Fire Imps Affordable Limited Edition Modern Sculpture


Fire Imps are playful, energetic and touchable sculptures scaled to fit any home. I love the way that the shapes and colors of the Fire Imps interact in a group— like a coral reef, a modern dance troupe, a forest of fall leaves, a party or festival. I’ve decided to do 600 of them, divided into six series of 100 each in different colors.


Part of what makes the Fire Imps fun is the freeze frame of pattern, rhythm, lyricality and syncopation that gives them a musical feel… combined in groups, they resemble a musical score as much as a group of dancers. The shadows they cast are also a part of the piece, doubling or distorting the form, mirroring the sculpture on the wall.

Each Fire Imp is a one of a kind sculpture that will never be repeated. Although their bright colors and cheerful look could fool you, they are made from 100% recycled steel. The bases come from a local factory that cuts LOTS of holes into thick steel and scraps the circles left over. The body of the sculptures are scraps left over from cutting my Great Bowl O’ Fire firebowls. They’re the spaces between the flames.

Born of Sparks + Steel: See how I make the Fire Imps



Simplicity is tricky— it can take years to refine a pleasing form


For a long time, I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to work with the cool scraps left over from cutting the Great Bowl O’ Fire… I’ve tried a few different approaches: layered panels, small sculptures, steel trees. I was happy with those, but they weren’t quite it. There were two characteristics that made the scraps difficult to work with: first, they’re cut from a bowl, so there’s a compound curve that often posed a problem in joining them. Second, each has a long flat section where the lip of the bowl was that didn’t match the organic curves on the rest of the piece. Finally I realized that if I removed the flat edge, and re-cut the scraps, I could attach the pieces to small bases and create some very fun and interesting table top sculptures. And it’s become an addiction.

I plan to do six limited edition series of the Fire Imps: 100 in natural steel, and 100 each in Red, Yellow, Orange, White and Black. All are signed and numbered on the base and once I’ve completed the edition of 100, no more will be made in that color. I will be completing the series in small batches and adding them here as they become available.



People Love Their Fire Imps!


The Fire Imp Sculptures were launched as a project on Kickstarter.com and pre-sold 94 of the 600 sculptures.

Here are some of the responses (via email, twitter and blogs) to the first wave of Fire Imps that were purchased through Kickstarter:

  • “Hey buddy! The imp is fantastic! The lil fella is now sitting in the middle of my dining room table.” — Graeme Cameron
  • 🙂 I love my little guy! (and @sarahdopp for linking me to you)” — Anthony Severo
  • “So far I gave $5 bucks to a struggling community garden in Philadelphia in exchange for some herbs, and totally snagged a killer piece of art by John T Unger, an artist who’s work very much appeals to me… I was lucky enough to feel like I got in on the ground floor and am really happy to help, make the connection, and have a fire imp displayed in my room.” — Anthony Severo
  • “My angry chicken arrived today! Love it!” —Thomas George
  • “Hey, just wanted to let you know the family really enjoys our sculpture. We came home a couple days after getting it and the electricity was out in our building, so we put a candle behind it and were amazed at how great the projection of it looked on the ceiling and walls.” — Tracy Robinson
  • “I got my Imp last week. Thanks ever so much- We love it!” — Kim Dancy
  • “Hey there. I got the Imp! Sweet! It really does look like a little fire imp.” — Radical Vixen
  • “Received my “Fire Imp”. Love it, very fun and free flowing. Sits on the bar/counter in front of my sink, so I can ‘talk’ to it while I cook, eat, do dishes etc. 😉 ” — Lynda Leonard
  • “Just received my Fire Imp today. It’s Beautiful!!!! It packs quit a wallop right to the heart!!! I have put it on the dresser for now, (it will have a new home when we move) so I can see it everyday and be inspired by it. I admire what you are doing and I equally admire HOW you are doing it.
    Thank You for the beautiful Fire Imp! Thank You for inspiring and showing me how to stand up for what is right and how to do it with such integrity. I hope I have the courage to do it in my own life.” — Cheryl Wolfe
  • “Just set up my 5 Fire Imp sculptures in our home office courtesy of @johntunger — thanks! They look great!” — Erica Douglass
  • “I got my Fire Imp by @johntunger! Yay! It’s pretty! And…cold from traveling so far.” — Sarah Dopp
  • “My Fire Imp arrived today. It’s beautiful. I’m in heaven over it. Thank you!” — Carolyn Jewel
  • “Yay! My Fire Imp Sculpture from @johntunger arrived today!” — Jennifer Mathis
  • “The piece (pictured below) is created from the negative space used in producing the firebowls (you can see the shape of the flames at the top of the piece).
    It’s a great, abstract and colorful piece. And I’m thrilled to add it to my collection. — Ryan Barton

I love the emotional response to the sculptures and the fact that so many people shared photos of their new art on twitter.