As an artist-blacksmith, my intent is to create a body of work that will last for generations and allow every individual that encounters it to experience it in some way. My work primarily falls into the category of functional and decorative. I strive to create items that are aesthetically pleasing, all while encouraging the individual to interact, utilize and experience the work. I spend a lot of the design stage focused on how it will be viewed, but during the creation phase I focus on textures and how it will feel. I want people to experience my work visually, but more importantly through their sense of touch.
The inspiration for my work is rooted in my rural and self-reliant lifestyle. I gain inspiration from the natural world that surrounds me daily, but also the beauty of crisp lines, even distribution of visual weight and symmetry. My style of work is heavily influenced by early American ironwork, and the work of the Colonial ‘smiths who created the bulk of utilitarian objects during that time. I want the user to connect with me, as well as the history, and ultimately make the deepest connection through the use of the object.
The forging process is very personal to me. I am empowered by the ability to take a normally rigid and cold piece of metal, heat it up and through the use of a variety of tools guided by my own hands, turn the metal into a flexible and soft material through which I can impart my vision. Finally when the forging is complete, the metal is once again rigid but now has been given life, form and function.
My Forging Journey
Josh Cooper - Artist Blacksmith
My forging experience began the summer of 2003 when a good friend of mine, woodworker and blacksmith, Jason A. Lonon (www.jasonlonon.com) began sharing with me the pleasures of working hot metal. My efforts to learn were rooted in the self-reliance lifestyle I had taken on. My early projects included knives, hatchets as well as the obligatory wall-hooks and S-hooks. For a long time I forged just for the experience, and took advantage of lessons, classes, and meetings in my area. I mainly forged products I could use in my daily life until I opened my own shop 2012 and starting offering work to the general public through festivals, craft shows and online sales. In 2016, I started developing several production items, and continued to forge custom commission works. I now primarily create larger commission work.
In my early years, I spent a lot of time trying different styles of work as well as some of the many different varieties of forged products out there. I settled into a very comfortable niche of functional forged items. I now like to think of my work as specializing in items for the home that are functional as well as decorative. The style of my work is mostly of Colonial influence, with some elements from the 19th century. The scale of my work has varied from large tables, railings and chandeliers; to medium sized coat, pot and hat racks, towel/toilet paper bars and stands, key hooks and wine racks; and finally to small key chains, trinkets and napkin rings. The physical scale of my work has increased since 2017, and I have really enjoyed creating larger, more detailed and creative work.
One of the aspects of my personality that finds it's way into the shop is a drive to constantly learn. I am always willing to try something new, hoping that it will teach me a new skill or more effective way of completing a task. Whether it be as complex as forging pattern-welded Damascus by hand, forging real antique wrought iron to replicate historical forgings, or as simple as a variation on a door pull. This strive to challenge myself, learn new things and try new ideas still brings be joy. I remember the days when creating a pretty scroll on the end of a simple hook brought me immense joy and pride. I still get that feeling with my current work, but on a MUCH larger scale!
This constant drive to learn has also led me to share the knowledge I have gained to other interested blacksmiths out there. I have taught family and friends in my own shop, regularly instruct at John C. Campbell Folk School, led Blacksmithing workshops and Summer Camp sessions at Turtle Island Preserve, and workshops at Western Piedmont Community College in Morganton, NC. I have also demonstrated for the local chapter of NCABANA. I am a member of ABANA, the North Carolina state affiliate (NCABANA) and the New England Blacksmith Association. My work can be viewed publicly at West Main Antiques in Taylorsville, NC; Blue Ridge Artisan Center in Wilkesboro, NC; and Handtiques in Blowing Rock, NC.