Wild Iron

Wild Iron:  Smelting and Geological Connections with Jeffrey Funk

Session 3 June 29th through July 10th

In this course we will explore the elemental process of making wrought iron from ore.  The class will include collecting ore from an abandoned mining area in central Montana, digging native clay for building the furnace, and making charcoal from wood harvested on the school property.    We will focus on cultivating an intimacy with the materials used, and awareness of where the essential ingredients originate.

The furnaces we build and techniques for operating will be based largely on the techniques developed by Lee Sauder (the widely acknowledged expert on bloomery type smelting in this country), but we will be exploring both ore and refractory materials that are somewhat different from Lee’s extensive work.  Our process will expand on the experience the instructor has gained from working with these materials and aim to make good iron from which both utilitarian and sculptural objects can be forged.

The two-week length of the class should allow for collection and processing of materials, the building of the bloomery furnaces, several smelting trials, and the subsequent forging of the bloom iron produced.  This class is intended for students who want to deepen their relationship with iron, beyond simply forging an industrially produced material.  It is an invitation to take part in what is essentially a mystical process; one that transcends ordinary understanding and experience, a sort of ritual return.

No experience is necessary.  A reading list will be provided to registered students from which to study the history and techniques involved in iron making of the past.