Guest blog – Design and Creativity in MetalPosted: April 7, 2015
Twenty five years ago in East London, while studying for a degree in psychology, I discovered that metal was an addictive substance. I had always had an interest in art and sculpture and though psychology wasn’t really holding my interest it gave me the opportunity to take some classes at the Slade School of Art. I also got the chance to go to Italy on an exchange program where by chance I met the Mutoid Waste Company, a group of anarchic circus performers whose spectacles revolved around incredible sculptures and machines made entirely from scrap metal on a scale I had never seen before. They had even created sculpture from a Russian Mig fighter plane in the centre of Berlin.
Back in London I began making sculptures at home from anything I could find. I found work with a steel fabricator where I learnt the basics of welding and shaping steel. Still with the desire to create artistic pieces I went to work for a traditional blacksmith in Kent where I learnt the magic of hot forgework, an addiction in itself.
Now, from my workshop in Cheshire, I try to keep design and creativity at the centre of what I make, whether it be a decorative gate, seating or a sculptural water feature. I take inspiration from the forms in nature such as the twisting stems of plants which seem to lend themselves perfectly to the medium of metal. I also have a passion for insects partly for their beauty but also for their alien weirdness. Traditional art blacksmithing such as the early work of Samuel Yellin http://www.samuelyellin.com/history/ is an inspiration, but I take influence from other media too, such as the wood carving of Grinling Gibbons from the 17th century and the photography of Karl Blossfeldt.
I never claim to be a great technical blacksmith and indeed many traditionalists would not call me a blacksmith at all as I don’t use traditional wrought iron and can scarcely fire-weld. I have no formal training so have always had to find my own methods to achieve the desired result which to me is more important than the purity of the process and I am not averse to using a combination of modern and traditional methods. I forge in the ancient way using coke, hammer and anvil, but I also have a small power hammer which takes a lot of sweat out of bigger forging jobs. I use MIG welding and plasma cutters and have recently invested in a TIG welder as I increasingly use stainless steel in some of my sculptures.
After more than 20 years in the workshop, I am now looking to other interests. I have always been a writer and recently published a children’s book on Amazon called Stunt Crow http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stunt-Crow-1-David-Freedman/dp/149538750X. I’m currently working on a second. That said, I don’t think I will ever stray too far from the forge. Once hooked to the beauty and permanence of metal you can never break the habit.