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Steel roses to forge DDHS, Norway bond


Metal petals to adorn victims'memorial in Oslo



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Process of blacksmithing a rose. The blank is to the right. The middle flower is almost done. A finished steel rose is to the left.

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DDHS sophomore Nico Bahaveolos heats up a piece of steel, readying it for the anvil.
November 16, 2011 | 07:30 AM
DELAVAN — It's not common to find roses in a high school metals class.

But roses are cropping up in Patrick Biggin's metal shop at Delavan-Darien High School.

These roses are made from steel and fire, shaped with hammers wielded by Delavan-Darien students. The metal flowers will become part of a permanent memorial in Norway. One that Biggin hopes to work on personally next spring.

In July, 76 people were killed and another 77 were injured in a terrorist attack involving a bombing in downtown Oslo and then a mass shooting on a nearby island youth retreat by a self-proclaimed anti-Muslim.

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Following that tragedy, memorials made of roses cropped up all around the site of the massacre. Hundred of thousands of roses lined Oslo's streets. The flower became a powerful symbol of compassion in Norway after the gruesome attack, Biggin said.

Oslo's blacksmiths initiated a project, called Iron Roses for Norway, to create permanent memorial with roses that will never wilt. They are building a sculpture of steel and iron roses made by smiths from all over the world.

Biggin is something of an expert in making flowers from metal. Although he doesn't like the term "expert."

"I'm just good at them with the method I came up with," he said modestly. He confesses that his big obsession is making knives, from blade to grip.

Biggin said he first began experimenting with making flowers from iron and copper after seeing what he described as "a grainy how-to video" on YouTube in 2004, when he was 16.

Biggin said he kept experimenting with different styles, sizes and types of flowers in different metals while going through college. In addition to a hammer, acytelene torch and anvil, Biggin's process for making metal roses requires a grinder pliers, hand shears, hammer, and a drill.

Biggin said he attended conferences and seminars on metal working around the Midwest, where he met blacksmiths and metal workers from around the world. He said he's developed friendships and professional associations with smiths from Japan to Norway.

Through Facebook connections with some of his metal working friends, he learned about the Norway memorial and was asked to contribute steel flowers by Dec. 31.

"I did a couple on my own for it, but then I realized, 'I have a metals class.' I proposed the idea to them and the students showed a lot of interest," Biggin said.

Now, it's a class project in his two advanced metals courses for students to contribute at least one rose toward the memorial. The goal will be at least 60 completed roses, one per student, by Dec. 31, when they will be airmailed to Norway.

Biggin said he's also opened the project up to the rest of the school so students not enrolled in his classes can also participate.

"Ideally, I'd like to see 200 roses," Biggin said.

He added that he plans to make two or three roses on his own every day and hold two or three open lab nights a week to bring in students after school, After years of practice, he can turn out a rose in about 45 minutes.

On an early Friday evening, three students — junior Denzel Jensen and sophomores Scott Ekman and Nico Bahaveolos — were in Biggin's metal shop at Delavan-Darien, heating small metal with acetylene torches and hammering them into the shape of flower petals.

Each rose is made from two or three squares of steel centered on a steel rod that acts as the stem. Students heat the metal squares until soft and then cleverly hammer, turn and bend them into petals.

The stems are randomly bent to look like real rose stems. There are no thorns, but no one would want to get smacked in the face by one of these flowers, either.

Biggin said the project is larger than just a metal shop project.

"My main goal wasn't to just have them learn metal fabrication with this," Biggin said. "My initial objective is to have students develop a world perspective and pay attention to that later in life.

"Some students didn't know what happened in Norway this summer, but everyone thought it was pretty cool that we'll be doing flowers for this sculpture. It's a way to connect what's happening in different country to their lives."

When the roses are done, they will each bear the individual markings and techniques of the individual students.

But there will be no identifying marks. The metal roses will be as individual and as anonymous as the real things.

Then, in March or April, construction of the monument will begin

Biggin said his Norwegian associates have asked him to help in building the memorial.

If in March, Biggin said he'll use spring break to help with the memorial. If work delays into April, Biggin said he'll ask for four days off from school to work on the memorial. While there he'll use e-mail and cell phone connections to transmit photos, video and written descriptions of the work.

When it is completed, students in Delavan-Darien will have the satisfaction of knowing that their handiwork is part of a memorial that will bring solace to people living nearly a half world away.

"I'm quite glad that everyone is enjoying what the students will be doing for the people of Norway," said Biggin. "It's a great cause and a easy way for them to show a people of another country that their sadness and pain is regretted and felt by others that were not affected by the attacks," he said. "After all, what is more purposeful and endearing than to show someone suffering a loss the compassion of friendship and understanding."

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