Adna Artist Wants to Give Back to the Art Community


For 56 years, Adna’s Jim Stafford has been creating artistic gems, namely bronze wildlife sculptures that sit in households around the world.

He traveled the wildlife art circuit across the Western United States for 25 years, having his work featured in various wildlife magazines, including Safari Club and Sports Afield. In 1980, his artistic prowess earned him a spot in the International Society of Animal Artists.

Stafford, 83, now has his eyes set on giving back to the art community that’s awarded him so much pleasure over the years. He’s created an innovative new furnace built for melting and casting metals that is safer and quicker than the traditional method — and he wants to give it away for free.

He was one of the first art students at Western Washington University to start art casting, back in 1964. He went on to join an active art casting program at the University of Oregon, where he earned his Master of Fine Arts in sculpting in 1968. He then began teaching 3D art at Wenatchee Valley College for the next seven years before becoming a full-time sculptor in 1974.

“I get a charge out of having nothing and pouring bronze into it and finally having something,” Stafford said. 

Stafford works primarily in bronze cast, but also enjoys steel, aluminum, wood and stone. There are about 18 steps involved in casting a piece of artwork. Once a piece is poured, an artist is only halfway done. A lot of it is casted in pieces and welded together. All of Stafford’s art sculptures are chemically colored. He’s one of the first bronze sculptors to use white, often used in his caribou and sheep.

“That didn’t meet with much favor with the art purists,” Stafford said. “Bronze is supposed to be brown or green.”

Now, Stafford has taken an evolutionary step in the process of nonferrous metal casting, creating a new-age metal furnace for bronze casting.

While teaching casting classes, which involves lifting a blistering, 2,300-degree crucible out of a stationary furnace, he wondered why the entire furnace couldn’t instead be lifted out and poured from. The molten liquid could melt a person’s foot or leg in a second if spilled, he said. The standard system of pouring, which most schools still use, is hundreds of years old, just with improved materials.

“Why?” Stafford said. “Why not progress?”

The idea sat dormant in Stafford’s mind for years until 2019, when he began designing and constructing a prototype; a portable tilt furnace made from a cut-down stainless steel keg. What he had in mind was something lighter, safer and one that could be easily transported. The first prototype ended up being too heavy and had to be lifted with a chain hoist. The second prototype was similar in design, only this time utilizing a 30-gallon barrel. Again, too heavy.

Developing the idea further, Stafford wondered just how small and light he could create a metal furnace that would be able to pour 50 pounds of molten bronze. Using high-temperature, space-age materials, Stafford finally built a small and lightweight melt furnace that could do just that.

An air blower utilizing propane fuel was plugged into the lower rear of the furnace, which adjusted the fuel and air intake. When the molten metal was ready, the blower and furnace lid were removed and the crucible locked into place. Lifting arms on both sides of the furnace were inserted, and the entire furnace, molten metal and all, could easily be lifted by two people and poured from. The entire furnace, including the metal, weighs about 80-85 pounds.

“The danger has been contained a lot by the way this is designed,” Stafford said. “I just love doing it. I like to build something that’s different and see it work. That gives you a good feeling.”

Recently, Stafford has created a larger furnace that can pour 60-90 pounds of molten metal. The larger furnace is lifted by an electric hoist and will melt 60-90 pounds of bronze in about half the time as the older stationary furnaces.

Stafford said his new casting system is a huge step up from the older models being used in most schools and colleges around the nation. Being in his 80s, Stafford has tapered off the amount of art he creates. He no longer casts seven days a week, and would like to see his new creation live on and be utilized by the younger generation of casters.

“I would love to see a school or a college pick this up, but I haven’t been able to generate the interest,” Stafford said. “If I found out that a college was interested, I would just give them what I’ve got here and show them how to use it. I’m getting to an age here where there’s not too many years here to be doing this stuff. I’d like to see it carried on.”


Reporter Eric Trent can be reached at Visit for more coverage of local businesses.