Forged in the Fire: Philosophical Musings on Forging Steel

Blacksmiths live irregular lives. When you are forging steel to make your livelihood, you find yourself keeping odd hours, for one. When it starts heating up in the summer months, I forge all night and sleep some of the day. When it’s cold outside, I come out of hibernation like a bear blinking in the sunlight and light up the days with fire and heat. We don’t keep the shop air conditioned, preferring to forge in synchronicity with the seasons and the weather.

As anyone who’s ever tossed and turned knows, you can get into a fog after a night of no sleep. Keeping normal relationships with diurnal folks means you just may not sleep at times…for longer periods than most are used to. Yesterday, after noticing in dismay as the morning sun was lighting up the sky, I began thinking about the meaning of life in a insomnia-induced waking reverie as I pounded steel. With sheer force I tried to induce the steel into the shapes that I deemed appropriate whether it’s functional, a piece of art, or a little of both.

The idea for this blog popped into my head and I started thinking about writing in general. With writing, you pluck words out of the air and arrange them neatly into sentences, limited only by your creativity and confidence. With steel, it’s like the words haven’t been invented yet, or even the letters. You are taking something that vehemently does not want to be moved and forcing it to yield with fire and a massive hammer. There is nothing neat about it as we struggle with nature ever time in a sort of primordial battle, reinventing nature’s rules with each blow.

This got in my head as I pondered in my hypnagogic state the meaning of the work that we do at Matrix. We make stuff from material that puts up a fight, daily, nightly, year after year. It’s my job and my passion. But it wears on me, that constant resistance renewed daily.

But then again, when you heat, deform, and finish a piece of steel, the metal is transformed. It can withstand extreme pressure yet still maintain structural integrity under stress. Forged metal is harder, stronger, and more durable than cast or machined metal. It’s the pressure that makes it so. Forging in fire is so transformative that it has become an idiom that means something has been made stronger by the process—figurative or literal—of applying heat and pressure. It’s easy to draw a parallel to life in general.

 

This steel is kicking my butt, but in the process, it’s fortifying both me as a person, the product that we make at Matrix every day, and our team at large. We are getting stronger, more creative, bigger, and better. We are creating art and tools and fixtures and more from the hardest thing in the world from which to create—stubborn, assoholic steel. But then again, I can’t say we would have it any other way.

So, with a renewed appreciation and optimism for all the exciting projects we have coming down the pipeline, I want to thank Matrix customers for the opportunity to create something meaningful with an obstinate medium. We look forward to a long, hot, grueling, and transformative summer.

Asheville Chocolate’s New Custom Sign Is Sweet

Creating custom signage for local businesses, like the one we recently completed for Asheville Chocolate, can be tricky, but fun. Tricky in the sense that you are dealing with someone’s brand identity, which calls for attention to detail like nobody’s business. Fun because you get to see that vision come to life in the most visible part of their business, which means seeing a smile on the client’s face if you’ve met that goal.

A month or two ago, Asheville Chocolate, located at 25 Broadway in downtown Asheville, asked us to create their sign to match their logo as part of a complete relaunch/rebrand. The sign includes the logo on a light purple background, surrounded by forged cacao pods, leaves, and flowers.

We worked with the owners to download their vision, then executed the sign, with Luci doing her magic on the welding and painting, then helping with the installation, which was tricky because the construct above the sign was made of plaster and it was hard to find an anchor point. The installation also required a little extra care on our part—the sign was heavy, the day was hot, and the leaves were sharp. (Ouch.)

The Asheville Chocolate custom sign is now visible as you walk down Broadway. Stop in and get chocolate sauced, as they say. 

 

Asheville Chocolate Sign, Beginning Stages

The beginning stages of building the Asheville Chocolate sign, including cutting and adhering the letters. 

Asheville Chocolate Sign, Woodwork Complete

Woodwork complete. Time to get to forging.

Asheville Chocolate Custom Sign, Cacao Pod

A cacao pod forged to match the drawing. 

Asheville Chocolate Sign, Painted

Luci matching the PMS colors of the logo with paint.

Asheville Chocolate Custom Sign, Installation Complete

Luci and I installing the Asheville Chocolate sign on Broadway.

Asheville Chocolate Sign, Complete

Tada! 

If you have a signage need, give me a call at 828-712-1996 or shoot me an email. Our signs can be seen all over Asheville, including main hanging signs and sidewalk signs downtown at Old Europe, Strada, Posada, April Cornell, Studio Chavarria, and more.