Tag Archives: welding

The Crucible

How can I write about metal art in Oakland and not speak of The Crucible? It’s an institution, and one of my favorite things about Oakland. This is what makes Oakland cool. That you can throw a festival of fire next door to BART, in which a column of fire is sprayed 80 feet into the air, with the bart tracks & trains running right by. What do the people from Walnut Creek think?!!

This multi-disciplinary non-profit facility is responsible for a good chunk of art at Burning Man, the annual Fire Arts Festival in Oakland (which moved to a new location near Fruitvale this past summer), and a slew of classes at their West Oakland Bart oriented location… everything from blacksmithing (of course), to ceramics, fire-dancing, moldmaking, and much more. Please check out their links, because I simply can’t tell you enough to truly do them justice.




The word ‘crucible’ refers to a vessel or container used for heating substances to high temperatures. Below is an example of one they have sitting out front… It’s comprised of thick steel wrapped around an interior of concrete, and it is huge!

Another meaning of the word is “a place, time, or situation characterized by the confluence of powerful intellectual, social, economic, or political forces.” (dictionary.com) The Crucible truly is this, for they define themselves as a collaboration of Art, Industry, & Community, and rightfully so.

Their location in a historically depressed part of West Oakland rejuvenates the area with art, commerce, and education, accessible to all through classes, community events & service projects, and more..


They recently received an NEA grant that allowed them to install a new ramp, making the facility wheelchair accessible. See below all the intricate metal work adorning it, icons of bay area history, glossed in fire-engine red enamel … our current city logo (the oak tree), the Port of Oakland, the Fox Theater, the Tribune Tower, the Bay Bridge, the Black Panthers, Rosie the Riveter and more.



Metalmania in E-ville…

The incredibly ornate and decorative metalwork on this building has mystified me for years.  I now know that the man responsible is Daryl Rush.  He is a builder/contractor/magician with metal.



What I love about his style is how organic it is… check out the copper “vines” on these windows… Are these not the coolest security bars you’ve ever seen?!?



And he works with a wide variety of metals, unlike the pieces we saw earlier in the week that were mostly made out of steel and hence, have rusted uniformly. Daryl mixes copper, bronze, steel, and stainless, and plays with texture, grinding and polishing some areas smooth and shiny, while hammering patterns reminiscent of carved wood or chipped stone into others.


So as you may have noticed from the title of this post, this workshop is actually in Emeryville, but just a stone’s throw from the Oakland border, literally (I’ve got a good arm). Note the soldier on the corner of the building in this shot… recognize it? This is the Suits & Soldiers mural from my first post, and I’ve since connected with the artist and will be posting my first artist interview in the next week or two. Please check back!


This last one is the back door to his workshop, a truly incredible piece of sculptural art. It’s hand-formed out of three kinds of metal with slumped glass incorporated (the green areas). See more detailed photos here. All I can say is, “WOW!”

Have you heard of this thing called Burning Man?

So you had to figure I’d get around to talking about Burning Man during my discussion of metal art, right?

Let me begin by saying I am not an expert on Burning Man. Nor do I play one online.

But I have been to this incredible festival more than once, and one of the most magical things about it, is unbelievable amount of truly fantastical art that folks spend months (or years!) creating, to haul out the desert for this week long spectacle, described as “the world’s biggest party”. It really is.

While cruising down the Mandela Parkway in West Oakland a couple weeks ago, I spotted something looking like an art compound… a fenced in lot filled with trailers and sculptures and some really amazing art. There were walls covered with gorgeous murals which I’ll have to cover in future posts, because for now, we are talking about metal.

Check out these two characters towering over the fence… the tall one must be 30 feet high, if not higher. Huge human figures welded together out of small rings of metal. If my memory (and research) serves me correctly, these were part of Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusalito‘s Crude Awakening sculpture at Burning Man in 2007, in which 8 human figures in varying poses of reverence, led to a 99 ft tall oil derrick that would ultimate blow thousands of gallons of fuel and fire into the air. It was clearly a critique of our consumption of fossil fuels, yet in its critique, it devoured a rather sick amount of fuel in mere seconds. Illogical perhaps, but quite a show!

I was there. We’d positioned ourselves on the front lines, just outside the fencing surrounding the derrick.  But when the guys in the fire retardant suits told us it was going to be “quite intense“, we decided to move back a good 50 feet.  Even so, it was like nothing I have ever experienced (or likely will ever experience again) in my lifetime.  Phew.




Here’s a brief article about the piece by Brian Doherty (with photo by Lane Hartwell)… http://www.wired.com/underwire/2007/08/crude-awakening/

And here’s a short clip of the explosion:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nj3mWMdv978&feature=related

Obviously the derrick was destroyed (did you catch the sinister laugh that accompanied it’s demise?), but the human figures, or at least two of them, clearly live on.  I wonder where the other 6 now rest…

Automania continued…

So I had planned to move on to something else today, but since my dear devoted reader asked (thank you Rattlebox), I will talk about Automania a bit more. However, please note that I do go to a bit of effort to set up links to all the wonderful artists and studios I mention, and though I try to highlight as much information in my posts as I can, you will undoubtedly be better served by using these links and going straight to the source!

Having said that, Automania is a supplier of picture cars and props to the film industry. Their warehouse spans a full block, and apparently houses an incredible number of historic cars, as well as auto-related props, sets, and backdrops. Check out their picture car photo gallery and imagine the implications of their insane parking scenario… 

It reminds me of those puzzles we did on long car drives when I was a kid, where a square with 16 square slots was filled with 15 tiny square pieces that slid either horizontally or vertically within the larger square… you could only move one piece one square at a time, and the goal was to rearrange all the pieces to form a picture. Needless to say, those puzzles were fun for all of about 5 minutes. I can’t imagine being Automania’s parking lot attendant. Yikes!

The company was founded by car enthusiast Bill Silveira, and I am assuming he is the creator of many of the metal sculptures featured in and around the property.  You can see more of his artistic creations here.  And here are a few more shots I took as I tooled around his warehouse in Jingletown…



Check out the cool cactus planter created out of a couple slabs of metal above.



Rust in Peace

So I thought this week we’d talk about METAL…

Many of us in modern society have little experience manipulating metal, other than perhaps wrapping a piece of tinfoil around our leftover pizza or crushing a soda can before tossing it in the recycling. But for centuries of human history the man who could shape metal was an important man indeed.  He made the weapons and armor, the horseshoes, plowshares, and wagon wheel rims, the locks and chains, nearly all of the tools, and much much more.  There is a wealth of information on this history at the Appalachian Blacksmiths Association website.

With the industrial revolution and the mechanization of many processes, many blacksmiths were replaced by machinists in factories.  Many of these metalworkers went on to become the first generation of auto mechanics (Wikipedia).  Which kind of brings us right around to where I want to be…

I’ve been wanting to focus on metal sculptures and other interesting manipulations of metal for a bit now, but was reminded last week when I took a walking tour of the Jingletown area around the Institute of Mosaic Arts. I passed by Automania and saw all kinds of fantastic metal sculptures and fabrications, mostly welded together out of car parts. Automania’s front entrance is on Glascock, but the back of the warehouse and car lot are on Ford Street, which is where these shots were taken.



Aren’t they gorgeous? I love the spark plugs!