Remembering Julius Schmidt
A little over forty years ago Julius Schmidt set me on course towards the sculpture foundry business. I first met him at registration. He suggested taking Sculpture in Cast Metal probably figuring I looked burly enough to bust up radiators and lift heavy objects.
In the mid 70’s, I had been in grad school in Anthropology but my heart was not in it. Graphic art and painting appealed a lot more, so I began taking undergrad art courses and education classes to get an art ed certification.
Must have made a good impression in Julius’ class, with 3-D acuity and mechanical ability, plus I kept my mouth shut and avoided studio politics. When I was rejected for grad school in painting, Julius took me on in graduate sculpture. I took lots of notes, read everything I could about metal casting. With most of my non art hours taken care of, there was plenty of time to spend in the studio.
Julius gave me a couple assistantships in sculpture. He also got me a Ford Foundation scholarship in 1980 to go to the International Sculpture Conference in Washington DC where we poured iron on the Mall.
In the ‘80’s, I was living in a farm house near Sharon Center, IA. I initially put together a small foundry on the farm, turning the outbuildings into a ramshackle foundry. After some time, I determined it would be best to move my backyard operation to another setting such as an old implement dealership or school. This is how I founded Max-Cast, where I turned an old 1940 Case Dealership in Kalona, Iowa into a foundry. The design of the building was based on the grad sculpture studio.
Julius suggested I attend the Cast Iron Art Conference with him in Birmingham, AL at the Sloss Furnaces in ‘88. I figured I might find some help for my struggling art foundry and, indeed, I met my wife Doris there.
I’m really grateful for the opportunity to work with Julius Schmidt. His self reliance, creativity and work ethic were admirable. The sculpture dept. today just does not hold a candle to what it was. Lots more high tech equipment just does not make up for the free wheeling spirit that pushed the bounds of creativity.
I was a music major at the University of Iowa studying percussion in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. I wanted to bridge the gap between the arts and wanted to develop visual sculptures that were also musical instruments.
My first attempts were in the jewelry and metalworking classes across from the sculpture studio. About half way through the semester, a friend of mine told me I didn’t belong in that medium. He told me I needed to talk to Julius Schmidt, and pointed at him from across the mall. I looked over a heap of scrap metal, and in the center was Julius yelling at one of his grad students. I was a bit intimidated, but asked for a signature to attend his class.
About two semesters in, he was in the audience at one of my shows. The next day in class, he pulled me aside to tell me he had a better understanding of what I was trying to do. He discussed with me ways in which I could develop new concepts for my percussion sculptures. Julius suggested I utilize flashings to create sounds. I made some small pieces to experiment with how some of that would work. When Julius saw how I implemented his suggestions, he smiled and told me that was not how he envisioned I would do it, but encouraged me to continue in the direction I was moving. It was at that point that Julius really started to take an interest in what I was doing and where I could take it. I continue to develop instruments rooted in those early ideas with “The Babaphone Project”.
I studied with him for several years after he retired. I would go out to Radillac foundry whenever I could for the few years I was in town after college to soak up as much knowledge as I could. He became not only my mentor and teacher, but one of my close friends.
I did not realize how much my life would change when I walked into Julius Schmidt's class. I am Scott Landon and I was an art student at the University of Iowa in the early 1990's. I was grateful to be part of Julius' cast iron class, during it's last four years there. The memories, friends and art that I created during that time period still impact my life today. Now I live in Davenport, Iowa and try to find time to get my creative mojo flowing! I am looking forward to seeing my cast iron family at this Pour!
Michael J. Ebeling
I met Julius formally after taking a year of intro to sculpture with David Jonkenen at the University of Iowa. I heard of an intensive introduction to cast iron class being held that summer and I asked professor Schmidt to sign the paper needed to get in. This was a big opportunity to join the crew of grad students as an undergrad and learn the foundry arts from a legend in the business.
Myself and maybe a dozen more applicants were accepted enthusiastically. We began with reliefs, plates of iron fashioned by the beginner students that when cast would be planted into the ground as step stones between the two sculpture buildings. We broke iron, made molds, loaded “Big blue” for eight weeks straight, a pour every weekend. Destination Radilac, Julius’s off the map foundry south of Iowa City was the coolest and hottest place to learn that summer.
That was the start of a life long journey into hand made art. Julius inspired, he expected the best from his students and we did our best to show it to him. Make good art was always written on his chalkboard. I had the opportunity to work alongside a master sculptor and made a lot of good friends in the process. For that I am very grateful.