September 25, 2007

Metalsmiths conference set for Oct. 5-7

by Andrea Hahn


CARBONDALE, Ill. — There's a definite "cool" factor to things that come from a forge. Whether it's hammered copper from the Angel family artisans, Damascus steel from Daryl Meier or the overall bragging rights that go with the purchase of an L. Brent Kington piece, metal art has the distinctive appeal of seeming futuristic and historic at the same time.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale art students in the Southern Illinois Metalsmiths registered student organization host their annual Southern Illinois Metalsmiths Conference from Oct. 5 through 7 this year. The event features an auction at Carbondale's Turley Park beginning at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6, and a weekend full of demonstrations and instruction at the L. Brent Kington Smithy in the Pulliam Hall Industrial Wing on campus.

Adam Hawk, president of the SIMS, said this year the group went all out scheduling demonstrations. They hope the area community will go all out supporting the auction, the group's only fundraiser.


Media Advisory

Photographers, reporters and camera crews are welcome to cover the metalsmithing demonstrations. Please call ahead to Visiting Assistant Professor of Metals Nathan Dube at 330/ 671-1477 or Adam Hawk at 618/967-0669 to make arrangements.


The auction is the event highlight for non-artists. Hawk promised that a bank loan is not a necessary prerequisite for those wanting to add some original artwork to their homes or their Christmas lists. "We'll have a little bit of everything – from bottle-openers and belt-buckles to bigger items," he said. "We'll have some glass and some pottery, too. The speed auction and the silent auction are great places to get really good deals."

The "speed" auction is for small items and begins at 3:30 p.m. A silent auction begins at the same time. At 4 p.m., there is a live auction preview, and the live auction itself, where the bigger items – including a Kington sculpture – go on the block. This year, the Neighborhood Co-op Grocery, now located in the Murdale Shopping Center, caters the event, including finger food and wine and a declaration that "auctions are a lot of fun." Live music provided by students in the SIUC School of Music rounds out the evening.

Proceeds from the auction support SIMS, which uses the money for the annual conference, for visiting artists and to offset smithy fees. This year, there is a particular need. Thieves broke into the graduate students' small metals studio on Sept. 16 and stole raw gold and silver – a devastating loss for some of the students in the program. Hawk said SIMS intends to set up an assistance fund for the students who lost materials during that burglary.

For those who want to create metal art or at least see how it is done, the three days of demonstrations are just the ticket. Demonstrations are at the L. Brent Kington Smithy behind Pulliam Hall on Lincoln Drive on the SIUC campus. Sarah Perkins and Philip Baldwin, both SIUC alumni, will give demonstrations from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Friday. Perkins, now in Missouri, is known for her work with enameled metal vessels as well for metal sculpture and jewelry. Baldwin, from the state of Washington, uses a meticulous Japanese technique called "mokume" to create art knives.

Conference participants may want to make a side trip to the Southern Illinois Artisans Shop and Art Gallery on Friday for a reception opening Kington's new traveling exhibit, which debuts at the art gallery. James Wallace, director of the National Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis, Tenn., gives a lecture at 5 p.m. that day for "L. Brent Kington: Mythic Metalsmith." The art gallery, which is a branch of the Illinois State Museum, is in Whittington, near Rend Lake. Wallace's lecture is partially funded by Carbondale Community Arts. The traveling exhibition received significant support from the Illinois Arts Council through the National Endowment for the Arts American Masterpieces National Initiative.

The Angel Family of Santa Clara Del Cobre offers demonstrations on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The family is known for fine coppersmithing, in particular their hammered copper vessels. They work in other metals as well, and create everything from large pieces to smaller, intricate works.

Kington has a retrospective slide presentation scheduled from 2 to 2:30 p.m. Kington taught at SIUC from 1961 until he retired in 1997. He is one of the most well known blacksmiths in the country, and was instrumental in elevating blacksmithing into a medium for fine art. The traveling exhibit borrows from private and museum collections. It includes examples of the silver and bronze toys Kington made for his son in the 1960s, forged iron and steel pieces and abstract sculptures.

Demonstrations continue on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., featuring James Wallace, who made the iron gates that protect the University Museum in Faner Hall; Daryl Meier of Illinois, who works in pattern-welded steel, also known as Damascus steel; and Alice James, who is part of the Flicker Forge team in Missouri known for its architectural metal work.

See the SIMS Web site at for a workshop schedule and registration fee information. For more information about the auction, visit the Web site for the Neighborhood Co-op Grocery at or call Nathan Dube, visiting assistant professor of metals, at 330/671-1477.