Sculpture Forging: SYLLABUS

~ acquiring practical methods for conceiving and forging an object that conveys an objective impression ~

by J. Garvey, September 2017


An audience visits Tilted Arc, by Richard Serra; there is unanimous confirmation that the piece conveys a profound affect. Can this work be regarded as an objective artwork?  Additional examples for consideration: Sagrata Familia Cathedral by Antonio Gaudi, Water Lilies by Henri Matisse, the Annunciation by Fra Angelico, and the sculpture, Will by Marc DiSuvero.

SUMMARY        Individuals are channeled to realize a sculptural form that has an objective effect upon the audience; it elicits an innate response apart from spoken language. The ‘methods’ presented in the Sculpture Forging glossary instill sensitivity based on intuition as the guide for the creative process. Students have been screened. The JG hook exercise establishes immediate rapport with plasticity and pace of this medium. The new skills are a catalyst, insight is called upon to sketch form-ideas that emerge since start of class. These are sorted and momentum is held in check until there is an acknowledgment among the class that the idea has a vital collective impact. Then, technical guidance is introduced; specific techniques become the vehicle for fabrication. Frequent visualization reinforces the distinctive inference that corresponds to the idea; a super intelligent process is proceeding for each heat that can grasp the wherewithal at hand.  The artist projects an image of incidental transformation attainable for this heat. He holds this picture in his mind’s eye; it enables the action to be controlled by primal immediacy, like learning the keyboard on the typewriter. The methods described in the glossary come into play as specific circumstances warrant. The instructor focuses upon an applicable term, such as, “As you consider a change, sketch full scale and project the presence that you intend to make; now, measure the immediate impression, is there a visceral certainty?” or, “If you focus on a silhouette of the negative space in the composition and adjust the volume of that shape, will it relieve your frustration?” or, “Can you distill the ‘precious’ content of your form-idea; can you take the essence and produce a series of eleven pieces?” At the close of each session, members observe as each work is put on view in its’ place in process and the individual adds to their Journal of Conception. Staying active depends upon continued confirmation by the entire class for the quality of the impression. A ‘vocabulary’ is established that enables dialog during this review process.  In a short time, they can sort cursory notions as they realize their work.               

DESCRIPTION    Forging enables metal to become a plastic medium that can be formed with hands-on attention. It is similar to drawing; without delay, one can realize a form that has exact correlation to an image in their mind. Compared to carving or casting, the momentum is not being interrupted by a complex staging operation. When hand forged artwork is compared to the unavoidable perplexity of fabricating with found objects, the impression that is received by an audience has an advantage; there is a sentient association; there is evidence that the artist has devoted full force physical performance to make the object. This medium ignites a robust inner vitality. The individual rises to be a contender with their self; they call upon their best attention as they realize their idea using their mind, and body, and heart. The measure of their effort is being presented repeatedly as they proceed through fifty ‘heats’. Each heat, they withdraw a glowing bar from the blast and impart tiny increments of shaping with each hammer blow at the anvil. The student starts by forging eight hooks; the instructor demonstrates until the student asks for the hammer so they can try. The subtlety of impact force and ‘positioning’ is better understood without words and numbers.  Primal glace is an acute observation process called upon to analyze the action and develop motor skill to perform the task; the instructor comes back and repeats the demonstration as the finer attention works to incorporate the subtlety of the forging skill.  The one-on-one contact introduces the fundamental precedent for this creative approach; visualization is the guide for what you are making. The class is opposed to using jigs, machine tools,  and precise planning; it promotes freehand forming, a spontaneous combination of moving, feeling and thinking. One learns to read the radiant glow as the bar is brought up to an appropriate ‘heat’: dark red for bending, orange for rounding, yellow for tapering, white for flattening or cutting on the hardie. As each ‘heat’ is brought to the anvil, there is an active visualization, an incredibly intelligent function that the mind delivers; the force and direction of each hammer impact is being instantly refined as the task proceeds. They must all share the fire, the anvil, and the keen glance as they maintain a safe work environment. The will is energized; they are engaged in an unprecedented creative mission amidst peers who share a serious commitment to realize a meaningful impression.



Sculpture Forging: methods and class policies


objective artwork (def. by JG)  an artwork that demonstrates profound anonymity has an aesthetic affect that we all share, an active dialog with collective unconscious.  It produces a physiological effect, a distinct sensation, and a barrage of impulses that fire across the synapses in many regions of the brain.  Examples: the Sagrata Familia Cathedral by Antonio Gaudi, Tilted Arc by Richard Serra, Water Lilies by Henri Matisse, the Annunciation by Fra Angelico, and the sculpture, Will by Marc DiSuvero.

prospecting   (def. by JG)  I seek a new element in my vocabulary of forms. My interest is ignited by a challenge, in my mind, there is an impulse that billows, swirling the contents in a prospector’s pan. I am groping; reviewing the impressions from pieces in my portfolio; I am tasting the essential trace of each impression that has an affect; using my keenest attention to realize a new idea that has relevance. These are the catalyst for a process of evolution; it is not a process of discovery. I am fusing an unprecedented idea that will be apparent in every project that will be derived from this idea.  An example : a man pulling a sled conceives a pair of axels and four wheels. internal dialogue “I am encouraging an inner attention to find an unprecedented form-idea that imparts an objective impression. I refrain from looking at existing sculpture; I can dismiss infatuating trends and ideas that haunt me. When I sleep, every recorded memory is being reviewed by my current interest.  A potential impression is being fused that is apart from spoken language; it has not got a name. Any form-idea that I visualize is significant. I sketch it without concern of how it will be made. There is a threshold to cross for my form-idea because fellow members of the class need to confirm it. Likewise, I have a responsibility to reject mediocre material of my classmates. In this way, we learn to sort out weak ideas, nurturing discretion for an objective impression. I respect the individual’s opportunity to proceed with his or her own struggle. I remember to refrain from the indulgence to be a volunteer designer.

form-idea  ( def. by JG),  each member of the class conceives a form-idea that has objective vitality; and, it is not derivative. The psyche of the ‘creative’ has a reservoir of burning interest to apply to the realization of a form idea.  This interest enables a live image to be sustained as a visualization. It is an internal visualization akin to an object in a dream. It can be visualized during waking state; all the surfaces can be examined; and one can zoom in on details. It is used as a guide during work-in-process. JG Bend, Wing Surface Joint, and Ring on Ring; these are three form-ideas that occurred while I was working at the forge:                    

journal of conception      At the end of each forge session the work is positioned for viewing in a place free from visual chaos, the place in process. Students record at least ten seconds in their video file as they respond to this question: “Considering the technique and tooling as a means to represent the character of the visualization, were you obliged to accept compromise?” The dialog is limited to an innate response that is coming from the visual impression of the work at hand; it remains free from aesthetic opinion, or design help session. The instructor and student review several seconds of technique that was recorded during class to understand remarks about their skill. The work remains in its’ place-in-progress until he or she returns.  During this recess, it receives quiet attention, both conscious and unconscious; this allows the individual to visualize the next steps. The anticipation of this refinement provides an abundance of energy to devise a simple tooling/method to manage the next move.  There is an impulse to approach this unprecedented task properly and take time to practice before proceeding. Following an inquiry, the student shall formulate a statement to reveal the cause and unseat the denial in respect for common practice.

threshold I have a responsibility to reject mediocre impressions; I respect the fact that my form-idea has been confirmed; I refrain from creative exuberance for another person’s work unless they invite suggestions.

sketching (def. by JG)  a conversation with a unique attention inside me, a remarkably  effective digestive process for visual impressions, a time sensitive opportunity to respect my current interest.

primal glance    I can learn precise technique with a single glance. I record a brief action video in my mind. I expect myself to flesh out the choreography of physical action. As I try to perform the technique, I use the ‘vitality of not knowing’ to move beyond awkwardness as the task is underway; I practice and repeat, repeat, repeat. I invite this visualization to be continually refined ahead of the action.

work-in-process      I am working to interpret my form-idea. I can “taste” either confirmation or, compromise; I do not hesitate to use ingenuity to refine the approach in order to keep from diluting the objective impression. The student will develop a rendering of their form-idea. There are complicated intentions that the instructor will avoid that can cripple development such as: heat treatment, jewelry scale expertise and, naïve details like rivet heads or the ‘beaten effect’.  In counsel, the instructor and the student arrive at a practical approach regarding scale and schedule. Specific technique is provided to interpret the form-idea such as: punching, twisting, upsetting, or repoussé. The participant practices; and, he or she develops confidence to perform without hesitation. “When I am making a new piece, there is a visual detail of the form that hovers in the margins of my attention. I am comparing the piece with this image; it is active as the guide. As the work advances, an internal process understands the potential at hand. I can remain serious when I return to the place in process and suspect a compensatory notion that will compromise the quality of the impression such as: composition becomes too complex, the temptation to embellish with rivets, or the beaten effect; or if I become infatuated with an industrial finish. I continually refine the fabrication process in order to optimize the impression.

freehand forming     I devise the most rudimentary conditions that enable me to have manual control as the material is being shaped; I anticipate the affect of the  transformation and refine the operation as it proceeds; I avoid devices or positioning apparatus that compromise my ability to do this. I briefly scrutinize the action needed; I envision a three-dimensional force vector that will enable me for a moment to perform the action; and then, I use what is at hand and proceed to devise a temporal condition to perform the action. ‘freehand forming’ imparts a positive way to avoid lackluster craftsmanship.

taking a heat      a component may take as many as forty heats. During each heat, a visualization of incremental change is being continually updated as I work to hammer out my form-idea.

by-eye       I only use measurement tools at the beginning to respect a relative boundary ; my attention can instantly determine proportions and alignment. I am continually measuring resonance within the composition.

full-scale projection      during fabrication, as options are considered, I wish to taste the presence from the work.  I develop a full-scale mock up using the existing components and sketch the next area. I continue to project options until I am certain; then, I proceed.  It is best to always use a full-scale mock-up to study potential change.

negative space     I lay out existing components and sketch the negative space area to understand weakness in the composition.

anti-overwrought     when the canary stops singing, then it is a gamble to proceed.

Medieval poise ‘hand hammering method’         I raise the hammer directly above the work and let gravity pull the hammerhead straight down. My body action conforms to this straight line of impact. When the action is smooth, I accelerate the force with torque action from the small of my back. I have upright spine; my lips are touching; and my jaw is relaxed. There is no arc in the trajectory of the hammer swing. Every hit can be recognized as an effective incidental impact blow.

place in-process   PIP   I position the work at a place free from visual chaos where it can be seen and where it can remain until I return. I take a snapshot and review quality of expertise; I formulate and record my response,  “Considering my work today, does it continue to resonate with the visualization of the original form-idea?

stalled     Vague is Vague! If the impulse to proceed has become weak, I do nothing.

osmosis       my active interest is inducing insight from my past. My current understanding can be informed by every related task in my history. I am always being observed by this history. Whenever I conceive an unprecedented form, I put it into the ‘interrogation room’ with my ingenuity. There is a non-verbal engineering process that sorts the means and methods at hand; there is a conscious delay until there is a deliberate practical way to proceed.

existing work   renowned form is like flirting with an interloper. I do not look at images or existing forms in this medium when I am prospecting. I only use new form-ideas arising from a current interest; also, I remain passive to “self significant ideas” that haunt me such as a mushroom form that I was not permitted to work on at some previous point in time.                       

solar-plexus balance  An effective way to reduce risk of injury: I need to move with my center of gravity no higher than my solar plexus, with my feet, underneath.  As I step I am always ready to stop instantly, or to move out of the way. I can adjust, to loose grit on the floor, to a colleague backing up blindly, to an unexpected obstruction. I am aware of my space, five feet around me, what ever is there, what ever enters.  I don’t lean or prop myself on any fixture on the platform.  When I hand off to someone, I release my grasp when they take it; not before. Otherwise, it is a naïve and dangerous affair.

“happenings”        if I wish to move on instantly, I can move to California and pursue form-ideas that use pure process art such as twisting a bar until it breaks. 

morphing       Often I become inclined to redefine the form-idea; this indicates that my choice was premature.

self-therapy        I identify subjective therapeutic form-ideas such as: anger/power objects or carnal/angst objects. I consider discretion before sharing these ideas.

hysterical/religious        I am suspicious of any impulse to realize form-ideas that are symbols for spiritual, esoteric, enchanted experiences such as: wreath of thorns, or lotus blossom of clairvoyance.

technical struggle         I avoid unreasonable form-ideas that oblige me to learn complex expertise such as heat treatment or forge welding.

multiple components        I am cautious of form-ideas that have moving parts; these tend to absorb enormous design development.

cliché free      I remain an outsider to form-ideas that represent graphic font: hearts, emoji, and treble clef…
tools     forging tools, tongs, and hammers are stored in canvas bags. They are laid out on view individually for each session; regular handling keeps the tools from becoming rusty and it reinforces the vocabulary for expertise.

forge attire    participants are urged to wear safety glasses and heat resistant garments: gloves, hat, and footwear. Appropriate fabrics include: leather, wool, cotton, or carbon fiber. Warning: open cuff boots catch hot embers; synthetic fabric melts and causes burns; loose hair tends to be singed by the end of class.

instructor’s assistant   a well-qualified technician is employed to lead during two-man forging, and provide metal fabrication tasks such as welding, cutting, grinding, drilling. 

forging materials     mild steel, titanium, stainless steel, or silicon bronze. No galvanized metal, aluminum, or recycled industrial metal.

finish      forged patina,  ‘hand filing’, or plating by others.

tongs     firm positive grip, never pivoting. Please ask the instructor to re-forge the jaws to fit the work.

hammers    new handles when they split, face of hammer has burrs trimmed; no taping allowed.

anvils     are secured with chain onto JG Anvil Stand.

working heat    heating is essential… it needs attention, the right color for the technique, no burning.

two-person forging      the instructor shall approve any person before they can do two-person forging. 

foresight      As the heat goes in, my attention hovers; I notice radiant color increase. As I leave the fire, I preview the specific forming action that I expect for this heat. The hammering or bending proceeds; and then, before I reheat, I attend to any refinements that occur.  I rehearse the next move; it is briefly held in its’ position at the anvil or in the vice; hammer and tongs are ready; if needed, a helper is lined up and ready to assist. I shall be relieved of the hesitation caused by not knowing ‘how to do it’; I am free from the temptation to take credit for an arbitrary happening , a default statement emerging from natural occurrence.

torch and power cords     do not put power tools or the torch down on the forge or table; use a custom stand; hoses and cords do not get stepped on. Lines have their convenient resting place; they are coiled and off the floor. Even during the class, whenever the torch is not in use, turn the valves to close any flow at the Oxy-Acetylene tanks.

extinguishers      are available; and everyone understands their use. Buckets of sand are always at the ready.

canteen     is available any time: drinking water and snacks: popcorn, dried fruit, and nuts, a place to wash hands, a first aid kit with burn cream, bandages, aspirin, eye wash flushing system, hand cleaner, Neosporin, and a blanket. Gloves and face shields are always available.

injuries     stop working; have someone examine the injury; always, formulate why it occurred.

bad air    is not allowed: paint spray, sandblasting, acid or base surface treatment, galvanized steel, brass with zinc, recycled metal with synthetic coatings such as: Teflon, epoxy, zinc, or any coating that has toxic fumes that will vaporize and be ingested.

fabrication genie  The technical assistant, instructor, and student collaborate as needed to perform welding, grinding, and drilling. The technical assistant is responsible for these fabrication tasks; it significantly reduces the risk of injury.

make it go away      maintain a scene that is free from visual clutter. Return inactive tools to the plank with the other tools. The litter stand has a designated place outside the area of activity. The visual scene of the entire forge platform needs to be free from visual distractions such as wrappers, paper packaging, and shiny containers...

chores    burnable material such as leaves  are cleared for up to 25 feet out from the edge of the forge platform; clinker buckets emptied; quench water is fresh; service the litter stand; sweep the platform.

demonstration    expertise is best introduced by the instructor, not by fellow students.

ingenuity       please,  resist the impulse to be a volunteer; do not compromise the opportunity for another

interruptions     email, texting, conversations… attend to these when you are off the Forge Platform

rapport      please, respect the focus that fellow participants apply to their work;  if someone likes to talk, be sure to start to chat and leave them hanging in mid-sentence. 

endorphins    can be dangerous. If I become aware that I am ‘in your way’, it is time for you to take a break!

let it fall      if something slips, let it fall; never try to catch it.

accident-prone  the participant may be suspended if they are having physical accidents, or taking unnecessary risks.

blind prospecting   the participant may be suspended if their interest is critically compromised; if they begin to express frustration and resistance toward prospecting.

‘leavies’       the participant may be suspended if he or she is unable to focus on their own work; if they burn things up in the fire because they are too often available to solve problems and assist fellow participants. His or her performance is compromised because they may get nervous in a group; they may be unable to ask for assistance; they may be shy about the performance of learning a new skill.

self-fulfilling mentality     the participant may be suspended if he or she is locked into a creative bent of their own, irrespective of the instructor’s direction or the effect that it has on the class.

incorrigible     the participant may be suspended if he or she assumed they could adhere to the policies but they begin to act upon an impulse to usurp the instruction. Eventually, they argue and take offense.

application screening Can the Student visualize? The applicant is asked to use their free hand to draw a full-scale sketch of the other hand as they hold an object behind their back.                                        

application screening What is the Student’s biomechanical aptitude for this medium?   Forging is rigorous, fast paced, and ongoing. Students need to be agile and remain calm amidst equally determined members on the forge platform. The applicant needs to disclose any handicap that pertains to breathing, fatigue, and/or compromised attention. Also, they should tell the instructor if they have medical treatment that pertains to an active blacksmithing program such as susceptible to an infection, or light sensitive or heat sensitive skin that could result in burns. They will be asked to perform a simple exercise at the anvil to confirm that they have better than average dexterity and coordination; this is necessary in order to handle the rigors of forging without an elevated risk of injury.

application screening Does the student have the Maturity to accept instruction?   Can the applicant be “OK” with an approach that is far from exploration and conversation? The individual needs to ask the instructor questions about the Glossary and Policies; they understand that former students have been suspended; and, everyone needs to respect the program. Before applying, they should consider their history, was there strong resistance when they participated in a disciplined approach to training?

continuation   Each student shall be attuned to a significant objective impression in an artwork; he or she has experienced a setting that is free from self-conscious expectations. The class has the refreshing advantage to remain apart from self-defined validation; students carry the question,  “What is the significance of this of work in regard to the community?”



Forge Platform

Forge Platform