Fire Dragon

Video highlights of the fire dragon event at the Dean Gallery during the 2022 Alaska World Arts Festival.

If you know me well, have been on one of our tours, or spent much time on my website, you know I like coming up with creative solutions. Often the result of many iterations and the odd tearing of hair.

As each one evolves, though I may not lose sleep over it, I often wake up with insights that get me one step closer to a functional design.

However, not all successful designs are so carefully planned.

Such was the case last Sunday when we hosted a fire sculpture event for the Alaska World Arts Festival.

It was the second time I’d made a dragon, and I used the remnants of one we burned at a winter solstice party years ago.

Built with modified lumber scraps threaded over a curved section of 3/4″ rebar, it spiraled from its wooden base.

As you can see in this photo, as the coals of that first dragon died, the head remained intact head at the upper end of the rebar armature but three feet lower to the ground due to the intense heat.

The remnants of the first fire dragon.

The blackened head sat on a high studio shelf, waiting patiently for revival, and the rebar spiral rusted onward in my scrap yard.

My first step towards reusing the armature for this year’s sculpture was to stretch it back open using a come-along anchored to a foundation pier. Then, with the wooden shapes threaded over the armature and stapled or screwed in place, it was time to add hay and weed flourishes.

When I drilled the head years ago, I first intended to mount it perpendicular to the neck. However, I later attached it using a second hole at the back.

As the light waned and I struck the match, fireweed leaves were the only fire coming from the dragon’s mouth. As the flames rose and they burst into flame, none of us anticipated the fiery breath that would follow.

The abandoned hole proved an unexpected engineering marvel, providing a continuous draft into the back of the mouth and bringing the sculpture to life.

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