Crucible Cast in the Mind

Article Published: Feb. 25, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Crucible Cast in the Mind

Todd resident Shamba Wright sits near his furnace, an essential component in the foundation of his own foundry.

Photo by Matthew Ellise

A recurring theme in the High Country is a "Do it yourself" attitude and a willingness to do what you love.

Shamba Wright lives in a tipi on a farm in Todd, and he is starting his own foundry. The foundry, used for producing castings in molten metal, will not be a large operation but he hopes that as he acquires more equipment he will be able to support the growing art community.

He learned the process of pouring metals during college. Since leaving school, he has been hoping to return to his metallic inclination. He works as a fine bowl woodworker currently and deals daily with knotted stumps, which he transforms into respectable tableware. He is a man who works with his hands.

At the time of the interview, he mentioned listening to a community sermon on knowing what you were born to do and serving other people.

"Some animals dig, some fly; they all have a purpose and they are built and designed for that," Wright said. "And humans were built and designed for what they are supposed to do. It got me thinking about what it is I really want to do and what it is I have been doing my whole life. And that's building stuff."

Wright has been eating spinach and greens that he has been growing this winter in cold frames. Working on the farm and living in a tipi saves him money to develop his foundry work.

"I remember picking up my first screwdriver and, as soon as I could, took everything apart, and said, 'One day, I'd be able to build it or fix it myself,'" he said. "My mom's got a picture of me in diapers and a pacifier sleeping on the floor, and I've got two hammers in my hands."

Wright is a young man, but his hands are strong and weathered from constant use. He has a pencil set behind his ear, and it is apparent that he makes marks where he sees fit. His hair is peppered with saw dust from the cold frames he has been building.

His outfit at the moment can pour 20 pounds of bronze at a time to mold. When the temperature permits, Wright will be able to cast the refractory, which will keep liquid metals from sticking to the walls of the furnace. Once the temperature is over 50 degrees consistently, the temperature needed to cast the refractory, he can pour metals regularly.

Wright went to Kansas City Art Institute where some of the nation's leading sculpture programs are taught. He was required to know bronze, aluminum and iron pouring to graduate.

"A lot of things started happening when I left Chicago," Wright said. "It was the only place I really felt like I was being held back. The rat race."

He moved to the mountains and found his place. Through the help of Tom Sternal, creator of Elkland Handwerke, and Elijiah Holman, Wright has gripped a dream.

Wright looks forward to helping local artists in their sculpting and metalwork. He encourages those who can help him, or he them, to contact him through e-mail at (

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