Metalworker Ben Mjos has lost count of the times he has been burned by the flaming mane of his steel horse-head bust. He says he doesn’t even notice it anymore.
“Doing these tiny pieces here, some of these pieces I put a torch here where I’m trying to get a very specific bend and I’d be holding it too close to one end,” he said. “But you got to put it in there.”
Mjos, who owns Viking Iron in Versailles, unvailed the bust, named “Brun Stallion,” last fall at Viking Iron’s first public event, at Fasig-Tipton. The horse head has been on display at several events in Central Kentucky, and on Derby weekend, “Brun Stallion” will be at the Unbridled Eve Gala’s red carpet event.
One of Mjos’ friends and his father introduced to him to metalwork when he was 16. Now, at 37, he has completed his first artistic metalwork.
To his knowledge, the bust is the only horse sculpture with a flaming mane. To create it, he used a propane tank, attached a flame regulator and ran a fuel line through the horse’s neck, similar to how a grill works. He can attach a larger tank to have more propane for a longer display and can control how the flame’s intensity. He used A36 steel to create “Brun Stallion,” using small lines of metal to shape muscles and bone structures.
“I don’t want to say it’s simple, but it’s not complicated,” Mjos said.
For several months before he even began the metalwork, he studied and drew horses and their anatomy. The sculpture took almost a month of on-and-off work, he said. The bust is a study for a full-sized horse sculpture that he plans to make, he said.
“I don’t know how you could be in Kentucky and not love horses,” he said. “They are beautiful animals, and strong and graceful all at the same time.”
Mjos said he comes from a family of artists. His grandparents and father create oil paintings, and his uncle can build almost anything, he said. He drew a lot and took art classes in high school.
When he started forming the idea for the piece, he didn’t plan to make the flaming mane. The thought came to him when he went with his father to Art in the Park, a craft and art show in Versailles. The flaming mane adds life to the otherwise static piece. With a small flame, the piece seems gentle. A larger flame allows it to convey aggression and fierceness.
“The sculpture looks like it has motion because the flame is alive and moves,” he said. “It reacts to everything. ... The flame will never look like that again.”
For his company, Viking Iron, Mjos usually makes gates, ornamental handrails and various everyday items. His wife, Randi, said most people are surprised to find out that he created the horse head.
Mjos said “Brun Stallion” will remain in his family, but he’s happy to display it at events or discuss commissions.
“Everybody knows he’s a metal guy, he’s a big guy,” she said, “but people are always shocked to see something this artistic.”
If you go
Unbridled Eva Gala
What: A Kentucky Derby eve event, featuring celebrity guests Sharon Stone and Morris Day. Ben Mjos’ “Brun Stallion” will be showcased.
When: 7 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. May 5
Where: Galt House Hotel, 140 N. Fourth St., Louisville