When it comes to metal, Derek Franklin is, let’s face it, a bit of a devotee.
The Long Beach local and Cal State Long Beach alumnus was 14 when he was introduced to the family business, Aerotec Alloys, a Norwalk metalworking company that makes parts and other equipment for little almost any industry you could think of that might need a metal part or two: aerospace, military, marine, automotive, medical, dental.
The company uses one of the oldest known metal forming techniques known as lost wax casting or lost wax casting. Basically, the method uses wax and other materials to form a hard mold into which molten metals can be poured. This method can create almost anything from an alloy.
âThe lost wax process is what the ancient Egyptians did, that’s how they made all of their medallions, plaques, plaques, gold, jewelry,â Franklin said. “And understanding that one of the oldest manufacturing processes known to man was still as usable and as important as it is today is almost like working in a toy store.”
It was when Franklin took over operations as the company’s vice president that he began experimenting with the art of splashing, except that unlike the ubiquitous abstract painting style which involves an artist primarily applying paint. on an indiscriminate canvas, Franklin poured molten metal and welded the ragged pieces together. . It was fun stress relief, he said, but it was about as far as his playfulness took him.
But in 2015, Franklin’s cousin died in a motorcycle accident. They were close, like brothers, he said, and the loss plunged him into a deep depression. Franklin decided to channel that emotion into a new project, one that would become the signature artwork of his metal art company, Behind the Embers.
He created a baseball bat showcase inspired by the weapon choice of an infamous character from AMC’s “The Walking Dead” series – Neagan’s Lucille baseball bat. Due to Franklin’s experience with metal and woodworking, a friend asked Franklin to make a hellish showcase for the barbed wire bat.
By pouring a quarter-inch thick layer of molten copper into the box, plus some epoxy, paint, and an LED light strip, Franklin created a screen that made the box glow, as if she was burning embers. The display was a hit at Comic-Con.
âThe first six to 10 exhibits were ‘The Walking Dead’ themed, but once we started to move away from ‘The Walking Dead’ style it really evolved,â Franklin said.
To date, Franklin has made over 50 custom boxes and now uses his skill and resources to help other artists create metal art. If you can’t get enough of all the fiery action, check out Franklin’s Behind the Embers Tiktok where he shares videos of the daily Forge projects.