Tell us about your background.
What lead you to become a blacksmith?
My parents understood and supported my gravitation towards art from a very early age. I painted for hours and hours and also loved ceramics. It was the only thing that really made sense to me - even at this young age, it felt liberating. As an introverted young boy, the art room in junior school was the only place I felt I fitted in the world. My teacher recognised that I had a unique talent and gave me the freedom to create my own work while the rest of the class was restricted to the curriculum. Outside of that environment, I felt like a fish out of water. I remember my mom arranging play dates but when I was in the mood to create I would lock myself in my room away from the world, to do just that.
I was immersed in this world up until my teenage years but after not being able to take Art in High School due to certain subject choices I found myself gravitating towards music and DJ’ing as a creative outlet.
This turned into a career that ran parallel to me discovering working with metal in 1995. When I finished school, I studied graphic art and design at the AAA School of Advertising but instinctively knew this was not a path I was destined to follow. Around this time I started working at a company learning how to weld and make simple metal furniture. This led to me and a friend working together making metal furniture for clubs, restaurants, and private clients. We did this for about 2 years. The pivotal moment in my artistic career came when I was introduced to an old Italian blacksmith that changed everything and the way I viewed the medium.
For me, I was creating in two mediums that made time stand still, forging iron and music. And so the journey began of learning and understanding this stubborn material that when heated can be manipulated into whatever the imagination could yield.
How have you developed your career?
I believe in the Chinese proverb of 10 000 hours that says after putting in roughly 10 000 hours into anything you do, you have pretty much mastered it or are close to mastering it. When my journey began learning and understanding this new and intriguing material, it seemed at first impossible to work with. But as time progressed I continued to learn and improve by using traditional blacksmithing techniques.
I also attribute most of my understanding of the material to being self-taught. There were no blacksmithing courses nor YouTube videos and tutorials when I started off. This forced me to read books and become hands-on in every aspect of learning.
I also found that the metal started teaching me.
I discovered that being totally present in the moment was the best teacher. And my “mistakes” were the biggest teachers. I began to notice everything about how the metal behaved when being worked which led to endless discoveries. I started to develop my skills by looking at the works of various Architects and artists like Hector Guimard, Fritz Koen and Antonio Gaudi. I was mesmerized by the Art Noveau period, specifically how this style and nature were so closely linked.
I traveled to Spain to visit and experience Antonio Gaudi’s buildings.
After doing this type of traditional work for over 15 years, I felt there was something missing from me and a couple of years ago made the decision to dive back into my art, creating from inspiration deep within me. It was artistically liberating as I listened to my inner voice rather than a client’s strict brief. I was beckoning for something more, something completely different. A different way of working, creating and manifesting authentic inspiration.
Who are your artistic influences?
I love the work of Italian blacksmith Claudio Botero. And of course, someone who is and has always been an amazing inspiration, Cape Town-based artist and blacksmith, Conrad Hicks. I am also in awe of Stanislaw Trzebinski’s work, a local bronze sculptor who is years ahead of his time.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I asked this question as I got a body of work together for my solo exhibition this year. It felt like there was something gnawing at me that I couldn’t quite place until I started creating the pieces for the exhibition and it was only then that it hit me that the biggest thing that inspired me was the unknown.
The first piece I created for my solo exhibition is a chair, simply named ‘Connect’. For the first time, I felt really connected with the material on a different level and more importantly connected with myself. I had a vision in my head of a back and leg support that was only singly connected either side. I began forging the material with a certain tool I made to create the texture on the seat and backrest. I had no drawing or sketch just an idea and concept and this is where being inspired by the unknown started to dawn on me. I forged the components using my power hammer, a massive 1940’s machine which uses a tremendous amount of force striking down on the material at nearly 2 hits per second. As I moved the tool across the material, I began to notice the texture being created and when changing the way I moved the tool I noticed how the texture changed and how the steel behaved.
It’s an amazing space to be in where things are happening at lightning speed yet time seems to stand still as I started to connect with what was happening in front of my eyes, at that specific moment. I started to recognize that everything that was happening was not really in my control and that the piece was taking its own course and I was merely facilitating that course by being present and allowing whatever was happening at that moment to be. This is the beautiful domain of the unknown that I found my biggest inspiration, it was unlearning everything I had learned up until this point. Giving up control and letting the work guide me.
When I finished the chair I looked at the design and what it meant to me as a switch had been flicked with this new discovery of being inspired by the unknown and the message and metaphor became very clear. It consisted of a back support and leg support being connected by singular side support which I translated as
‘Everything that connects us supports us and everything that supports us connects us’.