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Katie Ventress Artist Blacksmith

by Angie Boyer

Published: September 2017

Katie Ventress Artist Blacksmith

When Katie Ventress contacted me to ask whether craft&design might be interested in helping her promote her work, I did a little bit of research about her. And I discovered someone not only with a talent as a blacksmith, but also someone who is ambitious to make a success of running her own business. So, mindful of our reputation for helping makers at the beginning of their careers, I decided to find out more and to help spread the word about Katie's work.

Born and based in North Yorkshire, creativity has always played an important role in Katie's life, as she says, "Art is something I have practised with my family from a young age. If something did not engage me creatively, it would not engage me at all! I was constantly drawn to making things, from anything and everything I could find, and I knew that no matter what I did in the future, I would have to keep creating."

"But I would never have known in those early days that blacksmithing would become my creative outlet!"

Katie's journey to where she is now, in the early stages of establishing her own business, took her through studying 3D Contemporary Craft at York College followed by an apprenticeship with Godbold Blacksmiths near Whitby learning modern fabrication skills, along with two years of traditional training at Hereford Agricultural College." 

Six years, and a great deal of burns and blisters later, Katie is branching off as an Artist Blacksmith in her own right.

She admits to me that, "Blacksmithing is not glamorous or easy work. In fact it's hot, sweaty and dirty, but the final products you can create are a direct result of your physical efforts and imagination, making it all worthwhile."

With that in mind, I ask Katie what the most enjoyable aspect of her work might be.

"It's the moment when I realise that what I imagined at the beginning is coming together as I hoped, the material is behaving and I become lost, not necessarily in my thoughts but in almost thoughtless action, doing what feels natural to my hands. I feel completely at home, relaxed and excited at the same time, in those rare moments when everything goes just right."

'Katie uses both traditional skills and modern fabrication skills to create her pieces. "I find that both these methods of metal working bring very different effects and styles to my work and I love being able to combine the two, it gives me the freedom I need to achieve whatever I imagine at the time. One day I may be using my forge non-stop, heating, forming and manipulating the steel into forms that have a perfectly natural and honest finish.

 

Whereas other days I will be welding and grinding my way through steel to make life-like representations of animals, using heavy duty power tools to create surprisingly delicate features. But most days I use a combination of the two, to make any form I can imagine in a way that's effective and finished to a high quality. 

"There is nothing more satisfying than making a numb piece of steel give and lean into movement. In the beginning it did seem a daunting prospect, when you know the metal is going to put up a bit of a fight, but once you find ways that work for you and know how to make the steel do what you want, it is less daunting and more exciting. Breathing life into work with a subtle curve here and there, or making a dramatic statement with knots and coils, you have to be persistent if you want to make your vision become a reality. Sometimes it goes better than I could have hoped for, other times it seems un-achievable."

Working as a blacksmith can be tough at times, but Katie says, "I am not the biggest human being, but you don't have to be. Use your head, stand on something to give you height to bear down on the work, make a long wrench to give you extra leverage, be inventive! It's not your size but your stamina, determination and technique that are important."

 

Does she have a favourite piece that she's made? "It's very difficult to choose, as some have aspects that I enjoyed more in a different way from the others. For example, making my life sized lobster physically felt easier, more methodically pieced together, a bit like lego! Whereas my recent octopus tentacles were much more physically involved and traditional, requiring me to use what felt like every muscle in my body at times, they felt as though they took on a part of me in the making, which is often the case with a lot of handmade work, but the fact that they are exactly the type of thing I would have in my own home makes them even more pleasing to me."

Starting your own business can be exciting and perhaps, at times, a little daunting, as Katie has discovered. "The thing that excites me most about opening my own business it the prospect of making my own designs every day, whenever an idea pops into my head I can experiment whenever I like. Although the training I did and experience in day to day fabrication has been extremely important to do what I do now, it was not enough for my soul. I may not make my fortune, but I hope to happier each morning knowing I that will get to use my creative juices every day."

"The most daunting part of it all though would obviously be failure, not only in the fact that it would mean a financial setback, but having to put my passion on the shelf and never be able to say that I am an Artist in my own right would heart breaking. Making things will always make me happy, but making others happy because of my work is something  different all together."

Katie's work is available to buy from her online shop at www.KvBlacksmith.com and she comments that, "As my business is still in its early stages, I am currently looking for galleries and shops who may like to stock my work. I will hopefully be attending shows, fairs, festivals and open studios throughout the years to some. Confirmed Christmas Fairs are the Living North Christmas Fair in York and the Country Living Christmas Fair in Harrogate.

I can be contacted directly via email or phone (details on my webpage) if you'd like to  discuss a commissioned piece."

www.kvblacksmith.com

Kv.blacksmith@gmail.com 

@KV Artist Blacksmith

 

 

 

 
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