Foundry - Doug Johnson


The Marlborough Foundry has been owned and operated by four generations of the Nye family -- beginning with Howard Nye in 1953. The foundry produces aluminum objects for everything from unique art installations to town clocks to complex medical devices. Watching these beautiful, intricate and often mysterious objects emerge from dust-billowing sand molds or what look to be medieval torture devices is otherworldly -- not unlike watching an image magically appear on photo paper in the darkroom.

The workers half-jokingly describe their jobs as "the world's second oldest profession". That's only a slight hyperbole as metal objects were first cast in Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, Thailand, and India over 5,000 years ago. Many were functional (weapons, plows, pots) but interestingly, the oldest known object is a copper frog cast in Mesopotamia in 3,200 BCE. Few technologies are as ancient, versatile, timeless and universal. But casting metal is far more than that. The process demands an extraordinary blend of art and science -- creativity, experience, problem solving, technical knowledge and precision. At the same time, the work is demanding and exhausting; the environment is dangerous, dusty and hot.

These images attempt to share the experience of being a part of this environment -- the dust and steam illuminated by the morning light pouring through the windows; the red molten aluminum flowing like a demon into every crack and crevice and instantaneously igniting anything flammable; the well-worn gloves that have permanently taken on the shape of the owner's hands; the timeless nature of the tools, materials and techniques; the universal pride and pleasure of creating beautiful and functional objects of value from hard work, innovation, cooperation, skill and integrity.

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Marlborough Foundry; July, 2014