The artwork Fire and Water captures your eye as you approach the entrance to PebbleCreek (Tuscany gate) and look at Fire Station 185.
The artists Ken and Judith Williams said, “Our goal was to design a sculpture that relates to the mission and danger of firefighting.” The Williams Studio, based in Pueblo, Colo., specializes in handcrafted ceramic artwork.
“At first, our proposal addressed the heroics of first responders and the loss of life during the 9/11 attack. While discussing this with the Goodyear Arts and Culture commissioners, we took a more non-representative view, emphasizing the abstract nature of fire, smoke, and water within a field of tile with images reflecting the desert landscape. Within all of this is the Maltese cross that identifies the historic importance of firefighters,” said Williams.
The artists began their art project with site visits to review the design requirements, prepare a drawing, and create a maquette, a sculptor’s small preliminary model or sketch.
They decided to use a combination of three dimensional 12 inch by 12 inch, four inch thick tiles and 12 inch by 12 inch, one inch thick tiles. The tiles were manufactured by Summit Brick in Pueblo. After the units (made from wet clay) were fabricated, they were wrapped in plastic to keep them moist for the next steps. The clay units are stacked on a large easel in the configuration of the future sculpture. The final Goodyear project measures 15 feet high by 17 feet wide.
“We carve the clay into the design. When carving is completed, we disassemble the sculpture and number each piece,” said Williams. The tiles are dried before being fired to 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit. After firing, the artists reassemble the sculpture and apply glazes.
“We reload the tiles in the kiln and fire again. After completing the second firing, we reassemble the sculpture to verify that all is well. Then we package the tile for shipping to the job site,” said Williams.
The exterior wall of the fire station was prepared by attaching an expanded metal mesh, which was anchored to the substrate of the building. The sculpture pieces were then installed following numbers that were applied to the back of each piece. Thinset is used to hold the sculpture into place, and then it is grouted.
“This project went smoothly. I visited Goodyear three times. We did site viewing, met the architect and fire station personnel, public art officials, and community representatives. We presented our initial concept, revised the design, prepared the materials, and then installed the artwork. All of the folks involved were helpful. Work was completed on time and in budget within six months,” said Williams.
Ken and Judith Williams began a collaborative career in the arts in 1969 and have since turned their passion into a thriving family business. He established his current studio in 1979 at the Summit Brick Co., where it remains today. Ken Williams prepares his own clay from materials he gets from the Summit brickyard. He also develops many of his own glazes and credits his wife with being the real artist.