Velvet Hammer Artisan
1210 Union Springs Rd. Cobden, IL 62920 home page:

Velvet Hammer

Cobden, IL

About Velvet Hammer

1974 B.A. DePauw University, Greencastle, IN
1980 Ph.D. Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL
License, Midwest School of Horseshoeing, Macomb, IL
1985-6 Independent study with Brent Kington and Daryl Meier
1986 Master class with Tom Joyce
1996 Study with Peter Ross
2010 Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, Houston, TX “Iron: Forged, Tempered, Quenched”
2009 Greater Denton Arts Council, Denton, TX “Materials Hard and Soft”
2007 Appalachian Center for the Crafts, Smithville, TN “Scratching the Surface” solo exhibition
2005 Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, Louisville, KY “Forging Ahead: Contemporary American
2000 Ohio Craft Museum, Columbus, OH Best of 2000
1998- Traveling Invitational, Exhibits USA “Earth, Fire and Water”
1994 National Ornamental Metal Museum, Memphis, TN “ABANA Comes of Age”
1990 Illinois Governor’s Mansion, Springfield, IL Three person invitational
2011 Geneva Art Fair, Geneva, IL Award of Excellence
Art and Air, St. Louis, MO Best of Sculpture
Old Capitol Art Fair, Springfield, IL Best of Sculpture
2009 Materials Hard and Soft, Denton, TX Juror’s Award
Cedarhurst, Mt. Vernon, IL Best of Illinois
Art in the Park, Highland, IL Best of Sculpture
2008 Art in the Park, Highland, IL Best of Sculpture
2007 Old Capitol Art Fair, Springfield, IL Best of Sculpture
Art and Air, St. Louis, MO Best of Sculpture
Art in the Park, Highland, IL Best of Sculpture
2006 Old Capitol Art Fair, Springfield, IL Best of Sculpture
Art and Air, St. Louis, MO Best of Sculpture
Fine Furnishing Show, Milwaukee, WI Best of Show, accessories
St. James Court Art Show, Louisville, KY Kosair award
Art in the Park, Highland, IL Best of Sculpture
James R. Thompson merit award
2005 Old Capitol Art Fair, Springfield, Il Best of Sculpture
Lakeview East Art Show, Chicago, IL Best of 3-D Functional
2004 Old Capitol Art Fair, Springfield, IL Best Portfolio
2003 Old Capitol Art Fair, Springfield, IL Best of Show
Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff, St. Joseph, MI Best of Metal
Midwest Salute to the Masters, Fairview Heights, IL Best of Fine Craft
1999 Illinois Artisans Program Third Annual James R. Thompson Award for Excellence in Crafts
1988 Illinois State Fair Professional Art Exhibition, Springfield, IL 1st and 2nd Place
Illinois Governor’s Collection
John A. Logan College
R. Bruce McMillan
Hon. James R. Thompson
West Virginia Governor’s Mansion
Springfield, IL Civic Art Collection
Mary Washington (The Supremes)
The Indigo Girls
2002 The Rest of the Story, Paul Harvey
2001 Made in Illinois
2000 The Contemporary Blacksmith, Dona Z. Meilach
1990,2005 Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL
1989 St. Louis Post Dispatch, St. Louis, MO
1988 Heartland Blacksmiths, Richard Reichelt
2011 Tiffany Studios’ Techniques, Edith Crouch

Artist Statement

What do you get when you cross a tennis player with an artist? A blacksmith. Throw in a lifetime gardener and that blacksmith works in an organic style with a nature theme. The first time I struck iron, I was smitten. There is something wonderfully indescribable about the energy exchange that takes place while blacksmithing. The heat from the fire and the force of the hammer’s blow feed and energize me.

My primary material is mild steel. I particularly enjoy using pipe. This hollow material gives an impression of mass without the actual weight and provides an additional surface (the interior) with its own potential to be worked. It is a form that requires a gentle and patient hammer blow, so it doesn’t collapse. Currently, I use only recycled pipe; the other ends are running around in John Deere tractors.

The versatility of mild steel allows it to take the bold shapes usually associated with ironwork, as well as the soft, feminine lines for which I strive. My work often contains botanical references, and I create images that evoke continuing growth. Each heat of the metal offers an opportunity to explore. The results can be unexpected, opening up an entirely new path leading to the spontaneity evident in many of my creations.

Then there is the fascination of forge welding. I am amazed every time I successfully perform this weld, in which two or more pieces are heated to 2600 degrees, carefully introduced to each other and firmly hammered into a single unit. Vigilance and focus are required; uncertainty and excitement are part of the process. I try to incorporate at least one forge weld in every piece I design. I use this process to introduce texture and images to the surface of my work.

In making my spoons, I push pipe in many directions. I forge out its center hole, split and taper one end and flatten and drift a ring on the other end. For the “bowl” I forge weld expanded steel or butterflies together or introduce playful human figures.

My trees incorporate steel shavings and wires to grow the canopy. Successive layers are forge welded onto thin sheet, often building up a ¼” layer. Some chunks come off in the cleaning process, opening up the canopy in various areas. I use an abrasive brass technique, vegetable oil and the natural tempering colors for the patina.

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