National Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art & Practices

March 31 - April 3, 2021
Sloss Furnaces
National Historic Landmark
Birmingham, AL

Lived Histories/Imagined Futures

2021 NCCCIAP Theme

Due to the current pandemic, the National Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art and Practices (NCCCIAP) will be held virtually in 2021. We look forward to supplementing and deepening these remote sessions around our 2021 theme, Lived Histories/Imagined Futures.  As a guiding frame for engaging the lived histories and future possibilities of cast iron, we will draw from our shared archive, the Pig Iron Rough Notes, and we will produce a new volume of the Rough Notes with contributions from conference participants. 


Sloss Furnaces launched the Pig Iron Rough Notes in November, 1926, as a monthly publication with about 600 subscribers, taking its name from the expression, "as rough as pig iron." Despite its small stature, Rough Notes became one of Sloss Furnaces' greatest contributions to the advancement of the foundry trade, as a circulating venue for relevant educational and technical information. 


This year, we ask the Fe community to take an introspective look into the history of Sloss Furnaces, including issues of the Rough Notes as well as recorded oral histories of Sloss now held digitally by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Engaging with these records, we encounter moments of community-building and innovation as well as moments of short-sighted exclusion, entwined in the U.S. history of systemic racism. As we join together remotely to imagine the future of cast iron, how might these histories inform what we envision? How might we work to amplify underrepresented voices of the past, and in turn seek to uplift diverse artistic visions in the present? The 2021 conference, Lived Histories/Imagined Futures, holds space for multiple perspectives as we join together in listening to the past and imagining a shared future.

Lived Histories

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2021 NCCCIAP Steering Committee





From deep in the heart of Texas to the big city of Chicago, Eric Fuertes has been rockin’ and a rollin’ from coast to coast. Fabricator to the stars and foundry man extraordinaire, Señor Fuertes has been full tilt hustle and brings his talents and energy to the Historic Sloss Furnaces as Chair for the 2021 National Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art and Practices. El Santo Fuertes is currently the Manager of the Columbus Digital Fabrication Studio at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he continues to keep his finger on the pulse and foot on the gas while he pioneers supafresh and innovative modes of thinking and doing. Don’t get him wet. Don’t feed him after midnight. Never say his name three times in front of a mirror and for more information you can howl toward the north...OR visit and friend him on FB!!!

Julie Ward-black-and-white.jpg



Chair - Elect

Julie was an Artist in Residence at SLOSS from 2001-2008. Ward graduated from The Ohio State University in 2010 with an MFA in Sculpture. In 2014 Ward completed a second MFA in Electronic Media from the University of Cincinnati’s department of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. Julie is currently an Associate Professor and Area Head of Sculpture at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL.



Outreach & Media - Director

Cassie Kise is an artist, fabricator, and educator based in Oakland, California. Originally, from both Philadelphia and Carmel Valley, California, Kise received her BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago with concentrations in Art & Technology, Sculpture, and Photography. She is Foundry & Kinetics Faculty at The Crucible in Oakland. In addition to teaching, Cassie works full-time as the Studio Operations Manager at California College of the Arts where she oversees all facilities for the sculpture and the freshmen class.



Outreach & Media - Deputy Director

Lauren was steeped in the traditions and crafts of Northern Europe and Appalachia. Her artwork serves as a conduit for fleeting personal and collective memories. For almost 20 years, she has been involved in the iron casting community and is recognized for her utilization of ferrous metals and natural colorants for mark making.



Workshops - Deputy Director

Gabrielle Egnater was born in Los Angeles, California to a family of printmakers and lighting designers. She transplanted to Chicago to pursue a BFA in Sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. During her time in undergrad, Gabrielle interned for the Kohler Arts/Industry Program. After graduation, She remained in the Midwest as a Classroom Coordinator for the Cranbrook Art Museum. She is currently the Foundry and Metalshop Technician at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.


they/them/theirs or s(he)/(he)r/(he)rs

Panels & Presentations - Deputy Director

Alexandra Rose is currently located on Chochenyo Ohlone land, also known as Berkeley, where they work as the wax room assistant and mould librarian at Artworks Foundry. They received a BFA in studio arts from The Institute of American Indian Arts with an emphasis on cast metal, and chemical darkroom techniques. S(he) is an intermedia artist gravitating toward metal in both photography and sculpture. Within their process of creation, making becomes a therapeutic ritual for understanding through materiality which focuses on the body as the unique vessel for the human experience; revealing themes of growth, change, and the evolution of the authentic self.



Demonstrations - Deputy Director

Megan Pace is an artist who explores the nature of human interactions, female identity, and the tessellation of abstract forms, through her studio practice. Pace earned her BFA with a concentration in sculpture from Kennesaw State University in 2018. She has done undergraduate research with the Master Craftsman Program at KSU and interned at iD3 Group. Since graduation, she has apprenticed at a print shop in Dallas, TX, and moved to Kansas City, MO, where she is currently building a studio, exploring new bodies of work, and seeking to find and grow an iron community in the Kansas City Area.



Student Cupola Competition - Deputy Director

Danny is a native of the Midwest living in either Illinois or Missouri throughout his life. He holds a BFA from Southeast Missouri State University with an emphasis in Sculpture, an MA in studio Art from Eastern Illinois University, and an MFA in Sculpture from Southern Illinois University of Carbondale. Growing up around a family of metal workers, Danny felt at home in the world of outdoor metal sculpture where he was able to channel his lineage of metal fabrication through a creative lens. As time went on, Danny discovered metal casting and quickly fell in love with the opportunities presented by way of molten metal, specifically iron. Currently Danny lives in Peoria, Illinois with his wife Jam, three kitties, and one big happy dog. Danny and Jam own and operate Black Dog Metal Arts where they offer iron casting and educational outreach to the central Illinois region and beyond.



Guest Furnaces - Director

Waylon is an artist, fabricator, woodworker, foundry nerd, sculptor’s secret weapon, surly head chef, reluctant consultant, canoe builder, bicycle mechanic, devoted trail shredder, retired bluesman, and giver of eternal piggy-back rides working in Greenville, South Carolina. He earned a BFA at East Carolina University (2005) and an MFA at the University of Kentucky (2012). His work deals with ominous themes regarding the importance - in a technologically escalating culture - that humanity remain connected with the past through greater understanding, appreciation, and knowledge of traditional materials and processes. Waylon currently operates a full-time studio and teaches adjunct at Furman University.



Performances - Deputy Director

Jesse Blumenthal is an internationally exhibited, museum collected Artist and Educator residing in Missoula, Montana. In 2019 Blumenthal’s work received a permanent collection purchase award from The Yellowstone Art Museum, was awarded a Montana Arts Council Artists in Schools and Communities Grant supported by The National Endowment for the Arts, and received four separate regional grants to support community based foundry events. Recent public sites have included Salem Art Works, Bozeman Sculpture Park, The International Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art, Sculpture in the Wild, and Open AiR. Jesse was raised in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He attended UMass Amherst, earning a BFA in Sculpture in 2007, and completed his graduate work at The University of Montana, earning an MFA in 2019. Jesse's work will be featured as a fellow at Franconia Sculpture Park and Burning Man Arts and Music Festival in 2021 as well as a solo exhibition at The Holter Museum of Art in 2022.



Exhibitions - Deputy Director

David was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and raised primarily in the rural farm areas of the commonwealth. He is an explorer and maker of things. He received a BFA in graphic design from Western Kentucky University and a Master of Fine Arts in sculpture from the University of Iowa. An avid maker, builder, mold maker, and metal caster, his work has been exhibited in national exhibitions throughout the east coast and midwest. He has shown internationally in group exhibitions in Australia and Germany. His series, entitled Germination, was presented in a solo exhibition in South Korea. He is an Assistant Professor of Sculpture at his alma mater, Western Kentucky University. He is a board member for Sculpture Trails Outdoor Museum and founding mentor to the WKU League of Sculptors. David's passion for metal casting stems from his desire to connect to a larger art community.



Volunteers - Director

David Fricke is a sculptor, furniture maker and fabricator living in Cookeville, TN. Since his undergraduate studies at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Fricke has worked for metal fabricators, glass artists, wood sculptors, and foundry artists. He is currently a woodworker and steel fabricator for Brad Sells at Bark Studio in addition to his own public sculpture commissions, community art projects and commercial design/ construction work. Fricke's sculptural work focuses on the combination of metal, wood, glass and text to create abstracted artifacts.



Mold Master - Director

Derek has a BFA in sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2010), where he was also employed as a foundry technician. After graduating, he worked at New England Sculpture Service, an art foundry outside Boston, and then with studio blacksmith John Rais in Philadelphia. He currently lives in Montgomery, AL with his wife, infant son, and one cat. Currently, he works a day job as Shop Manager at Gowan Iron, a local blacksmith and fabrication company, and runs his own business, Empirical design|build, creating custom furniture and fixtures in wood and metal.



Outreach & Media - Deputy Director

Sylvia Hardin attended the University of Central Arkansas for a BFA in Studio Art. She currently lives in the greater Austin area working as a Creation/Mold Specialist at Deep in the Heart Art Foundry. She is also the president of the FEmale Foundry, an organization focused on networking and providing financial support for female identifying metal workers. For her own work, she is constantly researching and implementing the latest processes in 3D printing, CAD design, and digital fabrication.



Workshops - Director

Gabrielle Dinger is from the swamps of South Louisiana. She received her BFA in 2016 from Nicholls State University, and her MFA from the University of Mississippi in 2020. She is in the mix between teaching and working as an artist, and always looking to cast some iron with some amazing people.



Panels & Presentations - Director

Matthew Eaton is a former Sloss Metal Arts Foundry Programs Coordinator and a contemporary sculptor, printmaker and art educator who is currently an Assistant Professor at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from New Mexico Highlands University, a Professional Printers’ Certificate from the Tamarind Institute, a Master of Fine Arts with an emphasis in Sculpture from Georgia State University and a Master of Arts in Art Education from the University of New Mexico. His sculptural work is rooted in the contemporary cast iron art movement.



Demonstrations - Director

Rachel is an artist and craftsman based in Marietta, Georgia. She currently works as a wood shop technician for the Architecture Department at Kennesaw State University. In addition to taking on commissions, Rachel makes figurative works of art incorporating wood and cast metal that mix traditional sculpture techniques with digital fabrication. She graduated from Kennesaw State University in 2013, earning a BFA with a focus on foundry and metal fabrication.



Student Cupola Competition - Director

Jam Rohr owns Black Dog Metal Arts, LLC with her husband, Danny Rohr. She currently lives in Peoria, IL where she also works as the Gallery Curator at Illinois Central College and Instructional Assistant Professor at Illinois State University. Rohr received her BA in Painting with a minor in Psychology at Illinois State University in Normal, IL in 2014. She received her MA degree in Visual Art at Eastern Illinois University in 2015 and her MFA in Sculpture from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale in 2018.

Her work has been included in publications such as Expose Art Magazine, Studio Visit Magazine, Blue Room Magazine, Season 6 of Expressions on PBS, and the Studio Break podcast. Recently, she was one of 22 artists featured in the 2019 Terrain Biennial in Peoria, IL., and was one of 40 artists included in 40 Under 40: 40 Up and Coming American Metal Artists at the Metal Museum in Memphis, TN. Currently she is working on a project with Archaeologist Scott Warnasch called Eternal Iron. For more information or to participate in the project go to

For more information on Jam Rohr, her accolades, and her artwork, check out or her instagram at Jam_Rohr



Guest Furnaces - Deputy Director

Alex “Al” Johnson was born and raised in Macomb, Illinois. After high school, he attended Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois, completing a Bachelors of Fine Art in Photography in 2010. During his time at NIU, he gained exposure to sculpture and metal casting, shifting his artistic interests. In 2012, he was accepted into the graduate program at Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi in sculpture. After completing his MFA, he accepted his current position at Collin College in Plano, Texas. As the Art Labs Coordinator, he oversees multiple studios in addition to the sculpture and foundry areas.



Performances - Director

Gwen Yen Chiu is an independent artist based in Chicago, IL. She not only operates her own artistic practice out of the west loop of Chicago, she also assists in the artistic processes of other Chicago based artists, such as Richard Hunt and Eric Stephenson.She attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she originally studied fashion design and pattern making. However, she immediately fell in love with metals and changed her academic course to sculpture. Her excitement and passion for arts casting have taken her around the world, furthering her artistry and knowledge in the process, leading to her residency as visiting artist for Sloss Metal Arts in 2018. Her work, although feature cast and fabricated metal as its core, is often an orchestration of mixed materials such as fabrics, organics, plastics, and robotic programming.



Exhibitions - Director

David was born and raised in southwest Louisiana and has resided in New Mexico since 1985. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now University of Louisiana at Lafayette) in 1979 and Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1982. He is Professor of Fine Art and Chair of the Visual and Performing Arts at New Mexico Highlands University. The Western Cast Iron Art Alliance elected him as the founding President in 2008; he currently serves on their board. His interests are in thermal processes that include ceramics, metal working and performance work.



Exhibitions - Deputy Director

Michael Baggarly is an Associate Professor at Middle Tennessee State University where he teaches Sculpture and Digital Fabrication techniques. He lives and works in Murfreesboro, TN with his wife (and partner in crime) Melodie and their two kids. Michael earned a BFA from Western Kentucky University in 1998 and MA and MFA degrees from University of Iowa in 2001 and 2002 as an Iowa Arts Fellowship recipient. Michael’s focus is often not focused, in that he is drawn to a variety of materials and actions. Currently he is utilizing 3D printing for fabrication and experimental casting.



Volunteers - Deputy Director

Hannah is an artist, fabricator and herbalist living on Vashon Island in the Puget Sound. Originally from California, Hannah received her BFA from the University of Oregon. Hannah worked as a fabricator and moldmaker at a bronze art foundry in Chicago. She then managed the light metals facilities and foundry at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago while simultaneously getting her MFA from the Fibers Department. A recent artist-in-residence at Mildred’s Lane, the Chicago Public Library and the Mobile Moon Coop, she is currently co-founding an artist residency on Vashon Island and continues to work in community herbalist care.



Mold Master - Deputy Director

Natalie is a sculptor and fabricator with a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she continued to work as a foundry manager post-graduation. She is the current Lab Specialist in the Wood and Metal shop for the School of Architecture and Design at The University of Illinois at Chicago.  Beyond collegiate instruction, she teaches welding classes, including the 'Women in Welding' course at the Arc Academy.  Natalie's time and talents have taken her from her Midwestern roots all the way to the largest women's university in the world in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; building their first makerspace facilities.  




NCCCIAP Crew - Exhibitions Preparator

Rainey Rawles is an Atlanta based artist who explores the relationship between humor and the macabre within her sculptural work. She is currently the Preparator of Fabrications at the High Museum of Art, where she builds casework and installs a never-ending rotation of exhibitions. She received a BFA in drawing and painting from Kennesaw State University, where she also studied woodworking and sculpture. Her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, Mason Fine Art, Kibbee Gallery, and OZ Magazine, and is featured in private collections throughout Georgia. She spends the majority of her free time cross stitching while watching horror movies.




Virginia is a weaver, sculptor, and mold maker from Cincinnati, Ohio. After receiving her BFA with minors in Psychology and Geology from the University of Cincinnati in 2017, she interned at Josephine Sculpture Park and Sculpture Trails Outdoor Museum. Currently, Virginia is living in Cincinnati working as a Mold Maker for Rookwood Pottery Company.




James “Jimmy” Rhea received his Masters of Fine Art in 2007 at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He worked as a founder for three years at the Inferno Art Foundry in Atlanta, and as a carpenter, after completing his Bachelor of Fine Art at the University of West Georgia. His artwork is being collected throughout the East Coast and in Germany. Currently, he works at Pensacola State College as the Sculpture Instructor.




Started casting with Alabama Art Casting in 1998, interacting with various artists and members of the public. Interested in making more cast iron electric guitars and basses for
"Heavy Metal Bands".




Megan SooHoo is a Los Angeles native artist that is based in Los Angeles and Oakland, CA. She is currently finishing up her final year at California College of the Arts and is expected to graduate in Fall 2021 with a BFA in Photography and Sculpture. Her work is within the realm of photography, sculpture, and installation, but enjoys being multifaceted in various practices. Most of her work conveys the human condition within their surroundings and in most recent years, portrays her own personal experiences through her practice.



NCCCIAP Crew - Exhibitions Preparator

Erika Ann McIlnay is an artist and educator working in Dallas, Texas. She is currently working at Collin College Wylie Campus as the Art and Music Coordinator. Prior to that she was an Adjunct Instructor at Collin College Plano Campus. Even though she is living and working in Texas her heart is still in the place she was born and raised; Illinois. She received her BFA from Northern Illinois University, and her MFA from Texas A&M Corpus Christi, both of her degrees have an emphasis in Sculpture and Studio Art. She has been casting iron for fourteen years and is excited to be participating in NCCCIAP on the Exhibitions Sub-Committee.




Cara DiStefano is currently riding out the pandemic in Wrocław, Poland as a grad student. She received her BFA in metal sculpture at Memphis College of Art in Tennessee in 2016. Trained as a silversmith in undergrad she completed two internships with the National Ornamental Metal Museum and here was lured in by the foundry. From F.I.R.E at the museum to the international Festiwal Wysokich Temperatur held at the Akademia Sztuk Pięknych im. Eugeniusza Gepperta in Poland, she follows the roar of a furnace. Although Covid has delayed her defence from June until December 2020, she is continuing her exploration of place attachment and nostalgia’s links in the natural world, waiting on the furnaces to be lit again. In 2021, Rona permitting, she will be an Erasmus+ Trainee at Mão de Fogo, Fundição Artística / Art Foundry in Montemor-o-Novo, Portugal.




LIZ ENSZ, currently based in Baltimore, MD (ancestral Piscataway land), was raised in a resourceful family of penny-savers, metal scrappers, and curators of cast-offs. Ensz is full-time faculty in Fiber at the Maryland Institute College of Art and has taught foundry practices at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Ox-Bow School of Art. 




Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, he was first introduced to metal casting and ceramics while studying at El Camino College. In 2020 he received a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Based in Chicago, Zack sustains an artistic practice exploring the intersection of traditional materials and digital fabrication.




Hannah Wong is an emerging artist set to graduate from California College of the Arts, May 2021. They are majoring in Illustration and work with acrylic paint, digital painting and design tools, and wood. Hannah has also spent the last few years assisting the sculpture department at CCA and hopes to continue forging connections with sculpture/fabrication artists after school. 


Sloss Furnaces 

20 32nd St N

Birmingham, AL 35222

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© 2021 design by NCCCIAP Steering Committee.