SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A pour at BronzeAge Art Casting in Sioux Falls is a sight to behold.
And it’s happening more and more often as the business is busier than ever.
Bronze has a melting point of nearly 1,700 degrees.
“Yeah, it’s perfect,” BronzeAge Art Casting owner Rick Haugen said.
Meaning warm spring evenings quickly turn hot when it’s time to pour at BronzeAge Art Casting, especially with a desired temperature of 2,000 degrees.
“Too close to the melting point, it starts to solidify, cool off and solidify, too soon,” Haugen said.
Rick Haugen has owned BronzeAge for 17 years and is careful not to go too hot.
“We go a little hotter, but if you get it too hot you get more shrinkage and you can have more casting defects, so we try to find the happy medium,” Haugen said.
During the final stage of the casting process, shells are pulled out of the kiln and put into the pit, before a red-hot pot of molten bronze is moved into place.
“Picked it up with the shank, or yoke, and then using the hoist for the weight moved from shell to shell and poured molten bronze into each shell,” Haugen said.
This individual pour is part of a much larger project.
“Part of a life-size rendition of the World War II Marines memorial of the flag raising at Iwo Jima,” Haugen said.
The castings are beginning to pile up, but this piece is just getting started.
“There are six Marines total on a rocky base and there will be a flag pole with it. I don’t know if it will be an actual flag or it might be a cast bronze flag, but these are life-size replicas of the much larger memorial in Washington, D.C.,” Haugen said.
Each Marine requires at least 20 pieces, while the base includes upwards of 30 parts. Haugen says the overall project will take at least 1,000 hours.
“Over 100 hours just in metal work on each figure, the base will be another 200 hours,” Haugen said.
The finished product won’t be completed until late summer. As for where it will end up… Haugen’s not sure.
“The artist is from Nebraska and he worked with a person down in Oklahoma last year that we cast a twice life-size eagle that had a 14-foot wingspan, 10-foot tall, and we delivered and installed it near Tulsa, Oklahoma, so my best guess is it’s going down to that same area,” Haugen said.
The art doesn’t always travel halfway across the country.
“I absolutely love bronze casting because it’s a transformative process and every time you see it, it’s just like molten sunshine being poured into a mold,” Sioux Falls artist Cameron Stalheim said.
Cameron Stalheim has had six works of art transformed into bronze, including the Coyote on the USD campus, and has nothing but praise for BronzeAge.
“Very supportive, very kind, and they’re very energetic, and they’re excited to see new projects come through, and they love helping out the community and creating work for the community,” Stalheim said.
Stalheim’s most recent collaboration with BronzeAge is titled Linger and can be found on SculptureWalk in Downtown Sioux Falls.
“It’s just a tremendous amount of work, but the crew at BronzeAge just does an amazing job of really capturing the essence of the original piece,” Stalheim said.
The duo even tried something new this time around.
“We kind of did a little bit of an experiment and I mixed in holographic pigments with the lacquer so as you look at it, it kind of changes color a little bit. It’s subtle but it’s really beautiful in the sunlight,” Stalheim said.
“The better it looks for him, it looks good for us also,” Haugen said.
Haugen started his journey nearly 25 years ago working for artist Paul Granlund in Minnesota.
“The artist that I worked for was in his 70s when he passed away, and he always wanted to be involved with the pours up to the very end. For him it was like a kid on Christmas morning, breaking open molds to see the cast bronze,” Haugen said.
Much like his mentor, Haugen says the job never gets old. It’s also why he takes on projects like The Memorial.
“We actually enjoy the challenge, makes it a little more rewarding. The bigger the challenge, the better,” Haugen said.
And he can’t imagine doing anything else.
“I’m sure I’ll be doing this well into my 70s, too,” Haugen said.
BronzeAge will cast aluminum, brass, copper, and iron, but Haugen prefers bronze because it’s easier to work with and more forgiving when it comes time to assemble the individual parts.
BronzeAge will host “The Sun Pour” — its free outdoor iron pour — on Saturday, June 17th.