Volcano Furnace + Flight of the Phoenix

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‘Volcano Furnace : A Fire + Iron Earthwork

by Coral Penelope Lambert

The ‘Volcano Furnace’ is a 13ft high earthwork and functioning iron furnace embracing the spirit of land and celebrating forces of nature. Built primarily of earth, clay, stone and wood, a conscientious effort was made by the artist to use appropriate technology and local materials. Construction of the interior of the furnace and earth moving with bulldozers began on site at Pedvale in early June. Approximately ten tons of earth and one ton of clay was used along with reclaimed steel and iron. The ‘Volcano Furnace’ was fired up on the midsummers eve of ‘Jani’. It was ritually charged with coke and air producing molten iron at temperatures up to 2700 Fahrenheit. As the air bellowed, the Volcano was tapped three times freeing the Iron to flow like lava out of three tunnels cut out of the earthen mound. The iron flowed into open face molds cut into the moss covered Granite boulders that were sourced from nearby ancient woodland. Speeding up the work of nature like crystals that have been form over eons, the slabs of iron cooled to form diamond shaped platforms. The slabs of diamond shaped iron will remain in the rock as an artifact of the event.

Once active the now dormant Volcano Furnace Earthwork will remain on site for visitors to enjoy for years to come.

The ‘Volcano Furnace’ was designed, built and operated by Coral Lambert with assistance from her students at The National Casting Center Foundry at Alfred University, New York (Ronda Phipps, Daniel Totten, Ripley Nichols, Hannah Schilsky, Michelle Kwiecien, Lily Montgomery, Rose Oakman, Elsie Betrus, Haley Jenelik and Erik Nilson)

Each tap of the Volcano Furnace Fire + Iron Earthwork provided a collaborative platform for a choreographed series of performances and ritual involving the ‘Tree of Dawn’ and ‘The Flight of the Phoenix’ honoring the elements of dawn, sun, fire and iron, ultimately a reflection of earth’s creative process.

Coral Lambert is Professor of Sculpture Dimensional Studies at Alfred University, New York, where she directs the National Casting Center Foundry. Born in the UK, she studied at Central School of Art, London, Canterbury College of Art, Kent and received her MFA in Sculpture from Manchester in 1990. She specializes in cast metal and large-scale outdoor sculpture, investigating process and site where she often responds to the unknown elements in material actions and reactions. She combines this with an interest in land sites that contain a natural phenomenon such as a ‘fissure’ or an industrial heritage concept of a ‘scar’. ‘What we do remains?’


By Andreas Glaser, Jenny K. Hager, Cynthia Handel, Susanne Roewer

The Performance

The performance “Flight of the Phoenix” was part of a specifically designed combination of art works. Coral Lambert delivered the foundation for this international collaboration through her “Volcano Furnace” earthwork in Pedvale, Latvia. The artists Jenny K. Hager, Cynthia Handel and Susanne Roewer and dancers; introduced their views on tradition, presence, and future by adding air to the elements (and natural materials) of earth and fire. Jeffrey Kalstrom’s music offered a spiritual atmosphere to the intense scenery.

The “Volcano Furnace” erupted three times, at 300 pounds per tap, its lava flowing into pre-carved stone molds, creating a diamond shaped slab of iron into the stone. When the volcano erupted the third and final time, the “Flight of the Phoenix” began. In the dark of midsummer’s night, the 8 ft. tall bird emerged on the top of the furnace as if it slipped up from the inside of the volcano. When fixed atop the volcano, the furnace ignited the phoenix and it burst into flames. As the phoenix burned away, dancers appeared from the furnace to create a fire dance using fire fans as wings. The total combined performances lasted for three hours.

The costumes worn by the performers Jenny K. Hager, Cynthia Handel, and Susanne Roewer were comprised of leather wrap-around aprons and cotton. The colors were white with black screen-printed feathers. Hager, Handel and Roewer wore bird masks with alchemy symbols, created in wire and affixed to the masks as a headdress. The costumes were designed and manufactured by Cynthia Handel and Jenny K. Hager, the scepters planned and forged by Jenny K. Hager.

On the one hand, the dresses were made out of the traditional material foundry workers used to protect themselves from the heat – on the other hand, they had a modern costume design influenced by ballet or theatre plays. The bright white color was not affected by the dust and rust of coke and iron. This refers in a strange way to the ancient African cupola furnaces, charged by nearly unprotected barefooted people in short trousers. Screen-prints on the skirts and symbols on the masks supported the surreal, nearly sci-fi appearance of the “Volcano Furnace” stage – enhanced by Jeffrey’s Kalstrom’s music.

The Sculpture

As the earthwork “Volcano Furnace” erupted, a great phoenix rose up. The phoenix references the Mercurial Bird, a symbol for the volatility of alchemy and revered for its profound powers. Equipped with the token symbols of the mercurial bird, the performers reinvigorated its magic, power and presence.

The phoenix sculpture, itself, reflects the same combination of ancient tradition and futuristic elements as the “Volcano Furnace” and the (dance) performances. Made in the fire of a traditional three generations blacksmith workshop in Switzerland, it got the size, power and battlesomeness of a movie-creature. When interacting with the players, the spirit of HR Giger, the highly decorated Swiss Alien designer, seems to be in play. The two Phoenix-designers Andreas Glaser and Susanne Roewer gave it claws and legs inspired by medieval armors and weapons. The head, the pulley-system to move it, and also its cloth-made colorful dress at its first appearance cites antique theatre as well as B-movies with high intentions and low budgets.

Its wings folded, the volcano and the dancers awaken the bird from the ashes: A mighty creature made out of earth’s materials and the elements unfolds at the beginning wrapped in a colorful feather-dress. That show-time is short; the fancy dress gets lost in the heat, the bird falls down. It seems that only a red feather boa survived the blaze. But dancers and symbols appear and the Phoenix arises from the dust, struggling, interacting, coming up to full power again – becoming a unit with the powerful Volcano furnace hosting fire and iron.


Swiss-born Andreas Glaser is internationally known for his ability to realize even the most ambitious art and design projects in metal. Connecting the knowledge of a family-run metal-works business in third generation with high-tech manufacturing processes he find new solutions for the interaction of heritage and strict contemporary concepts.

The complex center piece of Basel’s main station, the forged snakes of the Swiss Pavilion of the 2013 Venice Biennale, glass and steel combinations for modern architecture, lamp design or a monument with an endless lantern in Germany were create in the same fire as horse shoes and garden doors for the countryside. His workshop is always busy with apprentices and very special people from various countries and professions.

Jenny K. Hager is an Associate Professor of Sculpture at the University of North Florida. She received her MFA in Sculpture/ Digital Media from San Jose State University in CA. Interested in a variety of processes and materials, including steel, cast iron, post-it notes, video, wood, digital photography and found objects, she finds inspiration in dreams, objects from her childhood, gadgets, sea life and other curiosities. She is also very interested in collaboration; the spirit of community important in both her teaching practice and in her own work. Hager’s work has been exhibited across the US and in Europe, most recently in the Durbin Gallery in Birmingham, AL, the Ogden Museum of Art in New Orleans, and at the Cymru Ironstone Castle Exhibition in Wales. Hager’s recent work is focused on large-scale parade animals inspired by the Chinese zodiac and infused with a personal narrative. A recipient of the 2013 Spark Grants funded by the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, she curated an outdoor Sculpture Exhibition in downtown Jacksonville.

Cynthia Handel’s work has investigated sculpture and performance for the past 16 years. Her work combines cast bronze, fabricated steel and cast iron elements with beeswax, silk, steel, wood and fire. She creates objects, installation, and pyro performances. Cynthia obtained her MFA from San Jose State University. She has taught at numerous Universities throughout the US including Sonoma State University, San Jose State University, Stanislaus State University, and Alfred University. Cynthia was an Assistant Professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA. She resides in Livingston, Montana where her studio is and Oakland. CA. Cynthia exhibits internationally and is in numerous collections.

Susanne Roewer was finishing the undergraduate studies in material sciences at Freiberg University before starting her artistic career. She graduated from Berlin Arts University with a Meisterschueler-degree in sculpture. Her artwork has been shown in different national and international galleries, museums, and art societies; she has completed three art-within-architecture projects. She resides in Berlin, Germany and is represented by Gallery Kornfeld, Berlin.