Wisconsin Foodie

For those of you in the Midwest that are avid followers of this phenomenal show, you already know how cool of an experience this was for me :}  For anyone else, trust me when I say :  This is the best coverage of our process here at FeLion Studios that I have ever seen to this day!

Wisconsin Foodie is a Milwaukee, Wisconsin based show that travels all across the Midwest interviewing family farms, local diners, colorful beer festivals, and restaurant's with a flare for locally sourced, wonderfully done menus and hosted by the one and only, charismatic, Kyle Cherek. 

Our segment was run in conjunction with a wildly popular local event here in Wisconsin called the Grilled Cheese Championship, which uses our Wisconsin cast iron pans as trophy's for every grilled cheese category's "best of" award. We frequent this event each year, selling our cast iron state shaped wares to the loyal audience of grilled cheese enthusiasts.

Here's an excellent look into my process. From breaking iron to cleaning up and finish grinding the castings. Remember! This is only 1/6 of the entire process for cast iron. There's still the design & pattern making, mould making, sandblasting, seasoning and custom packaging that happens thereafter. 

Enjoy this footage, found in "Act II" of the show. (Scroll to mid-point, and press play for FeLion footage).

Wisconsin Foodie

A Wedding Gift for Kate Bosworth & Michael Polish- Nov. 2013

I’ve been giving the honor to make a very special gift for newly wed actress Kate Bosworth and & movie producer Michael Polish. Though I consider every casting I make as something incredible special, giving every best effort I can muster, I still think it’s something exceptional to give the girl in “The Horse Whisperer” the #2 of my 50 limited edition Montana pans. 


The gift was an idea from Martha Stewart’s Wedding team, as they did all the nuptials for their special day in “Big Sky” Montana. Turn out, they are both fans of cooking with cast iron, and equally in love with the state of Montana ~ thus the Montana Skillet was a unique gift fit for both sides that I was SO honored to create.

Check out more "behind the Scenes" photos and story's from Martha Stewart's perspective here:


And Here: 



The Food Network turns 20 yrs old, & we're invited to celebrate !

This October, the Food Network just turned 20 years old, and boy oh boy do they know how to throw a party! 

FeLion Studios was invited to compliment the event’s décor by bringing in our 48 state cast iron map to hang in the  “Diners, Drive-in’s & Dives” section of the 75,000 square foot exhibit space at Pier 92 where the 3 hour long party took place. With a huge open space, high ceilings and column-free corridors, our 9ft x 6 ft map looked like a small painting on the wall !

            It was quite an experience setting up.  There must have been over a few hundred different Union tradespeople working beside each other within the 2 day set up period. What a task;  they had to turn a vacant shipping warehouse into a red carpet / white curtain event and tear it all down immediately afterwards. 

            When we got there the day before the event, our wall was just getting built, and new paint was ready to be rolled across the 12 ft x 10 ft wall designated for our piece. Everyone was working at full-tilt to get all the details and major installations set up before the party kicked off the following evening at 6pm.

            Needless to say, it was an all-around-the-clock kind of night for many of those workers, whom we enjoyed meeting and sharing this awesome experience with.

            Unfortunately, I don’t have photos from the party itself. It’s one of those things were I think we were generously allowed into the party under the graces of the people working the event !  So taking pictures might have rubbed a few people the wrong way. Needless to say, those 3 hours of incredible food, awesome music and strong drinks were some of the most surreal hours I’ve had at any party in my life! 

I’m happy to report that I met some awesome people and part of the creative team behind the look of Food Network's brand. I even got a chance to shake the  CEO’s hand – twice !  It was pretty cool, especially in high heels and a loud dress ;}  I'm sure he was wondering who the heck this lady was squeezing his hand and pointing to our piece hidden behind crowds of people...   I was really that excited to meet him, even if he has no idea who FeLion is :} 

            Go Big Or Go Home !!  That’s the message I took back. I hope we get more opportunities like this in our future! So far, we're pretty darn fortunate & deeply grateful for the fun adventures. 

Jesus Waffle - Out of the Ashes


Yes. That's a waffle with Jesus's face cast into it, filled with Maple syrup + the Holy Spirit. Let me explain, there's a deeply profound story here that examines the beginning of my cookwares' career as I first entered the art world.

A student of sculpture at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, I took full advantage of the surprise introduction into foundry work. At the ripe age of 19 yrs old, with a new opportunity to grow my budding creativity into this malleable world of metal, I immediately stumbled onto something that has since marked my life in a very deep way : cast iron.

I was invited to my first iron pour as a Foundations student at MIAD, and soon after, signed up for the first foundry & fabrication classes that allowed me to begin my adventures with the very early interest to somehow merge sculpture & performance together to create a bigger, more physical experience than mere objects sitting on a pedestal.

My first approach  was to use the naturally social activity of making food as a means to executing my concepts.  I saw that making cook wares was a great opportunity to play with different ways that people break barriers & play into certain roles such as "host", "guest", "chef", "person of honor", etc etc.  I also thought of my castings as mere "tools" which I could use to somehow bring these people together and examine different situations or scenarios I'd set up around them. Call it part "social engineering" project, part "adult make believe".  I quickly caught on to the exciting fact that when you know how to cast metal, you suddenly have a WILD horizon of possibilities to control when designing new things.

A series of graphic waffle iron  portraits designs that I called "The Breakfast of Champions", first evolved out of a phenomenon at that time ( year 2002 ? ), when it was almost common to hear that people were selling weird, if not extremely hoaxy objects like toast, or eggplants, with images of Jesus or Mary that appeared "miraculously" onto them.  I truly thought it was not only unbelievable, but unavoidably funny too.  In the depths of my young abilities to articulate complex concepts, a big question stirred in me : How do we even know if these people ever existed !  

For all we know, they could be simple folk lore, mythology, symbolisms made up to help guide the human heart over centuries of power conflict and human struggle.

I focused my choices for who's face I would cast into these waffle designs, based on one simple criteria: The person has to be  "famous" but poor, with the chance that they never even existed. My first honorable mention: Jesus!  I incorporated his well-known portrait into waffle iron plates that I manipulated from a mold I took off a pre-existing electric waffle maker. Exchanging the commercially manufactured waffle plate for my version served as just one detail to a bigger performance that happened, with some relation to the portrait's meaning.

best last supper.jpg

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to continue to re-create these “happenings” with new groups of people who enter my life. The first photo document of such a staging (above) was centered around the image of “The Last Supper”, which happened out at Franconia Sculpture Park when I was an artist intern there in 2008, nearly 7 years after the “Jesus Waffle Iron” was first conceived & cast during my Sophomore year at MIAD.

 The most recent reenactment of “The Last Supper” happened just last year, 2013, at Sector 67 under a very spontaneous, but generously willing gathering of whoever was around  that day with a little time time to play a part as one of the 13 people needed to make the "Last Supper" scene happen again. Here is the 2013 crew at Sector 67. 

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Needless to say, it’s a perpetual work in progress. The gallery of images at the top of this post is a flash back through the history of "The Jesus Waffle Iron", and all the amazing things this piece taught me. From cooking in a fire, to some of my first gallery exhibits. It was the vehicle for me to learn casting & foundry work. It opened up the social reveal of how food stuff + people function together. It prepared me for the endurance needed inside product development for cookware, especially with all the details that the process demands.

To that end, I must say : Thank you Jesus waffle maker, for putting me in my place. I'm pretty happy being around the fire.


New England compositions

Luck has it, I had the opportunity to cast 2 New England regional skillet maps for 2 different locations this past Fall.  Making custom compositions for people is literally one of my favorite things to do. It allows me to arrange a special part of the collection of original 48 state map, and choose framing colors and wood types to compliment each home or locations’ particular aesthetic palette.

            In this case, we went with our ‘trademark’ cranberry red frame for both party’s, which accents the blond wood background of these smaller map arrangements quite boldly.

            The results are always unique and exciting to me. Because we are able to put together any combination of geographic regions that we’re asked to, the end shape of the map just depends on whatever states have been picked ~ which is such a cool thing to see come together.

            Here the New England states have a nice vertical composition, with the handles nicely spilling outside the borders in a relatively balanced way.  Glad to see these final pictures of “home sweet Home” for these very special pieces. 

The Today Show

Today Show-cameras.JPG

Never did I think I could be more nervous than I was at Martha Stewart’s Show, until I was invited onto the Today Show. ~  My 4 minutes of fame, part of the incredible experience at the American Made Awards, was spent next to fellow honoree Lena Quack and Martha Stewart’s lead as host of the party. Martha’s comfort level in front of the camera is an amazingly solid beacon of hope for me, as I race to remember my name, why I’m there, how I do what I do, & who to remember crediting among the network of artisans I work with while doing my work.


I think it’s impossible to ever live-out the brilliance you think you can articulate from the script in your head the day before. But the chance to practice speaking your heart on live TV is one I’d never turn down, despite the mild panic attacks and enormous surrealism that challenges that reality.


I really thought I’d faint,.. Or have a public melt down. … but I’m glad the irons work was well within sight of me, just to help keep it all real amidst living a dream. 

 8am makeup room.  It's going to take a small army to get me ready !

8am makeup room.  It's going to take a small army to get me ready !

 Who is this, anyways!?!   All painted up and ready to go !

Who is this, anyways!?!   All painted up and ready to go !

 Outside, Martha prepares to demonstrate some Halloween decoration ideas -

Outside, Martha prepares to demonstrate some Halloween decoration ideas -

To see a clip of our segment on the show, check out this link here :


FeLion Studios: Martha Stewarts' American Made Honoree !!!


                  It doesn’t get more surreal & remarkable than this: we’re going back to New York with our “Made In America” cast iron art piece !!!!  This October, Martha Stewart is hosting the first ever “American Made” Awards, which honors just 10 carefully selected creative small businesses who get recognized for their excellence in their category of self-made entrepreneurship.

            FeLion Studios is being honored as one of such businesses, and it’s almost unbelievable to comprehend- still- that we are invited into this amazing family of makers amongst the literally thousands of insanely awesome makers in America that Martha Stewart has personally met. It’s simply the biggest honor of my career in my life so far – .

            The event was 4 days long and set up inside the historic Grand Central Station. Our “Made In America” cast iron art piece was centrally hung along the wall, side to side with the amazing works of my other “classmate” Honorees, so visitors could see what we all do up close and personal. Each Honoreer also had the honor to host a workshop specific to each of our special skill sets.

            I had a blast as my buddies from Mud Sharks Studios and Brian Howell “The Bee Man”, as we all joined forces to give a one-hour long power session in mould making 101 to about 20 pre-registered attendees in our sold-out class !

            My parents were even there to get their first lessons in silicon rubber and plaster mixing.  I won’t lie, it was pretty awkward!  I don’t think my dad cared much for the stuff, but they were both good sports regardless of their end results in the class.

            After the week’s activities were over, we had a few days extra to explore the rest of city as much as possible. Andrew and I hooked up with fellow Honorees just about every night of the week. Most remarkable was our visit & night’s stay in Brooklyn’s Wyeth Hotel, where we had the extreme please to experience the craft of hospitality created by our fellow honoree’s who own & manage the remarkable space. 

Gordon Foods gets 58 FeLion Skillets

Earlier this year, we’ve been asked to do a special skillet-themed commission for the new cafeteria center at Gordon Food’s Headquarters in Wyoming, Michigan.  The company specializes in food service distribution across the US and Canada, so our 9 ft x 12 ft design incorporates all 48 states of America as skillets, plus 10 Canadian Provinces!

 Instead of cast iron, however, this piece is build using an inert composite material for logistical purposes concerning weight, cost & time.  I designed the map and created samples for approval before getting started on bigger 9 month project at hand.

 We worked with Cathedral Builders in Menominee Falls, WI, to help us lay out and cut the final pieces that make up the states & provinces of the map. They were SO awesome and accommodating to our needs, allowing us to tweak & pull parts of the design so that it ‘looked’ right in the files before making a final cut.

They have a 12ft x 12ft CNC table for doing the large-scale custom cabinets that they specialize in. Using their software and equipment, we were able to successfully get all 58 pieces to start the “skillet-styling” process back in our shop at FeLion Studios.

Lots of cleanup.JPG

There was quite a bit of clean up to do yet. The machines they had did the major rough – cutting job , but many of the intricacies of the pieces needed to be further cleaned up & sanded out before it was brought into the next phase.

Handles ! Yes lots and lots of custom designed / specifically made laminations for each one of these states was glued up, designed and drawn out to either cantilever over, or dive under the state or providence next to each other. Think HUGE & tedious puzzle :}

 The finish texture to make this material look and “feel” like cast iron was accomplished with sandblasting, to replicate the sand-grain texture that’s representative of cast iron work.  Final touches included many days of spraying an industrial strength black semi-gloss paint to really make them appear as if they were truly a cast iron piece. 

 Andrew + a freshly painted non-cast iron Alabama pan for this commission.

Andrew + a freshly painted non-cast iron Alabama pan for this commission.

 Carefully squaring up each state, making sure every edge meets perfectly with those around it. 

Carefully squaring up each state, making sure every edge meets perfectly with those around it. 

 Months of careful planning and construction design allowed us to install the final piece in just one day, with only a few touchups here and there to mark the end of a fantastic journey!  It was a great compliment many of the workers onsite thought we were hanging real cast iron~ I must have looked pretty tough, holding up Quebec with just one hand :}  

The Martha Stewart Show


So what do you do when a producer at the Martha Stewart Show asks if you can make it to NY with your artwork for one of their shows?  EVERYTHING IN YOUR POWER TO MAKE IT HAPPEN, OF COURSE !!!  And life handed me a golden ticket : where the recent sale of my first big composition of cast irons, has allowed us the funds to do just that. New York New York , here we come !


 On April 22nd  2012, Andrew, our dog Zeus, and the big 550 # cast iron map of the 48 contiguous states called “Made In America”, took a road trip out to Manhattan to install the map on Martha Stewart’s last live episode of her TV show.  We had a lot to prepare before making this excursion, starting with how to get the piece there. Shipping it would have been ridiculously expensive for us, so the only option is to take Andrew’s ’92 Ford E-250 van and pray for the best.  First, we had to fix a few things though, including the fuel line, brakes and moving the hornets’ nest out of the vehicle that had happily been living in the back for a few years.  Thank goodness Andrew has befriended the creatures as his personal alarm system, and was able to safely find them a new home outside. He’s also quite handy with vehicles, so he got right to it with repairs and cleaning the car up as best as possible for the big trip East.


Then we had to build crates for the piece. It’s been 6 months since the piece was realized, so this step is inevitable and probably way over due already. With the help of our neighbor & wood carving artist friend Aaron Laux, we had our work cut out for us. He assisted in the design/ layout and wonderful second pair of skilled hands to help get the outside wooden shells put together in a day.

The next step was a tedious puzzle of fitting all 48 states into 2 designated crates. This took us 6 days to cut, measure, record and fit all the individual cast iron parts together safely for cross-country travel.  These 2 crates are a piece of work in and of itself.

Packed up and ready to go, the 4 crates and our 2 bags just barely fit into the van, leaving all of 4 square feet for Zeuss our Border Collie / Lab mix to find a place to lay between us up front during the ride. Everything just barely fit !  What a good sport Zeuss was !

This was so incredible that it’s almost impossible to exclaim all the awesome things we saw inside their studio and beyond.  The team at Martha Stewart’s TV Studio was like a well-oiled machine, except they were human of course, and oh so friendly and fun ;}  I learned that in live TV world, you really just have to go with the flow and be a master at just letting some things happen while staying grounded in your strengths. Martha has perfected that talent, and I was SO thankful for her steady flow and radiant confidence.  

Sold! "The Midwest" finds a beautiful new home


Hurrah! My first multi-state composition is sold to a beautiful couple in a beautiful home in Milwaukee , WI !!  This is a very meaningful piece to me, as its exhibition-history starts with my very first public show in Milwaukee in 2010 at the Brook Stevens Gallery. That year, it continued on to the Harley Davidson Museum for the Fine Furnishing’s show, just before traveling to Madison to hang at the Underground Food Collective for 7 months thereafter.  

  The first showing of my state shaped cast iron works. Harley Davidson Museum, Milwaukee, WI 2010. 

The first showing of my state shaped cast iron works. Harley Davidson Museum, Milwaukee, WI 2010. 

As the story goes, just 3 days before a fire took down the Underground’s beautiful restaurant space in June 2011, I had switched this Midwestern composition with the newly completed East Coast states composition so that the “Midwest” skillet composition could be shipped to Scranton PA for a double show; first at the AFA Gallery in Scranton, followed by a month at SUNY New York before returning back home to Wisconsin.

Its last public appearance was back here in Madison in early 2012 at a one-day art fair called Ritz Crafters at the High Noon Saloon before it was permanently installed inside a residential home back to the start of its exhibition journey in Milwaukee. 

  "The Midwest" hanging in it's new home in Milwaukee. Photo courtesy Jill Ponasik.

"The Midwest" hanging in it's new home in Milwaukee. Photo courtesy Jill Ponasik.

I love it when life’s a circle. The special new owners had first seen the piece at the Harley Davidson / Fine Furnishings show 2 years prior to the final install in their home.  The castings that make up this composition are of the first ever that I had created of the state-shaped skillets. Some interesting facts about these castings are that the “FeLion Studios” brand had not yet been conceived, so they bare no signature name / number / or initials from me, as we now do with each hand-made casting.  They were also initially cast with hanger “tag” that came out of the top of the pan. I ended up scrapping this design idea because it was difficult to assume where the center of gravity was for each state before it was cast, making each pan hang crooked on the wall if using these hanger-tags.

I’m just so fortunate to see that kind of perfect ending to a piece that really started a new chapter of work for me.  Bon Voyage, you special first 7 castings !  I know you’re in a loving new home now!

Slo Pig

There’s this really awesome event happening here in Madison called Slo Pig : it’s where slow food meets heritage pig farming, and Chef Dan Fox is spear heading the movement. He’s hired FeLion Studios to cast the trophies for the “Iron Chef” contest at the night’s event. They are the “SloPig” logo turned into a cast iron skillet, and become a really fun & revered prize for the lucky winning chef.

  Logo for the Slo Pig event.

Logo for the Slo Pig event.

                  I’m thrilled to have the honors to make this revered token of excellence for Chef Dan. I had to go through a few different rounds of castings before I was able to master ‘the Pig”, but the journey of learning and final version is pretty slick if I do say. 


  This is the pattern I made in wood for the sand moulds so I can cast the design in iron.

This is the pattern I made in wood for the sand moulds so I can cast the design in iron.

            Chef Dan was able to season them up and demonstrate how they work like a charm on a local TV show in the morning!  I’m grateful and impressed as all get out for Chef Dan’s patience, passion and exciting follow through as he’s been part of each step of this process via natural interest & thoughtful recognition of our process.

                        Below are photos from the first “pig” pour up in St. Paul MN, where he and photographer Paulius M. came to document the spectacle of our two worlds’ coming together.


For more awesome photos of the iron pour related to this project, visit photography Paulius Musteikis's site here:



The Birth of an Iron Map 2010-2011

A lot of people have asked, " So how did you come up with the US map as iron skillets?".  And so for the first time ever, I'm going to take you way back, deep into the organic bowels of my journey across 2 years of prototyping and following my nose.

The first state shaped skillet that I cast was Wisconsin, at my little studio space in Milwaukee WI back in February, 2010. I was with a skeleton crew of local artisans who paired with me as both my mentors and inspirational team to help build a small iron melting furnace and take destiny into our creative hands. 


That first Wisconsin skillet was truly born on a whim.  It was so cold, and such a thin castings, that it actually should have never turned out!  But it did , & the reason I made the Wisconsin state pan was because it was something born out of the pride & honor I felt being with my friends, pulling together our skills from the grit of a Midwestern craft & passions of the American Dream. In the courtyard of that studio, we had conquered the world !  Or at the very least, we discovered we did something right, and now had a furnace capable of melting cast iron for our future artworks.

Everyone who was there wanted to share in the delight of feast cooked inside my little Wisconsin pan. It was an immediate connection to the pride we had for being from Wisconsin, and it was equal to the family-building social activity of making food together and surviving on our happy accomplishments. 

Immediately after this iron pour, I had to catch a flight that I scheduled out to LA to visit a fellow sculptor friend of mine who had gone to school with me & was my partner-in-crime in the foundry at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. The flight there allowed me 3 hours to ponder what had just happened, and ask myself the question. "What would the whole USA look like as skillets?". Seriously. That's what I was thinking!  It's crazy how vivid this memory and vision was of what that would look like all together. I pulled the page of flight-patterns out from the back of seat in front of me, and began to use the layout of the USA as my template for where to draw the handles. 


The next 9 castings of the states after this first pour involved a lot of failures. Turns out, the original Wisconsin pattern, and 6 other Midwestern state patterns that I poured that year would fail consecutively 5 more times after that, until I finally talked to an old-timer pattern maker in South Milwaukee to help me figure out what was going wrong.  He advised me to thicken the bottom of the pattern by as little as 1/8in, and... Voila !  One major variable was corrected. 

One thing many people don't realize about the artisan network of iron casters, is that we travel a lot to other artisan foundries all across our regions and beyond, to gain an opportunity to pour with other people and learn new mould making techniques & furnace operation styles. The cross pollination with other artists allows me to constantly grow in my artisan run foundry education & experience working with many different furnace designs and approaches to how other studios are set up for production.

But the first time I got my mind blown by how production is really handled, was when my good friend and artisan-foundry-Mentor Kelly Ludeking invited me up to do some castings at a commercial facility in Minneapolis MN. Smith Foundry Co. is considered a small job shop, and they handle mainly 1lb - 75lb industrial castings in both grey and ductile iron.  Kelly's mentor and long time friend, John Poole, is an artist who works in the bonded resin sand mould department, and is a master of gating designs, tips & tricks for how to improve our pace and production time for our own studios. 

I wanted to learn how to successfully gate & prepare an earlier pattern of an Annie Oakely waffle iron that I had designed WAY back in 2009.  

Smith Foundry : Casting the last 28 states

Art Prize 2011

Into its 3rd year, ArtPrize is a new but extremely enticing exhibition opportunity for artists all over the globe. Coined as “the world’s largest prize for a publicly voted on artpiece”, the coveted winner for this 2 week long indoor / outdoor exhibition is a cool $250,000 !! 

I did NOT enter this just for the money.  Honest !!  I really just needed a substantial deadline to get this idea done, and so I used this very public, yet very geographically close by exhibition to complete this iron skillet map idea I’ve been working on for two years now.  

Made in USA_progress_shot.jpg

The unique part of Artprize is that submissions into the event are not taken by some formal jury or group of designated people. We, the artists, must connect personally with the various venues around Grand Rapids, MI.  A “venue” is defined as any public space, inside or out, that signs up to be part of the ArtPrize event.  Artists create a profile about themselves, and pitch their one idea for the show through email & ArtPrize site correspondences. Of the 164 venues and 1,805 artists registered for this years’ event, there’s no promise that the $50 general submission fee will be find you a successful match for your work.

But I’m happy to report that I’ve been accepted into one of the cities finest venues !!!  The DeVos Place Convention Center, situated on the riverfront in the heart of Grand Rapids, will be home to nearly 100 artists, offering over 500 linear feet of wall space and over 5000 square feet of exterior space for artists of all mediums to show.

 The Grand Gallery, DeVos Place Convention Center, Grand Rapids, MI

The Grand Gallery, DeVos Place Convention Center, Grand Rapids, MI

We found ourselves situated pleasantly inside the Grand Ball room, which is an enormous space filled with natural light and huge ceilings : perfect for this dark & heavy idea that I’m proposing.

The install of my creative efforts in this venue was one of the biggest rewards to years of work that I’ve ever experienced. I was so thankful to Eddie Tadlock our curator for giving me a chance, and to all my friends and Kickstarter backers who’d helped so magnificently on my journey to one of the biggest pieces I’ve made so far in my career.