Born from fire

On a recent afternoon, sculptors Russell Beebe and Jack Langford put the finishing touches on a bronze replica of the "We Are Here" statue that used to greet visitors to the Ashland Plaza at the corner of Lithia Way and Main Street. The 19-foot wooden statue was moved to the Southern Oregon University Hannon Library last December to prevent further deterioration from the elements.

In a process called heat-coloring, Beebe and Langford used propane torches to heat the 1,500-pound bronze statue, creating brilliant blues and magentas. While the metal was still hot, the two went back over the piece with metal brushes, bringing out golden browns and leaving the brighter coloring in the creases.

Depending on the temperature of the metal, different colors will develop when it's brushed, so Beebe and Langford had to work fast in order to get the right colors out of the heat-coloring process.

"When you wire brush it, you catch it at different heat windows as it cools down," Langford said.

The bronze will darken and eventually turn green unless it's maintained periodically or re-waxed.

"I made the flanges on the bottom such that you just take out the bolts and a crane can just lift it and move it," Langford said. "It can be re-waxed where it is, but if it needed to be cleaned and completely re-done, you could just remove it without removing the stones at the bottom."

The sculpture was to be waxed before its installation, scheduled for today. A dedication ceremony is planned for May 23.

Langford has been working on the bronze copy of the "We Are Here" statue for over a year now.

The original wooden carving, by Beebe, was commissioned by developer Lloyd Haines, who owns the land it stands on. It was made from an alder tree that was removed to build a new building there and was dedicated in 2006.

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