My last year in high school I had gone to summer school to make up credits, so the last semesters, I was given a choice of going home early, showing up to school later, or taking more electives. Since my parents divorce at that time, home life could get turbulent, and any time away from either parent’s house was the only way to find some peace. With access to a metal shop, and a free ride home, I decided to take extra electives, and in particular, the metal and welding shop classes.
I had already developed fairly decent welding skills, so I was permitted to explore the different ways of working with metal backed by the teacher’s knowledge of how the equipment worked. The three main avenues I had were welding, turning ( working metal on a lathe), or the forge. While working a lathe would have sharpened my skills to build precision metal parts, it was the forge that called to me. A simplistic process of heating the metal, and then shaping it with a hammer against an anvil, something that could easily be duplicated with even the most rudimentary tools, it was a primal as one could get. There was no glory to be had immediately either. Metal forging takes place indoors, as the light coming off the heated metal has to be correctly interpreted to gain proper tempers. No one outside the metal shop could see me at work, so the focus was internal, as was the challenge.
The forge also allowed the artist in me to flourish. With no guidelines as to what to make, nor a roadmap for how, I was free to learn and create at will.
The school had ripped out some old lockers, sheet metal affairs with a dull beige paint on them. The metal shop instructors had offered to use the metal, saving the cost for purchasing new metal stock. For us students, it meant easy access to materials to build toolboxes, and exhaust tips. For me, it was a paint and canvas.
I began cutting sloppy octagon shaped pieces, about two and a half inches in diameter. With the paint stil on them, I would watch the fumes from that paint, and the zinc coating flow up in a poisonous cloud in to the air vents. Gripped in giant, metal tongs, I pulled each piece out of the forge, and began shaping the bright white/orange disks. I made three of these. One went to my mother. The second went to my girlfriend at the time, who I later married, and am now divorcing. The third, well, that secret rest with me. This on pictured, is the only one I know has survived. It was made in 1995.