Here at Phantom Sway, we’ve featured a variety of painting, photography and sculpture, but this week we feature a unique form of visual art that was once nearly considered a lost craft: the art of blacksmithing.
We were excited to recently discover the art of David Matesi on Instagram. David creates beautiful hand forged metal work. We asked him to tell us about how he came to learn and love this type of old-world craftsmanship.
David is a 48 year-old father living, watching, learning, and loving life. He raised all three of his children (ages 26, 18, and 16) while mostly working as a carpenter. “My kids are beautiful beings in their own unique and amazing ways,” brags David. David says he first developed an interest in metal material in his teens while walking and roaming industrial “No Man’s Lands” in and around Minneapolis, Minnesota where he came of age. This was during the hay day of the 80’s punk scene, a movement that deeply inspired him. David was always fascinated with the stark and lonely abandoned post-industrial wastelands that littered the shores of the Mississippi River near the twin cities. While exploring these areas he discovered interesting pieces of scrap metal that captured his imagination. “Damaged, distorted, rusted, and bent to hell and back, the scrap to me seemed as worthy as sculpture as far as I was concerned,” he recalls. He found himself dragging his findings back to his home, never quite sure what he might do with it. He says he found the materials too beautiful to just leave there for oblivion to engulf forever. While not knowing what use he would eventually conceive of for the “found art”, he simply admired its beauty.
When David discovered the world of welding and blacksmithing several years ago, he was excited to have the skill to begin working with the wonderful medium of found and new metal. He took some formal classes in welding so that he could get the hang of structural fabrication. But as a blacksmith, he is mostly self-taught. He explains, “Here and there I have spent some time with other smiths, but mostly I have simply explored the craft on my own. I am still such a novice and have much to learn, but I have so much fun and am always fascinated by the medium of hot metal.”
David says he has retained his fascination with found metal to this day, and it’s often the source of inspiration for new art works. The first two sculptures he created after acquiring a welding machine were both from found metal. One was a lunar goddess made from an old cast iron sewing machine he found in the forested mountains of northern Vermont. The other was a primal lunar piece constructed from old plowing or harrowing “tines” from the early 20th century farms around Vermont.
One group of unusual objects that fascinates the artist is old iron farm wheels he’s found in his local area. “To say they are common here in the North East may be an overstatement,” David says, “but they are something one can find if one knows where to look. I had a lot of fun creating at least two end tables from old wheels, and have quite a pile in my barn to explore new designs.”
When he began to explore blacksmithing, David found interest in creating works that were both beautiful and functional. He had seen an image of a handle on a mason jar and became obsessed with trying to figure out how to forge a removable steel handle for a Ball jar. It took him several days to dial in the nuances of the metal and glass combination, but he eventually untangled the mystery. These handles have by far been the most successful product he’s marketed. He is currently in the process of designing elements with which to embellish the handles.
David currently finds himself at the beginning of a new chapter of his life roaming the deserts of northern New Mexico. He is looking forward to finding inspiration in this mysterious and expansive region of the Southwest. We at Phantom Sway look forward to seeing how his new environment influences his future works of art!