My first encounter with a forge and all the various tools associated with forming and shaping steel, was as a grad student at the University of Maryland early 2000. I learned later that I was using a Johnson trench forge. As it's name implies, you could dump a bunch of steel stock, any thickness or size into this hummer and move the red hot metal into all manner of forms. I had no idea what I was doing or what the tools were for, even though the studio had a large variety of stakes and hammer styles. I remember once finding the bucket of oil (used for quenching) in a trash can behind the forge, and thinking it was a fire hazard suggested it be tossed. Fortunately I was stopped by the chair of the department, John Ruppert, who muttered something to himself on the way back to his office. Nevertheless, the seeds of passion were planted during those long hours pounding and twisting round rod stock up to an inch thick into sculpture. I remember falling on the floor a few times trying to bend metal around rudimentary stakes rigged up on the workbench, even burned some skin off my forearms a few times, but I was fascinated by the fluidity of hot metal and determined to succeed. I had no knowledge of black-smithing traditions so my work didn't remotely resemble household or manufactured objects until recently.
Since then I've gone on to study with Meagan Crowley at Peters Valley, and take classes when I can at with the Blacksmith Guild of Central Maryland. I've also taken courses on forging non-ferrous metals with John Fix, at MICA, an accomplished metal-smith and teacher for many years in Baltimore. While I'm not a blacksmith by any stretch of the imagination, I've been able to incorporate the rudimentary techniques and operations I've learned into my aesthetic, thereby expanding the palette of expression available to me.
I'll be posting more images over the coming week of my own work along with photos of mentors I've met along the way. Some artists that use black-smithing directly or indirectly, and whose work I admire are listed below:
Tom Joyce: MacArthur Genious grant recipient