Bob has been a blacksmith and farrier for 40 years. He uses the traditional metalworking techniques of heating, bending and drawing out to build sculptures and functional pieces.As a member of ABANA and the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen, he participates in exhibitions and his work is displayed throughout the region as public art and in private collections. Since the early 1990s he has been sharing his art and love of blacksmithing with students throughout the state. He has participated in residencies for VSA Kentucky and Berea College’s Promise Neighborhood, where he is a mentoring artist. He has also worked with several artists to create “Math + Arts,” an educators’ resource collection for KET and PBS Learning Media.
Potential Residency Project
When I arrive at your school, I will set up a portable forge that I use not only to demonstrate traditional elements of blacksmithing, but also to directly engage each student in metal work using a hammer and anvil. As the metal heats in the coal fire, I discuss either the history or the science involved, connecting to previously-identified areas of your curriculum. Iron and its significance can be adapted to any subject being studied whether it is Colonial America, the Industrial Revolution, or a science class studying energy transfer.
In a one-week residency, each student works with me individually to create their own iron hook, using traditional blacksmithing techniques of heating, hammering and bending, as other students observe the process and ask questions. I also bring an assortment of my small sculptures to provide examples of metal arts for discussion. After exhibiting their hand-forged hooks, each student has a work of art to take home. This project is suitable for all grade levels and abilities.
Another five-day residency is called Dragon Masters. On the first day, we gather around the forge so that students can get a brief, hands-on experience working metal as we collaborate to create several hooks for each class. On the second day, I bring an assortment of small dragon sculptures, and we discuss the creative process and the inspiration for each. These include dragons jumping rope, playing baseball, and one that is using a crutch that I created to honor wounded veterans. We discuss symbolism and perceptions of dragons in diverse cultures as expressed through art and folktales. Then I provide each student with a dragon armature measuring 18” x 10” in size. I show a slideshow of dragons created by other students and demonstrate how they can build up their armatures using foil and tape and then cover the exterior with Model Magic, sculpting the final shape in their selection of blended colors and embellishing the surface with assorted materials. As they explore the materials and begin shaping the foil, I encourage them to envision their completed dragon, giving it a name and its own unique history and powers. I provide teachers with prompts to help students write original Dragon Tales as an optional extension. We conclude the residency by creating an exhibition of dragon sculptures to present to the school and community.