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The art of fire

UC's David Hartz, electronic media professor at Raymond Walters College, captured this footage while competing in the World Fire Sculpture Championship held in Estonia in January 2011 as part of the US Fire Sculpture Team. His team's entry appears at the 1-minute mark in the video.

Electronic media professor at Raymond Walters College competes in World Fire Sculpture Competition

by John Bach

February 10, 2011

As an artist in RWC's electronic media program since 2002, Hartz' on-campus mediums typically include illustrations, graphics and animations. But off campus, as a member of the United States Fire Sculpture Team, he unleashes his creativity through a far more temporary medium -- fire.

Hartz and the US team advanced to the championship round of the World Fire Sculpture Competition held in Estonia in January. The event included teams from 12 countries, seven of which advanced beyond the first round. The top-three finishers represented Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

"Working with fire is like working with a strange alien force that you bring to life and try to choreograph, says Hartz. "However, at the right time, you have to make sure you know how to make it die and go away.”

Hartz, who fell in love with fire as a Boy Scout, earned his pyrotechnics license in Canada and over the years has competed internationally in the art of fire sculpting. He won first place in 2000 at the Pacific Northwest Fire Sculpture Championship in Seattle. He also helped found the Cirque De Flambe in Seattle and has crafted fire logos for festivals and organizations, including Fox TV.

Typical fire sculptures are made of materials such as wood, thatch and string. The more elaborate pieces can include motion and are usually judgded based upon the appearance of the structure before, during and after the burn.