C- Carbon- (from Latin, carbo means coal) is the fourth most abundant element in the universe by mass. It is a common element of all known life, the second most abundant element in the human body.
FE- Iron- is the most abundant element on earth by mass.
C+Fe = steel
There have been 5 mass extinctions on earth in the past 500 million years. We are in the middle of, and the cause of, the sixth mass extinction. This all hinges on our manipulation of carbon. I am a professional Blacksmith. I work with iron and steel all day long. Heating it to over 2000 degrees, I make functional items such as gates, railings, tables etc. This forging of iron and carbon is an ancient human practice. The ingenuity that has allowed us to turn a lump of iron into a skyscraper is the same resourcefulness and drive that is responsible for the rapidly expanding extinction of over a thousand other species, the overheating of the atmosphere and the acidification of the oceans. Humans are the most successful, ingenious and adaptive life form on the planet. Can we save ourselves? If we were more observant and mindful of the needs and behaviors of the other organisms, systems and elements that we work with. If we would try to look at things in different ways. Then, could we create a more symbiotic future?
Carbon and iron, the shape shifter. Dig iron ore from the earth, apply enough heat and it becomes metallic iron. Different processes and different eras dictate its strength, softness and texture. I listen for the tone of the fire to drop when the metal is at a heat just below welding. The bar is white, glossy and almost dripping. Punch it, stretch it, twist it and meld it back into itself. If the alloy is old, smelted before 1920, the iron will split and tear showing the grain pattern of the faggoting and folding technique used to make it. A sweet smell rises in the warm air as the metal turns from orange to red. The surface of scale peels and pops as it cools.There is a release of tension at a high heat that gathers itself back into a stiff and guarded solid when it falls below a thousand degrees.
Cold steel is obstinate. Hot iron is soft and seductive. I am trained in traditional blacksmith techniques that humans began to develop thousands of years ago. The iron and carbon are timeless. If I listen to them what will I find?
IN THIS MOMENT EXHIBITION STATEMENT
Parent Stock : The starting material. 3/4” and 1” square steel bar
I take a piece of cold hard steel bar and put it into a fire. At about 2000 degrees that bar softens enough to be formed and shaped with a hammer. Yellow hot steel moves like clay. I can not touch the material so I use tools such as tongs, hammers, fullers and chisels that I have also shaped out of steel. I shape each piece individually while it is yellow hot to the final form it will take as it cools.
Blacksmiths have shaped steel into forms for thousands of years. Most often into usable items from weapons to bridges. My training as a blacksmith gives me the skills to take advantage of the strength of the material. Steel can lend its strength to pieces creating balance. It can range from delicate to powerful. Watching the metal move I have been struck by the way that the material mimics the human form. It stretches and swells like skin. It can be hard and bony, fat or muscled.
As I work through the process of forging steel I find that the issues that weigh on my mind come through my hands to the work. I notice that when I analyze and understand the processes that humans have created and learned to accept I can begin to work outside of that accepted norm. I can begin to question. I start with a piece of cold hard steel. By understanding ancient processes I push it toward something new.