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 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
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.