Daniel E. Kelm. American, 1951–
Steel, fire brick, ceramic, wood, and rope. Produced with assistance from David Paffhausen. Courtesy of Daniel E. Kelm. Video by Kevin Derose and Jeff Derose, One Match Films.

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Alchemical Furnace

In 1988, Kelm received an Easthampton Arts Lottery Grant to construct what he calls the “performative sculpture” Alchemical Furnace. Based upon a 16th-century model, Kelm’s furnace is used to enact both the physical and symbolic transformation of materials, which are key components of the alchemist’s work. As seen in the accompanying video, three operations are conducted on scraps from Kelm’s workshop to create a bead of refined gold.

The first operation in the process is incineration: The direct burning of materials to create ash. This ash is subjected to more heat to further concentrate it (calcination). The reduced ash sample is then wrapped in lead and placed in a bone ash cupel for final refining in the furnace. The lead melts under the extreme heat, drawing other impurities from the sample into the cupel and leaving the bead of gold which is also called the “rejuvenated king.”

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