Check out my latest and greatest hammers and forming blocks from NC Black!

This past Sunday, I was able to attend a demo by Andrea Kennington & Les Bryant of NC Black, which took place at Cottonwood Center for the Arts in Colorado Springs.

As many of you know, I love tools.  I have wanted to explore some additional metalworking techniques ever since Annie of NC Black did some demos at our Colorado Metalsmithing Conference this past July.  Now I have what is considered a starter set of their mini forming tools and I will be practicing….a lot!

The techniques that I will be exploring and learning are called shell forming:   anticlastic raising and synclastic metal forming.

Michael Good is probably best know for his anticlastic work.  Betty Helen Longhi’s work shows more beautiful examples of the synclastic style.  For a good overview on these metal forming techniques, visit these Ganoksin links:

Right now I’m not sure how I will incorporate these techniques in my work.  I love  learning new things.  It is good for me to challenge myself and see how these techniques may be applied to my future works.

Andrea is one of my Facebook friends, so it was great to meet her in person.  She shared a number of things about herself and the company she formed, that added to my respect and admiration of her.

I would like to share a bit of Andrea’s story.  She apprenticed under Betty Helen Longhi and was a production jeweler for many years.  She would teach a few workshops each year.  For those workshops, she made the tools the students would need to use and those tools would be part of the student’s kit that they would take home after the workshop.  She said she never set out to make hammers.  She made a limited number of them each year for the workshops she taught.  But demand for those tools increased and she really didn’t have the time, people or facility to produce hammers.  That all changed….

When the economy took its toll on a few of her friends (they were laid off), that became the impetus for a partnership to form NC Black.  The tool manufacturing company started 31 months ago and  today employs around 18 people.  Impressive.

There is a direction that many artists in the United States are advocating and that is buy American made products.  Andrea is supporting that cause with NC Black, using steel and wood from the US.

Here are a few examples of the work Andrea and Les demonstrated for us.

I shot a few video clips so I can refer back to them as I practice.  I wanted to share this one as an example of one of the techniques they demonstrated.

Next March, they will be back in Colorado Springs at the Cottonwood Center for the Arts to teach a workshop and I am ready to sign up.  One of the encouraging things Les told us was that one could pick up these techniques in about 4 hours.  Now, mastery of them comes with a ton of practice.  We all have to start somewhere, right?

I definitely like the quality of their tools.  An added bonus for me is knowing the people behind the company.  It was a pleasure Andrea and Les!  Looking forward to spring 2012 when you return to Colorado Springs.  I am an eager student.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

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