Temperamental steel

Houston Center for Contemporary Craft gets manly with metalwork exhibit

Houston Center for Contemporary Craft gets manly with metalwork exhibit

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Colin McIntyre and Randall Dorn wrestle tentacles into their sockets. Matt Smith
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A crane helps to position each tendril of the sculpture in place. Matt Smith
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The completed sculpture stands 17 feet high and weighs 2,000 pounds. Matt Smith
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Colin McIntyre works with his sculpture, the largest piece he's made to date. Matt Smith
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McIntyre hauled the colossal piece from Austin. Matt Smith
News_iron forged install_jan 10
News_iron forged install_jan 10
News_iron forged install_jan 10
News_iron forged install_jan 10
News_iron forged install_jan 10

It's rare that the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft puts on an exhibit that attracts men. But that was the scene earlier this week as blacksmith Colin McIntyre struggled to complete the installation of Emergence, his 17-foot-tall, 2,000-lb. sculpture anchored in the HCCC's back lot as part of its latest exhibit: "Iron: Forged, Tempered and Quenched."

McIntyre's cacophonous hammering and the crane out back  had every male in a three-block radius strolling over to putter around and offer supervision, if not assistance.

It was odd watching the piece go up so roughly—we were at least sure by the end that it was in no danger of toppling over—while inside volunteers with gloves placed works on pedestals.

It's exactly this juxtaposition that McIntyre says fascinates him. Inspired by plant and marine life, he says he enjoys using the traditionally masculine process of blacksmithing to breathe life into the metal and create something delicate.

McIntyre had endured a lot that day, having been several hours late due to car troubles while he was hauling the sculpture from Austin. I later found out that once everyone finally packed it in Tuesday, the sculptor, along with the crane operator and a museum assistant, returned the next day to reassemble almost the entire piece; the long tendrils had all been one socket off their mark.

But things came together, as they always do, and the metalwork exhibit will open Friday and stick around until May. Also on display: An exhibit of traditional and conceptual tea accessories and an exhibit of jewelry made from some unlikely materials (the lego replicas of royal jewelry are my personal favorite).

McIntyre began working with metal when he was 14 in his hometown of College Station, Texas. His father is a physicist at Texas A&M and McIntyre was an architecture student there briefly before turning his full attention to metalworking.

He completed Emergence over three months in only 800 square feet of studio space. He's since moved into a bigger studio, and is splitting his time between public works and private (mostly residential) commissions.

McIntyre's next project will be even bigger. He's creating his first permanent public art piece, an giant tree-inspired archway to a park in Austin.