Fire, Iron, Coal, Steel.
Forge, Anvil, Hammer, Tongs.
Fire glows with life.
Bellows blow to white hot heat
steel hot and yielding.
Marveling at the body Mother has given
hammer and hand become one.
Sweat runs in rivers.
Steel flows to make thought solid..........
I wrote the above lines a few years back in an effort to explain to a friend the mystical connection that forging steel has to my soul. Itís a magical thing to me that one can take such a hard, recalcitrant material and, with the application of the heat of the fire and the strength of oneís arm and will, change it into such a completely different form than it was originally. When I start a piece, the steel is a long; square, rectangular, or round bar and is incredibly, rigidly, linear. But I can change it into amazingly organic, fluid shapes -- seemingly by force of will. Itís an act of love and such a deep part of myself that I really have a hard time describing it except to say that itís ĎThe Passioní. Well, ĎThe Passioní really explains me better than any cut-and-dry resume ever could, but for those of you who are interested, here are the facts of how I came to do this mystical, magical thing commonly called blacksmithing.
It all started shortly after high school (graduation Ď73) when a neighbor sold my father an anvil. It wasnít much of an anvil, just 110 lb.. and rather beat up. It had belonged to the neighborís father when the father was a blacksmith. Shortly thereafter I needed a project for the welding class I was taking, and my father said I could turn the old barbecue into a forge. I did.
So there I was with forge and anvil. It happens that Iíve always been terribly keen on making things and now I had a totally new possibility. With an old hammer and a pair of vice grips, I tried it out. The result wasnít terribly spectacular. The next year I tried something else on the forge, and mayhap two things the following year, and more the year after that. I was working at it on my own -- I didnít know of anyone else who knew a single thing about hand forging. In fact I didnít think there were many in the entire U.S. who had a working knowledge of the craft (turns out that in the mid Ď70ís that was indeed the case), but armed with a couple of books to give me some guidance, and a growing interest in the craft, I continued forging. Meanwhile, I pursued an academic career in welding, machine shop practice, and eventually engineering.
At the end of my formal academic career I received my BS in Mechanical Engineering (graduation í82), landed a job at N Reactor on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, moved to Richland, Washington and set up my first permanent shop. But I had been unable to decide what to do with my life and it was of some concern to me. I loved the knowledge of engineering but I loathed sitting behind a desk. It so happens that N Reactor is a good distance from Richland and at that time there was a bus that one could take for the commute. Not liking to drive a commute, I opted for the bus. Iíd read, design and think. One day I was looking out the window watching the sage brush go by and musing on life when it hit me ----- ďIíll be a blacksmithĒ.
That was the decision. For the next several years I taught myself the smithcraft. Evenings, weekends, vacations, and holidays were regarded as time to be spent in the shop pounding on steel. Itís pretty amazing what one can teach oneself if one works at it long and hard enough.
Iíve now been earning my living as an artist blacksmith for 13 years (how the time flies!). During that time I spent two-and-a-half years working for 47 Productions, a highly-regarded decorative ironwork shop in Seattle, and had the wonderful opportunity to work with some of the most gifted smiths in Seattle, meeting many more through association.
Since leaving 47 Productions in 1998, Iíve been working out of my own shop on 5 acres of prime desert just outside of West Richland, Washington. Using the techniques of traditional blacksmithing, along with a bit of modern technology, I provide high-quality, custom, decorative ironwork for the Tri-Cities area through local architects, designers, fabrication shops, and private customers. I also sell a line of goods, and demonstrate the craft at the Merrie Greenwood Faire, the Sidewalk Art Show, and Tumbleweed Music Festival in Richlandís Howard Amon Park.
As one can infer from the opening lines, forging pieces of esthetic beauty from hard steel is indeed a consuming passion for me. I cannot think of anything in this life or the next that I would rather do. My hope is that you can perceive some of the joy and thrill in the results..