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Metal of Honor

Sun Advocate publisher

For a lot of young men approaching their 21st birthday they anticipate all that comes with adulthood and maybe that first night out on the town. But for Danny Blanton, during the months that led up to his 21st birthday he was patiently designing feathers and welding them together. Night after night, weekend after weekend, he spent the better part of seven months designing the "Metal of Honor," a larger than life bald eagle, made of a combination of steel, bronze and copper.

And all the work paid off. "It was like assembling a puzzle," said Danny, proudly showing his art piece that won two prestigious awards at the Utah State Fair this past summer. It was his first large project. His entry at the state fair was selected by the judges as the "Best of Show" in the all professional creative artwork division and in addition, won the People's Choice, an award selected by fair-goers, who voted for the best piece of art work.

Blanton is manager of Gary Prazen's "Original Creations," bronze foundry. Prazen, a world famous artist and sculptor, has become well-known for his large selection of mining bronzes. As Prazen continues to create, his son-in-law, Blanton, embarks on his career. Although Prazen began his career long before 1978, that was the year he produced his first bronze, his John Wayne sculpture.

Blanton started working with Prazen two years ago, first on the small stuff like belt buckles. He is the one that cast and assembled "Buddy," the miner and his son who stands proud in Heritage Park in Price.

For the eagle, Danny started his idea with a sketch and began penciling the shape of the bird. "I really had to study the anatomy of the bird," he said.

From the sketches he began building the basic frame out of pieces of welded metal. The original frame resembled a bird, and contained the basic structure and body built of a large bird.

Pictured above on left is the cast and bronze of the eagle head. The head is the only portion of the entire eagle that is bronzed. Immediately above, Blanton is holding a couple feathers he designed, molded and welded to the eagle. It took more than 700 feathers to complete the eagle. To the right is a bronze that Gary Prazen and Danny Blanton are working on for the Stering Hills Mining Museum in New Jersey. It is named "Proud Heritage."

Next, he started on the most tedious part of the eagle. From a five-by-eight sheet of metal he designed over 700 individual feathers, first large ones for the back, tail and wings, and then smaller and smaller ones, as he got closer to the head, neck and legs of the bird. Each feather is individually cut out, ground and welded. Once the bird took shape, a protective coat of brown tint was applied.

He explained that the eagle head was first sculpted in clay. He made a mold and then cast it in bronze before it was attached to the body. The feet were created by a steel rods that was heated up and pounded out to make the claws. Then he tig-welded and sculpted the foot with a heliarc welder.

The eagle sits on a base that was welded to appear as a cedar branch.

This is Blanton's first large piece and is completely original and one-of-a-kind. "There will never be another piece exactly like this," he said as he showed me the beak, eyes and feet that were the only portions of the piece that are bronzed. The entire creation was a hands-on project.

Blanton explained the difference between a one-of-a-kind and a limited edition. When they create a limited edition bronze they have a mold and it can be reproduced depending on the number they originally choose to create. For example, the original John Wayne sculpture that kicked off Prazen's career was an edition of 50, but only 13 were made. However, because there was no mold for the eagle, and every feather and piece is handmade, it is considered a one-of-a-kind.

Blanton intends on keeping the eagle as a marketing piece or show piece and his next stop is the Museum of the San Rafael in Castle Dale where he will give a presentation and have his masterpiece on display beginning Nov. 21.

A gallery in Palm Springs has offered to display this one-of-a-kind masterpiece and he has already committed to having his eagle on display during the Days of '47 Rodeo in Salt Lake City next July.

The only marketing show that Prazen and Blanton attend is a mining exposition in Las Vegas every four years. The next one is scheduled in October of 2004 and will be a large extravaganza, where the local artists will show and sell their wide variety of mining creations.

There are 33 steps in creating a bronze, beginning with the clay sculpture. The complicated process includes a wax solution, making the bronze hollow, and then sprewing the wax figures. The pieces are dipped in slurry and coats of sand are applied. The base is cut off and, holes drilled and the pieces are stacked in a coal cart before they are rolled into an oven and cooked at 1500 degrees Fahrenheit.

This melts the wax and leaves a ceramic shell. The bronze is poured at 2150 degrees. The slurry is chipped off, welded, and then ground in preparation for the finishing process. This includes a sand blasting process, a coat of sulphuric nitrate, buffed and oiled.

Prazen has developed an incredible workshop over the years, both to increase efficiencies and effectiveness of his creations.

Blanton is a 1999 graduate of Carbon High School and the son of Dennis and Marie Blanton.

He heard several times at the state fair that as young as Blanton is he has a tremendous future ahead of him as an artist. Not only does he have the drive and motivation, but he has the experience of a great artist behind him. "Gary is a great teacher and with all his experience in this business I am learning so much about designing and sculpting. Their style is more realistic than impressionistic and that seems to be a design they are both very good at.

"You can't help be motivated and creative when you are around Gary," concluded Danny Blanton, an aspiring young artist at 21.

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