Sunday, April 12, 2009

"Backyard Bronze"


Do you have a rich friend who collects western art? When you visit their upscale home, you probably stand in front of a beautiful stone fireplace talking about the bronze bowl or wildlife statue displayed on the expensive oak mantel. Your host lovingly describes how he or she discovered their treasure in an upscale Loveland, Colorado or Taos, New Mexico art gallery. You listen patiently while they recite the artist's biography and describe in detail other works by the same artist. You want to ask, but good manners prevent you from inquiring about how much they paid. Little do they know that their expensive treasure was probably brought to life in a one-man bronze foundry on the High Plateau?

The guy who brings these works-of-art to life is a good friend who joins us regularly on the porch to eat dinner and share stories. Dangerous, Utah, and Fremont call him Mike, but I know that isn't his real name. Years back I understand he went by Hot-Metal-Man, but the years piled up, so Bronze-Age-Man probably fits better today. Whatever the name, Mike always has a kind word and friendly pat for me.


A quick glance tells you that "Backyard Bronze" isn't a high tech operation. Mike is a collector who never throws anything away. He is surrounded by an odd collcection of house trailers, steel buildings, wooden sheds, and other stuff. When we visit to help Mike pour bronze, I have to stay in the truck. Dangerous isn't afraid that I will get hurt, but Mike fears me scattering his cats. You have to watch your step because Mike feeds a pride of twenty to thrity, depending on the day, feral cats.

Pouring Bronze

For the most part, Mike is very independent. He spends his days working alone, producing the art you see in rich peoples' homes. He does it all from making the molds, pouring the bronze, and adorning the finished piece. In addition, he builds, wires, maintains, and operates his one-man foundry. On occasion, he does need a little help, and that's where we come in. Even Mike can't cast alone. It is pretty tough for him to lift and pour molten bronze from a 70 to 100 pound crucible by himself. Whenever we are in Grover, Dangerous volunteers to help. Occasionally, Mike presses Utah or Fremont into service. However, Utah is a bit large for the protective clothing required to pour molten bronze, and Fremont is a bit tall, so Dangerous usually ends up helping when available.

High Plateau Social Gathering

Like most things, the High Plateau boys usually turn pouring bronze into a social event. If they aren't giving each other an ongoing hard time while shoeing horses, they sit around between pours verbally jabbing and making fun of each other. After all these years, you would think they would run out of personal insults, but even at their age the creative juices still flow. In between pours, they sit around insulting each other and repeating the same old stories and jokes I have heard a million times.

From the looks of the place, you might question the quality of Mike's finished products. So, to convince you that Backyard Bronze produces quality western art, I have attached an accompanying blog which includes a short picture gallery of Mike's work. Keep an eye open when visiting Santa Fe, Taos, or Boulder. You might stumble into an upscale art gallery features Mike's work. You probably won't know he produced it because the original artist gets all the credit. Break out the old credit card and buy one. You can help keep Mike in business, so we will have some place to go on rainy, cold afternoons. Love to hear from you!

PS Dangerous won't be around for a few days to type for me, so I won't be sharing any High Plateau tales with you until he gets back. He has to work a few days to pay for Trea's new kichen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mike is a Master at his craft and we are selective in our choices of fine Western Art for our home. Plan on adding more of Mike's creations in the coming year and how bad can a man be who loves kitties...don't think I could help him pour, but Clark thought it was an adventure.