Ironcraft Returns—With Bells On!

What a week it’s been at Castle in the Air as we received the last of the Ironcraft entries!

Everyone who participates in Ironcraft is given a mystery object to work with. This year’s item was a festive bell-shaped papier-mâché box, about 5 inches tall, from our stash of German crafting supplies. The Ironcraft challenge was to put a creative spin on this classic item, and our entrants came through with an incredible array of imaginative results.


All Ironcraft entrants will receive a prize, either to be mailed to them or picked up at the shop. In the meantime, their entries will be displayed in the front shop window at Castle in the Air, a celebration of the artistic spirit that runs through our rich artistic community.

Our thanks go to all who participated in this year’s Ironcraft challenge. The entries are pictured below, along with commentary from the artists. Enjoy!


“White Flower Vase and Sconce,” by Melanie Ann Mercado

This elegant innovation turned the bell shape on its head. Melanie’s vases echo another era, and they are close to our hearts because they could easily display the paper flowers we make at Castle in the Air. And of course we love that she had her paper castle nearby when she snapped this picture.


“Magical Tiki,” by Valerie Frayer

Valerie’s entry looks like it came straight from the South Pacific. She says, “The transformation was achieved with X-Acto surgery, a couple of staples, some dabs of acrylic paint, a few other bits and bobs, and gold leaf—light as ash, delicate and shiny.”


“La Bell-A,” by Tina Hittenberger

We’ve had a long love affair with Italy, as well as with calligraphy, and so we’ve got ample admiration for Tina’s moveable sculpture, which can be arranged to read—rebus-like—“la bella figura,” “la bella notte,” and “le bella donna.”


“Everything is Better With a Little Sparkle,” by Gordon Silveria

“I feel like I have a new little friend to help me hold things on my desk,” says Gordon, who saw a fun-loving face when he upturned the bell shape, then cut off the bell’s base to repurpose as shoulders.


“The French Can-Can,” by Julie Franklin

An upcoming trip to Paris sparked Julie’s imagination, resulting in a vivacious dancer straight out of the Moulin Rouge. We didn’t even see the bell at first, it blended into the skirt so well. Wonderful!


 “Vase with Tissue Paper Flowers,” by Susan Still

Susan’s creativity blossomed when she received her bell. She tells us, “As a former florist and lifelong flower lover, I could not wait to work on filling it with paper flowers!” The cheerful tissue-paper blooms contrast nicely with the vase’s metallic sheen.


“The 31st-Floor Office of Norbert Businessman,” by Emma Jahn

Emma tells us her piece was inspired by San Francisco’s office buildings. She took her entry in a whimsical direction by crafting the office of a bell designer inside a bell itself. We adore the details she added, such as the miniature books on the shelf.


“Go Ahead and Dance Until You Can’t Anymore,” by Leslie Gay Solana

Leslie is an artist and therapist who calls her work “art from the heart,” and she dedicated her owlish Ironcraft entry “to all us wise women who refuse to give up and get ‘settled in’ in our retirement.” Hear, hear!


“Sweet Dreams,” by Marilyn Kentz

This entry presents a charming figure in a golden frame floating in the clouds. Looking at Marilyn’s creation we wonder whether the little character is the one dreaming, or if it’s us!


“Grand Lady in Her Finery,” by Morrissa Sherman and Miranda Jaramillo

Morrissa tells us that her daughter Miranda visualized the bell’s shape as a lady’s skirt, and then sculpted a torso to fit. The artists worked together to make the clothing and accessories that would prepare their grande dame for a masquerade party.


“Bell of the Ball,” by Alexandra Von Burg

This truly enchanting fairytale princess was made using the bell box in place of the doll’s legs. When opened, the bell reveals a sparkling slipper and a Regency-era coachman ready to take the reveler wherever she wishes.


“Pristina,” by Caitlin Simonds and Don Simonds

“Castle in the Air makes us think of fairies, so we made a place for one in our bell,” say Don and Caitlin. They also tell us that this colorful and cozy nest is their first such artistic collaboration. Well done!


“Irish Lass,” by Phoebe Diamond

Three cheers for pushing artistic boundaries! Phoebe dreamed up this friendly figure using a variety of crafting supplies including cotton batting, mohair, moss, and metal charms. She has worked with these materials before, but tells us that Ironcraft prompted her to take her sewing techniques further.


“Scrub Jay,” by Anthea Ben-Naim

Inspiration often has wings. Anthea says that she was inspired to paint a pair of scrub jay portraits, along with a similarly tinted city, after one of the beautifully plumed birds paid her a visit.


“Bird Cage, Hat Box, and Witch’s Crown,” by Jaime Guajardo

Jaime returns to Ironcraft with a trio of fantastical treasures. The delicate bird cage incorporates some of his favorite mediums, including Dresden trim, as does his exquisite hat box and witch’s crown, which is equal parts charming and chilling.


“Fairy Home,” by Katrina Martin

The Castle crew got in on the Ironcraft fun this year, and each personality shone through in the entries. Here is a miniature scene from Katrina “Finch” Martin, our shop fairy. Three tiny figures are luxuriating among the moss and mushrooms, living out every fairy’s dream.


“Goblet,” by John McRae

Castle in the Air’s John McRae is known for his ornate Dresden trim jewelry. His magical goblet includes Dresden detailing around inset gemstones, as well as encircling the cup and stem. The result is truly fit for a king!


“Pansy Wall Sconces,” by Bethany Mann

Bethany teaches classes in vintage-inspired crafts in the Studio for the Imagination, and these sunny wall sconces have a classic feel to them. Happy dogs are always a welcome sight at Castle in the Air, and we love it when they appear in our friends’ art, too.


We’re delighted to see the imagination that runs throughout our community. If you’re able to visit the shop, we hope you’ll stop by to see the Ironcraft projects on display!