest



It wasn’t just the sexy welding scenes in Flashdance that brought about the renaissance of the metal worker. Slaving over scorching concentrated flames, pouring, bending and banging a molten-hot, sparking mess of solid steel, copper or brass may seem like an archaic trade. However, it is one that time has turned from the work of necessity a popular contemporary art form.

Everything from tables to handrails, urns to fire pits are hand-crafted by metal artists. This versatility and functionality will be showcased this weekend at Oregon WinterFest as eleven metal artists light up hand-made metal fire pit creations. Wintertime and fire pits go together about as well as peanut butter and chocolate, and the outdoor fire pit scene is one that has distinct popularity in Bend—think 10 Barrel, Dojo, the Lot, Crux.

The East Entrance crossing the bridge will be lined with fire pits on both sides,” explained Kate Mitchel of Lay it Out Events, the company that organizes WinterFest, Bend’s largest festival. “We are expecting very large and intricate designs this year, some that even include areas to lounge close to the flames.”

Last year’s winners from Orion Forge, Hunter Dahlberg and Kellen Bateham said they have been working on a pit designed to warm a group of more than dozen, as well as give as the functionality of creating a place to set drinks.

After seeing last year’s entries, Greg Erickson, a metal fabricator who builds artistic and functional pieces (fountains, range hoods, planters, lights and of course, fire pits), was determined to contribute this year. His creation, pictured XX, is fabricated from an old mooring buoy and weights approximately 400 pounds.

“I started right away formulating what type of piece I would do,” explained Erikson. “As I began thinking about the piece I knew it had to be a sphere. There were an untold number of hours with the plasma torch and grinder.”

And Erickson’s entry is more than just physically impressive. The sculpture has a deeper meaning.

When I had the original concept for this piece I had just received news of a friend’s diagnosis of terminal cancer and also another friend getting ready to have a child. All of this news gave me reason to contemplate life and death,” explained Erikson. “I hope this piece reflects the complexity of life and the beauty of it.”

Ice, Ice Baby

What does it take to turn a 300-pound block of ice into a swan? Chainsaws, chisels, angle grinders, aluminum plates, sand paper and something called a scub board, a specialty sanding board made specifically for ice carving.

“It’s a board with a bunch of screws in it, like the interior surface of an iron maiden or a bed of nails,” explained James Stugart, a young ice artist from Portland. “Ice is an interesting medium. It handles like a brittle stone, carves like wood, is delicate like glass, and can be fused/polished like plexiglass.”

Stugart also noted that most ice carvers hone their skills while having another career, typically in the culinary world.

“I would say that most ice carvers are chefs,” said Stugart. “I assume at least 80 percent of ice carvers have culinary backgrounds.”Fellow competitor David Wynter, who started carving ice while attending the Culinary Institute of America confirmed this theory. As well as James Royal, owner of IceworksNW in Washington and a former cook at the legendary Seattle restaurant Salty’s on Alki Beach.

For the carving competition each competitor will be given a 10x20x40 inch block to transform into a “Burning Love” themed—and extremely temporary—masterpiece.

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