A ‘Good Message’ Cast in Bronze

By Beacon Staff

East coast artist Nina Winters dreams in bronze, and at Kalispell Art Casting, one of these dreams is taking shape in a 6-foot-by-8-foot samurai sculpture.

The statue – called “Galactic Samurai – Confrontation of Evil” – is Winters’ “good message” to a world that she believes is a little shaky these days.

“My interpretation of what I have done is what one person can do to change their section of their world, their family, their community, their nation,” Winters said. “I think people can reach a lot further than they’ve been taught they can reach.”

This ideal is part of the reason the samurai made a cross-country trip that began in Florida and ended in Kalispell. It started in Clearwater, Fla., where Winters has a studio. A collector saw an article on a smaller version of the samurai and thought his wife – a vice president for PepsiCo in Texas – would like a larger version for her 60th birthday.

After the sculpture was commissioned, Winters went to Portland, Ore., to start the enlargement process. She covered a foam version of the sculpture in clay and shipped it by truck to Kalispell.

Winters said she found out about Kalispell Art Casting through a friend and decided to cast her sculpture here because the staff was “wonderful.” Though she’s never met them, Winters said she feels she knows the employees through her daily updates on the sculpture’s progress.

“They are keeping me happy, while making my dreams come true in bronze,” Winters said.

Another reason Winters chose Kalispell Art Casting is the savings she can pass on to her collectors. It is actually less expensive to use the Kalispell foundry than one on the east coast, she said, and would even be cheaper than going to China like other artists do.

Jack Muir, co-owner at the foundry since 1979, said it is not uncommon for work to come in from around the country. He said his shop has also cast pieces that were eventually shipped internationally.

“We’ve done a lot of different things in a lot of different places for people that just happen to find us,” Muir said.

The foundry employs about 20 people, he said, though at its peak it had around 45 people on the payroll. Business has slowed down lately, and Muir thinks it may have to do with various factors, such as the rising cost of bronze and losing some of the foundry’s main artists.

Winters said she hopes to make a difference through her work, and part of this idea is finding ways to keep her pieces in the U.S. and employing Americans. Another dream is eventually establishing peace parks for children in other countries.

“If you’re so lucky as to be really happy, then it’s your duty to help people,” Winters said.

In January, Winters will travel to Kalispell for the first time to put the finishing touches on the Galactic Samurai. This means making sure it looks exactly the way she wants it to, Winters said, and involves coloring the bronze and polishing certain parts, such as the samurai’s sword.

The final sculpture will weigh in at about 1,700 pounds and will have a supporting structure bolted and welded to the inside.

The samurai will eventually rest in concrete, Winters said, though the collector also asked that it be built in a way that he could move it if necessary. These are all specifications she is confident the foundry can meet, Winters said.

During her week in Kalispell, Winters said she will cross country ski in Glacier National Park and make connections in the area before she comes back to meet with the collector in February and the samurai is shipped to Texas.

Creating the sculpture has nurtured new friendships, Winters said, including those in Montana.

“It’s wonderful,” she said. “The piece is exquisite. I’m very excited.”