[ARTIST PROFILE] Atmore flirts with fire
February 26, 2019
Senior Ben Atmore’s desire to become a blacksmith began in the summer of 2018 when he had been watching various YouTube channels and shows like “Man at Arms Reforged” and “Forged in Fire.”
“I just decided one day to Google blacksmithing classes in Minneapolis and I found one and I took it. Every week we’d go in and we started out with very structured lessons to teach people but then we were let free to do our own projects. In the first session I made a giant ladle, a hook for a birdfeeder, and some dishes,” Atmore said.
He goes to Chicago Avenue Fire Arts in Minneapolis, and the location provides access to any fire art: metal casting, glassblowing, neon bending, welding, and blacksmithing. They have classes ranging from beginner to advanced.
The forge has three main sections which are the gas tank, the casing, and the blower. The fire is produced by propane gas that is pressurized by the blower, which shoots down to the casing insulated by fire bricks. It can reach temperatures of up to 1,900 degrees, near the melting point of steel.
“I work primarily with steel because it’s the easiest to forge. Once the steel is hot enough, I use tongs to take it over to an anvil and hammer it. It depends on what type of hammer strike I use, and then I use different types of chisels that can poke holes in metal without losing any material,” he said.
Atmore goes to two classes a week, but once he begins senior project, he will go more frequently, having it as one of his activities.
“The metal that I’m using is the same type of metal than trains are made of, that is in your car axles, that are in the rafters of the school that we are in now, and the fact that I could turn some aspect of that very durable, strong metal into an art piece and not have you know what it started out as is very rewarding,” Atmore said.
Atmore says that he is taking over a role in the trades, where many of today’s professionals are aging out of practice. He says this generation will be responsible for filling many of these positions.
“If you take a drive down say, Summit Avenue, you’ll be able to pick out a lot of houses that have metal railings, and a lot of these are hand forged and not produced in a factory. That demand for tradespeople in the time that we live in is higher because the past generation of tradespeople is dying out, but there are still people left who have that interest and are looking to pass it on to this younger upcoming generation.”
Atmore used to consider his main hobby as acting, but now, blacksmithing has risen to the top to become his main focus. He enjoys working with his hands and wants to create something permanent that will not be forgotten.
“At every college I’ve visited, one of the things I looked for was an anvil. In the past I’ve associated myself with various things, acting was the longest running one and until sophomore year I was like ‘yeah, I’m going to go into acting,’ but since midway through junior year I’ve realized that I want to work with my hands, while yes, acting and performing is this amazing and stimulating activity that I do, I just feel like if I was in a play, I can’t just leave that play on the ground in the forest for the next two hundred years and it would be there. The pages would decay. But, if I made a tiny metal frog and put it in the forest, it’ll eventually rust and maybe start to corrode, but that’s still going to be a permanent mark. I really like the permanence of metalworking and use this very strong material to create whatever your heart desires,” Atmore said.