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AFS Art Casting IV highlights improving operations, service.

Searching for ways to sustain their unique niche, many art foundry operators are looking hard at ways to improve their management, metallurgy and marketing skills.

The recent Art Casting IV conference sponsored by the AFS drew some 75 art founders and artists to an intensive two day meeting held at the Cast Metals Institute campus in Des Plaines, IL.

Keynote speaker for the first day, Joel Meisner, president of Joel Meisner & Co, Inc, Farmingdale, NY, told the assembly that it takes both metallurgical and marketing skills to build a successful art foundry.

"As a production assistant to Jacques Lipchitz 30 years ago," Meisner recalled, ,my chances of finding a competent art foundry were slim. Then, there were about five art foundries in the U.S., all fairly primitive by today's standards. Today, there are some 500."

Meisner predicted that the market for outdoor sculptures will be hurt somewhat by the real estate slowdown. Although domestic art foundries are superior to offshore sources, Eastern European foundries work at a third our cost, he said.

The U.S. edge is in the personal attention domestic foundries can give to artists. He also said that more art foundries are establishing in-house galleries as additional profit centers and as a means to promote customer-artists'works.

Mel Young of P.S.H. Industries, La Grange, IL, explained a relatively new metalizing process that uses composite, arc-sprayed alloys to fabricate inexpensive pieces of metalized sculptures. He said virtually any substrate can be used, noting that fiberglassed or zinc-sprayed polyure thane surfaces produce excellent, castmetal-like results.

While having the look of a casting, a thermal arc-sprayed piece can cost 10 times less than a casting. Ideal for one-off or limited editions, the process gives small foundries an opportunity to expand their production capabilities to include are sprayed medallions and commemorative plaques, sculpture restoration, casting repairs and architectural pieces, Young said.

Sculpture instructor and nationally recognized authority on the patination of metals, Ron Young, an art instructor at California State Univ, presented slides representing the many color effects that can be induced in cast metal (particularly bronze) to add aesthetic impact. This was followed by a demonstration of some of the broad variety of color accents that chemicals, heat and burnishing can induce in a metal casting to enhance its dramatic effect and beauty. Marketing

Art foundry owner/artist, Joseph Mendla, president of Hartbronze, Inc, Milwaukee, WI, and keynote speaker for the second day of the seminar, said an art foundry is a service business. Although it may produce beautiful castings, an art foundry is basically a form of manufacturing that lives by business rules.

In starting a foundry, one must chart a market and identify potential clients. Mendla said there is no substitute for developing a clear, simple marketing strategy based on what you want to sell and to whom you want to sell.

The marketing aspect of the seminar was also addressed by Becky Ault, president of Art Research & Technology Ltd, Lancaster, PA. To assure operational efficiency, she stressed the need to have a knowledgeable financial adviser, a lawyer and a competent advertising agency.

The best art foundry in the world will fail if its potential customers don't know it exists. Advertising and sales promotion can't be sporadic; they must be carefully planned, sustained efforts requiring as much management attention as any other aspect of foundry operations.

Federal copyright law was the subject of Debra Stanek, an attorney with a large Chicago-based law firm, and a specialist in trademark, copyright and advertising matters. She drew attention to the dichotomy which exists between an idea and the expression of that idea as they relate to exclusive ownership, publication and reproduction rights.

Stanek also covered the legal problems attendant to erecting sculpture and subcontracting art under public commission, advocating that art foundries seek legal counsel to examine contracts and commissions that seem suspect or are vague on liability.

Don Doss, president of Metal Dynamics Corp, Tulsa, OK., illustrated how a foundry accounting system is key to assuring a profitable operation, maintaining competitive pricing by correctly allocating costs, determining equipment payback and recognizing high-cost areas.

Wayne Rasmussen, AFS associate technical director, covered the metallurgy involved in melting and pouring the alloys of steel, aluminum, copper and precious metals widely used to cast art; and Ross Vass, AFS laboratory manager, discussed the conventional and precision molding processes available to art foundries.
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Title Annotation:American Foundrymen's Society Art Casting IV conference
Author:Bex, Tom
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Oct 1, 1990
Words:730
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