by Jennifer Zahrt
Nick DiPhillipo got his start in metal accidentally. Thirty-five years ago, he travelled to Arcosanti, an experimental town in the high desert of Arizona, north of Phoenix. While there, he joined the artisans casting metal wind chimes and bells, and that kicked off his career as a craftsman and artist. He now works as a professional metal caster, and he often builds his own equipment and tools. Nick got involved with The Crucible shortly after it opened by taking classes and eventually teaching in the foundry. He has also played an integral role in creating the foundry, including building the kiln and a couple of furnaces.
His background as an industrial craftsman helps focus his teaching style on imparting skills and tools. He encourages his students to pursue their own work, and he makes sure they learn how to do that work safely and well. He created the Foundry Fundamentals course, which gives students a toolbox of skills needed to create projects successfully in the foundry. He also teaches a bell-making course, which dovetails with his current interest in creating sound sculpture.
|In his classes, he likes to create an environment where everyone feels energized and connected. For Nick teaching and pouring metal is a lot like theater performance: when you’re on, you’re on, and the rest of the world melts away. Of his youth classes, he says, “When people are pouring metal there’s an incredible sense of focus. You see this especially with the youth. We’ve found a way to make pouring metal really safe for them. When they are pouring metal, you can see it in their faces, there’s absolutely nothing else going on in the world. They are intensely focused and careful.” When students take a class with Nick, they gain both confidence and a sense of what is possible with metal.
When he’s not in the foundry, Nick enjoys applying what he knows about his craft in unusual settings, such as pouring metal at night or in diverse environmental situations. The theatrical side of The Crucible also gives him a platform to experiment with his craft. Nick has played bit parts in productions that include live foundry pours. In Romeo and Juliet he played Friar Lawrence, in Firebird he played one of the flaming “Foundry Ents,” and in Dracul he poured metal from the second story to the first story into a small container with a small amount of flash powder. The amount of control it takes to pull something like that off is pretty incredible. Overall, it’s safe to say that Nick’s joy in playing with metal is infectious.