Fire Arts Festival Q&A: James Reinhardt will be featuring his interactive fire sculpture to Breckenridge
IF YOU GO
What: Second annual Fire Arts Festival
When: Thursday, Jan. 28 to Sunday, Jan. 31 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. All sculptures will be ignited on the hour.
Where: Breckenridge Arts District campus
Editor’s note: The second annual Fire Arts Festival, in conjunction with the International Snow Sculpture Championships, begins Thursday, Jan. 28. The festival, presented by Breckenridge Creative Arts, is a multi-day celebration and exhibition of fire, metal, glass and light art. This is the second in a series of Q&A’s with nationally-known fire sculptors who will be bringing their pieces to the event. All sculptures will be ignited on the hour, starting at 5 p.m. and ending at 9 p.m., from Jan. 28–31.
James Reinhardt is the owner and founder of Forward Fabrication in Seattle, Washington, which builds custom sculpture and furniture for clients. He has a passion for big, interactive art displays that shoot fire, and his work has been showcased in various venues including Burning Man. He and his team received honorarium grants for his work with an interactive fire cube called Tesseract at the multi-day gathering in Nevada.
Summit Daily News: Tell us what we can expect from your piece “The Pyred Eye”?
James Reinhardt: “The Pyred Eye” is an interactive fire piece that can be turned by any participant who wishes to engage with the sculpture through a wheel that turns the flaming sculpture.
SDN: How long did it take you to create your project, and what was the process behind it?
JR: The process began with a few large pieces of rolled tube left over from a previous art installation. These pieces were already made, so I had something of a head start on the project. Next, I created an internal network of plumbing to supply the propane to the ring that would be made of the rolled pipes and tested those before welding them into the ring. From there, a rotating propane valve needed to be sourced, and it was really difficult to find one. A Burning Man friend sent me in the right direction, but I had to become a propane vendor to buy the special valve. It was by far the most time-intensive portion of the project — getting that valve in house. And, as soon as it arrived, a shop mate in my building said to me “Oh, I have one of those sitting in my garage.” Thinking he must be joking, I did not expect anything to come of it. The next day, he brought in the same exact valve. In exasperation, I said, “Why didn’t you tell me you had one of those?” His response — “Well, you never asked.”
SDN: How did you first get into fire sculptures and how long have you been creating them?
JR: I have been building fire art now for four years and was interested in building large-scale installations; and adding fire is, of course, very tempting. My second installation was a flaming molecule, and, after getting a basic understanding of the techniques and process involved, I was hooked.
SDN: What was the inspiration behind this piece?
JR: Inspiration for “The Pyred Eye” was partially the scrap material I had laying around the shop. With two half rings, it was a simple step to envision a circle and then add fire elements to the ring to make it a flaming gateway of sorts. Then it had to be at least somewhat interactive to be interesting and not just be a static piece. I thought that if I could get the ring to turn somehow, that would be really interesting. Talking to an engineer friend of mine, he suggested I find a rotating valve before doing anything else because, literally, the entire piece rotates around the valve, and, without that part, nothing else would matter. Once I found that part, the rest came together in terms of a way to hold the ring vertically and how to get the piece to spin with crown interaction and make the wheel more interesting by adding a triangle in the center. The original idea was to add a Masonic Eye, but, after seeing the piece with the center triangle left out, we decided that looked pretty cool. And it just happens to be an exact replica of the famous Tri-Force from the “Legend of Zelda.” A happy coincidence.
SDN: What else inspires you in your artwork?
JR: I love the look on people’s faces when they feel they have control over a piece of art. When someone interacts with a piece physically, it makes the connection that much more powerful. Establishing that relationship and having participants be able to enjoy the piece and want to show it off to their friends is what interactive art is all about. Giving some control to the participants, so that they may feel more a part of the process than just an observer.
SDN: What is the most important tool you have when it comes to your work?
JR: Definitely a crescent wrench.
SDN: Do you have any other projects you are currently working on that you’d like to mention?
JR: I have some ideas kicking around for the next year’s festivals, but, until the critical mass of pressure and time lines approach, I find that there is not a sufficient amount of stress to make a project crystallize.
SDN: What are you most looking forward to doing while in Breckenridge?
JR: Snowboarding and meeting all the new people (who) will make the sculpture come alive. It is also a real pleasure to be able to hang out with other fire artists and see how they make their art and what their approach to living as an artist means to them.
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