North Star Pour

North Star Pour
James Brenner 

& Dustin Julius Creech


Stars and constellations have captivated people since the beginning of time. Their place
within the history of religion, science and navigation remains relevant today across the
globe. One distinct constellation, the seven brightest stars of Ursa Major, (also known as the Big Dipper, the Plough or Saptarishi) has long been a part of international star lore and history, particularly notable for its orientation toward Polaris, the North Star.

The physical make-up of stars and constellations is evocative of and symbolically relevant to iron and iron pours. Stars are initially formed through the fusion of basic elements(hydrogen and helium) that develop into an orb of plasma, reminiscent of molten iron. Although stars can burn brightly for billions of years, they do have a lifespan that leads to their cooling—a process integral within iron casting. Iron and iron pours have similarly ancient roots within culture and the arts, and iron events attract a great diversity of traditions and people across the globe. Like stars, iron casters exist in groupings scattered around the world, but similar to the gravitational pulls that surround some stars, casters can be pulled together for an extraordinary event such as the International Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art.

The 7th International Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art is particularly fitting for an iron pour performance celebrating stars—specifically the seven brightest stars of the constellation Ursa Major and the North Star. These stars of Ursa Major are a landmark in the sky whose history transcends borders and time. Across the globe, it has different interpretations and names such as the Seven Great Sages (Hindu astronomy), the Plough (UK/Ireland), Grote Beer (Big Bear, the Netherlands), a camel (Tuareg, North Africa), Big Dipper (North America), or a bear with its three cubs or hunters (Abenaki, US/Canada).

With the diversity of interpretations of this constellation, it is important to note the recurring connection to and universality of the North Star. The seven stars, like the seven continents all have different identities and symbolism that merge to point to the North Star.

The North Star Performance Pour seeks to add another dimension to the celebration of the Latvian festival of Jāņi, occurring during the 2014 conference. Jāņi marks the summer solstice, and the bonfire is an important aspect of the festival looking toward the future and celebrating fertility. In this case, the bonfire symbolizes the sun, a star vital to life on earth. This festival is connected to celestial bodies in another way—it is said to be the time of year when nature is most powerful and the line between the physical and spiritual worlds is blurred. In this tradition, with the North Star Performance Pour, we hope to bring the cosmos down to our level and let the wonders unfold.

The performance area will be a semicircle formed by traditional wreaths and garlands. An ideal location would be at the bottom of a gradual slope or hill, allowing the audience to see the entire scope of the performance. Inside the semi-circle will be the representation of the asterism of the seven brightest stars of Ursa Major and the North Star. The asterism will be marked by a white gravel or sand pathway with a stone border, connecting each of the seven stars represented by open-faced star molds on top of wooden tripod pedestals. Down the center of this pathway will be a line of hay and lamp oil, which will be lit at the conclusion of the performance. The North Star will be separate from the asterism pathway, marked on the ground with a white gravel or sand star shape also outlined in stones. A line of hay and lamp oil will also be inside the sand or gravel star shape. The furnace will be equidistant between the North Star and the furthest star of the asterism.