The climax of our annual Iron Pour benefit is the spectacle of the pouring of molten iron; glowing red-hot as it cascades into tile molds from a cupola, tossing fiery sparks in the air. It got me thinking about the correlation between fire and celebrations.
Taking a spin on the internet, I discovered an unending list of festivals that bring drama to events through fireworks, bonfires, lanterns, torches and candles. In the fall, when daylight shortens, the opportunities are plentiful for fire to fuel community gatherings of both pagan and widely accepted holidays, like Halloween.
But, it was interesting for me to discover that there is a 300-year-old festival in Nanquan, China that takes the fanning of flames to new heights. It correlates with our autumnal Iron Pour, but instead of pouring molten iron, participants throw it.
During Chinese New Year, it is a tradition to let off fireworks in an effort to scare off demons. Inspired by the sparks emitted during their iron working, a group of brave blacksmiths (who couldn't afford proper fireworks) decided to splash molten metal on their city walls, creating flower shapes as the iron cooled. Wood pieces carved in the shapes of women are used to dip into the liquid metal. The "ladies" are soaked in water for three days prior to the celebration to prevent them from combusting on impact. As the wood is dipped into a fiery bath of molten iron, copper and aluminum, multi-colored flames shoot up instantly. The men work quickly to splash the mixture that explodes in a shower of sparks as the metal strikes a cold, hard wall. The incredible scene is met with loud applause from the audience. With every ladle of hot metal, the roars grow louder and the light of the fire flowers glows under the night sky.
This scene is not unlike our iron pour. Instead of fire flowers, attendees create iron tiles to take home. Rather than donning sheepskin and straw as protective clothing, our crew suits up in the latest fire retardent gear. But, common to both festivities is the presence of fire, the cheers, the feeling of community, and the creation of something beautiful. I hope you'll join us for our 8th annual Iron Pour benefit on Saturday, October 7, from 4-8pm. Details about the event may be found here: http://www.peninsulaschoolofart.org/events/