Those interested in learning about forging have an opportunity to get some hands-on experience.
Local resident Lauren Bostic will be hosting Heat and Hammer, a five-week series of forging classes starting Tuesday in her studio at E.E. Bass Cultural Arts Center.
Each hour-long class will show participants the art of forging with fire.
Each class takes about an hour, from 5:30-6:30 p.m., and the cost is $20 per hour.
Bostic, who attended the Memphis College of Art, said blacksmithing was initially just a class she thought sounded fun to take at the time.
“It wasn’t my intention to do this full-time,” she said with a laugh. “But here I am.”
With a lot of experience working with jewelry and other small pieces, Bostic said her elective course quickly turned into a passion.
“I decided to take this one class just for fun. I was tired of working on a tiny scale with jewelry. It was nice being able to hammer metal for once. I really loved it and when I graduated, I wanted to keep up with it,” she said. “It’s like exercise, if you don’t keep it up, you’ll lose it. I didn’t want to lose that muscle memory.”
Slowly, Bostic began slowly collecting blacksmith tools here and there, mostly from family friends, so she could keep up her hobby full-time.
“No one else around here has the equipment. It’s been a bit of a struggle,” she said.
The tools and equipment she has been able to obtain, she said, was mostly out of luck.
“A lot of it was just being in the right place at the right time with how some of these connections are made,” she said, noting it’s difficult to find other blacksmiths in the Delta.
“Around here, there’s really no one else who does this,” she said. “Occasionally, I will hear of someone who knew someone else who has forged but that’s about it.”
With blacksmithing typically thought of as a man’s work, Bostic said she has yet to meet another Delta woman who forges.
“Around here, I don’t imagine there’s many other women who do this, if any,” she said.
In college, however, Bostic said there were plenty of interested women.
“Oddly enough in the metals department, there were more women than men,” she said. “I don’t know if it was the appeal of getting your hands dirty or what, but that was my experience.”
Because it’s difficult to find like-minded artists in the Delta, Bostic said she has been interested in joining the Mississippi Forge Council in Jackson.
“I think I’m getting to a point where I could do that,” she said, noting she has wanted to practice more as most of her techniques are self-taught.
In her work, Bostic said she prefers to use the natural gas technique rather than propane.
“It’s great because I can do it indoors and not worry like I would with propane,” she said.
In time, Bostic said she would like to start attending festivals to show and sell her artwork. And, some day, Bostic said she would like to attend a craft fair.
“It would be fun to do the work hands-on in front of people but I think I still need some time before I do that.”
To begin featuring her work, Bostic began entering some of her pieces at local art exhibits.
Last year, she had two pieces featured in the biennial expedition the Greenville Arts Council hosted last year, where an end table she created won the merit award.
Her end table also won third place at last year’s Delta Artists Association exhibition, where she also had a praying mantis sculpture that won the People’s Choice Award.
Since then, it hasn’t taken long before word-of-mouth about her work began to spread.
When Greenville Arts Council approached Bostic with the idea of teaching a series of classes, and Bostic said it was an offer she couldn’t turn down.
As her first class approaches, Bostic said she feels both nervous and excited.
“I’ve basically had four months experience and now I’m trying to teach other people to do it. I’m excited to teach other people but I’m also afraid it will be tough to explain,” she said.
Interested participants have been signing up fast, and Bostic said available space is running thin. But, for those who are unable to participate in her class, Bostic said she plans to teach more later in the year, possibly in August.
For those who do attend the classes, there are several safety tips to remember, including:
* Bring a pair of safety glasses;
* No open-toed shoes will be permitted in the studio;
* Syntheic clothing materials, including shoes, can melt and stick to skin if they come in contact with hot material. Cotton is recommended but any natural material is fine;
* Long pants are recommended.
To make a reservation, call the Greenville Arts Council at 662-332-2246.