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Sculpting club shapes campus art community

The+Sculpture+Club+in+the+Digital+Fabrication+Lab+to+go+through+a+demo+on+using+the+laser+cutter+provided+by+App+State.+Oct.+23%2C+2023.
Emily Simpson
The Sculpture Club in the Digital Fabrication Lab to go through a demo on using the laser cutter provided by App State. Oct. 23, 2023.

Last semester, motivated App State students formed a new club dedicated to sculpting. Typically, when someone mentions sculpting, the first thing that comes to mind is clay, but this group of students is focused on making sculptures out of cast iron by melting it in a furnace and pouring the liquid form into molds. 

The club got its unofficial start last year when senior studio art major Mandy Bass, now president of the club, and a handful of other students decided they wanted to attend the National Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art and Practices. 

Bass said the planning for last year’s conference began in October 2022. Prior to attending the conference, the students were responsible for learning how to build their own furnace. They started the building process in January 2023, and the conference took place in April. 

Seven different groups were in attendance to compete with App State. They were judged on different parts of the iron pouring process, like the viscosity of the iron. The groups were also given certain patterns they had to pour into.

Bass said one of the biggest challenges was that the students were unable to ask questions to their advisors during the competition portion.

“The iron will sometimes freeze when it’s in the furnace if it’s not hot enough,” Bass said. “We had several times where they had to cut a hole with an oxygen lance to get the metal out.”

Travis Donovan, the clubs faculty advisor and the sculpture area coordinator in the Department of Art, said he was proud of the students for the teamwork he saw during the competition. Pouring hot iron can be dangerous, so the community bond that is built through the team work of the activity is extremely important for keeping everyone safe.

Mandy Bass, President of the Sculpture Club, explaining to the group the rules of the Digital Fabrication Lab. Oct. 23, 2023.

“It has been a dream of mine for a long time to develop a passion for sculpture within the university that expands beyond classes, but it really needs to be a student-driven initiative,” Donovan said. “It’s exciting to see these students share their passion in sculpture and the community and empower others to do the same.”

Senior studio art major Isabella Dobbs, another student in the club who attended the conference, said that even though the conference didn’t go as well as intended because of the troubles with maintaining a hot enough temperature, it was still a great learning experience. She also had similar remarks to Donovan’s about appreciating the community environment. 

“Moving forward, I hope the club will grow to make more projects that push students’ work ethics and ability to make connections with other artists,” Dobbs said.

Donovan said future activities for the club may include hosting various outdoor movie nights, a “fix-it day” where sculpture students offer their expertise in fixing broken tools or objects and building a new furnace for the next cast iron competition since they can’t take the same one twice.

“Almost every student who gets into sculpture has no idea what they’re doing. Just fall in and have fun; don’t be afraid to ask questions,” Dobbs said.

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About the Contributors
Rebekah Mann, Reporter
Rebekah Mann (she/her) is a junior with a double major in journalism and dance studies a minor in English.
Emily Simpson, Associate Photo Editor
Emily Simpson (she/her) is a junior Commercial Photography major. This is her first year with The Appalachian.
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