Duncan Shirah is a sculptor that works between art and invention. He builds small tools and devices that show the beauty of utility and functional form.
In 2008, Duncan Shirah turned a life-long talent for making things from a hobby to a career goal and enrolled in the Sculpture program at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta. The academic culture of SCAD's fine art department instilled in him a professional responsibility to make work with significant social impact. In his first year of producing artwork he found that the most sincere connections with viewers came through interactivity and that by creating art that is useable, an audience was more likely to engage. In this new pursuit of interaction and functionality, Duncan spent his classes learning technical metal fabrication and woodworking to make working parts for his sculpture. He began producing and showing a body of artwork that used formal compositions of wood and metal in working, useable devices.
During this time, Duncan's work was noticed by a production company that specialized in making historically themed props and costumes for film and the entertainment industry. He began working with them to add functionality and authenticity to their products, while learning carpentry and sculptural techniques used in film production. Through this field he traveled regionally to show his art and speak about craftsmanship in prop-making and gained experience working on film sets and theatrical productions. He would take this experience back to the arts community to assist in the production of local performances and happenings.
After graduating and a series of jobs including stone mason, tree climber, zoo bamboo harvester, and haunted house stunt man, Duncan found work in the arts at Inferno Art Foundry. This company works with figurative sculptors to reproduce their work in cast metal. Here, Duncan gained professional experience in the casting process which includes melting, pouring, and welding a variety of metals. Outside of work he used these skills to help run regular public iron castings. These demonstrations showcase the spectacle of the iron casting process and give the audience the opportunity be involved by making their own iron art.
Duncan continues to be involved in these areas and continues to make and show works of artistic invention, taking on projects that further his understanding of mechanical and electrical engineering, and explore the relationship between people and functional from.