Seabik Metalworks

In the shop, Loren’s metal sculpting tools include a gas forge, anvil, air hammer, plasma cutter, gas cutting equipment, cutting table, vises, grinders, clamps, hooks, a crane, ladders, steel tables, drill press, and air compressor.

The Air Hammer
The air hammer produces a 125 pound smack, several times per second, saving the arm of the artist and allowing for the moving of more metal. The air hammer is used for making tree branches and trunks, drawing out a piece of iron into unique long, slender shapes. Loren does most of her other forming with a hand held hammer working against an anvil. This includes the leaves for the trees, the legs and shells of the crabs, the talons for the eagle.

The Forge
The forge is fired with natural gas, and a small fan. It produces heat that can bring the steel to a hot yellow. Then it forms like clay under the hammer. The trick is to hold it with tongs in a position that allows the artist to form it before it cools off too much and becomes brittle and hard again. Every time the steel heats up and cools off, a layer of mill scale forms in the cooling process. This removes about 10% of the steel with each heating, which motivates Loren to work quickly and efficiently. It is amazing to work with the glowing steel. It feels as if it is alive and creating its own destiny. Loren finds that rather than trying to work it to some exact shape, it is often valuable to watch as it takes form and allow a new idea to develop. There is some deeper creative process going on, and that fills the work with excitement and fun.

Grinding is about 90% of the work in producing a sculpture. Various grinding tools fine tune the shape, ease rough and sharp edges, and shine the metal. The hours spent in this solitary work require special care to produce consistently insightful, active, spontaneously creative, and valuable artwork. This gives Loren’s work amazing brilliance and quality.

After the piece is constructed and a final shiny surface is prepared, Loren uses heat in the form of different sizes of torches to color the metal. The flame from the torch acts like a paintbrush, creating colors at various temperatures. Starting at 400 degrees, the silver steel begins to yellow. As the temperature rises the color shifts to copper, then violet, then blue, and then a tinge of green around 700 degrees, before it quickly turns a light gray. The gray is followed by black, around 900 degrees. This coloration process is actually a form of oxidation, sped up by the heat. It only rests in the surface of the steel and can be scratched off easily. This fragile color fades into the next color and disappears as the metal gets hotter. Here the trick is to remove the heat before the color actually appears, since the metal continues to increase in temperature. If heat continues to be applied to the steel past 900 degrees, it begins to radiate from within, and the piece becomes cherry red, orange, and yellow, but these hotter colors do not stay in the metal when it has cooled. This is a very delicate process that has required years of practice for Loren to master.

Most of Loren’s work is clear coated with a powder coating. This is a baked on finish. This protective finish gives the colors and edges a soft and finished touch that helps protect the piece from finger prints, and rapid oxidation. It helps it hold up longer outside, but does not stop rust from forming slowly under the surface. Rust may form a filigree that adds depth and interest to the piece in time. Other finishes may include: beeswax, clear spray acrylic, nickel and copper plating, or rust.

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Seabik Metalworks - Bellingham, Washington
Copyright ©2006 Loren Senge. All rights reserved