Over the winter, spring, and summer of 2006 I decided to treat myself to metalwork. A ‘turning-60-gift’ to myself. Thus began an “internship” at that metal working school. Holly’s first question was, “what do you want to do, create, produce?” Work without a vision, a tangible end result, was unacceptable. I had decided to create plant hangers, for the front of a house, in Kaleva, Michigan, where Deanna and I would live beginning in 2007.
That two word statement, ‘plant hangers,’ began a process: a crude sketch, a final corrected sketch, a full size chalk drawing on a metal layout table, sketches of the individual parts, selection of materials, welding lessons, lessons on the forge, creation of a jig to bend and form parts, and the work to create my plant hangers. All that interspersed with mistakes, straightening, and reforming metal.
During my year in that metal working school I became intoxicated with the aroma of hot metal and coal smoke. I listened for the sizzle and crack of a welder; learned to love the ring of my hammer on metal, and, looked for just the right color in hot metal drawn from a forge, ready for the hammer.
At the end of the year, I left with my finished projects, and moved Up North. Plant hangers now help dress the front of our house. A table, metal base and birch top, holds plants near an east window. The rebar plant trellis, our first class project, holds summer plants and Christmas decoration.
Recently, an artist, a writer, told me that to produce something, “one must enter into the crucible.” I look back on that metal working school as a crucible. My work pales alongside that of Holly and the metal smiths I was privileged to work alongside. I enjoyed creating my meager objects, and especially enjoyed the process: from idea to sketch, selection of materials, forming metal, finishing, and final product. During the process, I observed artists at work; observed the fruits of skill, training, vision, and attention to detail. It was fun. I fondly remember learning how to color hot metal with crayons.
It’s sad that that metal working school is closing. Institutions must tend to business, keep the books balanced, assure that money is well spent, avoid endless debt. Holly must find her next place. I wish you well, Holly. And, Kalamazoo’s Art Hop will be just a bit less exciting with the loss of that metal working school's lovely touch of artistic chaos, tinged with the smell of hot metal and the ring of hammer on metal.