Twenty-first annual ‘Down on the Farm Iron Pour’ July 2-8

Kelly Ludeking with a bronze memorial decoration he created using a 3D-printed mold instead of a traditional carved mold. (Driftless Multimedia photo by Zach Jensen)

By Zach Jensen,

Kelly Ludeking with a bronze memorial decoration he created using a 3D-printed mold instead of a traditional carved mold. (Driftless Multimedia photo by Zach Jensen)

Decorah native Kelly Ludeking has worn many hats. He’s done web design, driven a forklift in a funeral supply warehouse and has even sold used cars. But, what he’ll be most remembered for is his art — specifically, his work with iron and bronze, welding, pouring, casting and sculpting iron and bronze pieces around the globe. From Decorah to Minneapolis, New York City and overseas, Kelly’s art can be found on almost every continent, and every year he passes on his joy of sculpting metal to eager crowds of fans and aspiring creators during his annual Down on the Farm Iron Pour event. This year’s “Pour” will be held Tuesday-Monday, July 2-8 at his family’s farm at 1421 200th Street outside of Decorah.

“One of the best things I know how to do is to distill down complex ideas into an easy way to learn and understand how to make something — whether that’s welding or casting,” Kelly said, emphasizing the educational side of the Pour. “I can teach you how to make something from the ground up, in a short amount of time, and I really enjoy doing that.”

During the week leading up to the actual Pour, students and aspiring artists learn from Kelly how to make molds. Then, the night of the pour, molten iron, created by melting cast iron radiators and bathtubs at 2,600 degrees, will be poured into the student-made molds to create unique pieces of art the cast makers can then take home with them. 

Kelly said that while it’s fun to create art and pour glowing liquid-hot metal at night, his priority in the pour is to pass on his knowledge and teach others how they, too, can make art. To that end, all proceeds from the event goes to pay for materials and for scholarships for students to come to the Pours to learn from Kelly. The event is free to attend and watch, but there is a cost if an attendee wants to create something.

“Last year, we gave out about $10,000 in scholarships to kids coming to the Pour,” he said. “We hate turning people away and saying, ‘You can’t be a part of this because of money’, so helping to make this experience possible for everyone is very important to me.”

Dedicated to his father, Ron, who recently passed, this year’s Pour week includes the following schedule:

• Tuesday, July 2: 6-8 p.m. Workshop for pattern making, scratch tiling direction or multi-part mold-making assistance

• Wednesday, July 3: 6-8 p.m. Sand studio opens, workshop for pattern making, scratch tiling direction or multi-part mold-making assistance

• Thursday, July 4: 1-3 p.m. Workshop for pattern making, scratch tiling direction or multi-part mold-making assistance; Iron Farmers Market art show closing reception at 7 p.m. at ArtHaus in Decorah

• Friday, July 5: Sand Studio closes at 11:59 p.m.

• Saturday, July 6: Pour day, including multi-part molds banded and ready for the pour floor queue by 10 a.m., scratch tiles completed by 3 p.m., molten metal begins around 6 p.m. and ends around 10 p.m.

“If you look at ‘iron’, ‘ron’ is in Iron, and that’s my dad’s name,” said Kelly. “So, we’re actually calling this Pour the ‘I-Ron Legacy’, because this is his farm, this is his place, and without him, I wouldn’t be here.”

Prior to the Pour, beginning on June 7, ArtHaus is hosting its annual Down on the Farm Iron Farmers Market, which is an art show that has been created and curated by Kelly and his wife, Diane. 

“It’s artwork that’s been made here during the Pours over the last 20 years,” Kelly said.

The last day of the Art Haus Down on the Farm Iron Farmers Market is July 4 – just in time for the Pour on July 6. 

Kelly said 150-200 people from all over the United States and abroad are coming to this year’s Pour, including artists and fans from Hawaii, Florida, New York, the Netherlands and possibly Ireland. Camping and RV sites, running water and outhouses will be available for use by those in attendance. New offerings, including a possible ice cream social Friday night, are added frequently, so Kelly suggests that those interested should visit their website regularly. He also said, “This is a farm”, so people should plan accordingly and bring lawn chairs, blankets, coolers and bug repellent. 

For more information, visit downonthefarmironpour.com or follow “Down on the Farm Iron Pour” on Facebook or on Instagram @dotf.ironpour.

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