If you were to accidentally stumble into the big sculpture studio on the first floor of the Simons Center on a Thursday afternoon and hear all the syncopated banging going on, you might think you wandered into a beginning percussion class. But, in actuality, you would be walking into CofC’s first-ever blacksmithing class.

Taught by skilled blacksmith and sculpture artist Carey Morton, the Sculpture 2 class has proven extremely popular in its first year, filling up very quickly once word got out.

“I think the class has been popular because of the Charleston connection,” says Jarod Charzewski, an associate professor and head of the sculpture studio. “Our students live in a city with some of the best wrought-iron and blacksmithed fences, gates and details in the U.S., so it makes sense that they would want to give it a try.”

Blacksmithing did not die with the horse and buggy, it turns out, but just morphed into more of an artistic pursuit. There’s a bit of a learning curve with intimidating tools, like blowtorches, diamond saws and forging ovens, so Morton has his students train with clay first because it’s so similar to heated metal.

“That’s half the deal – just figuring out how metal works with heat,” he says. “The goal is to teach them how metal works so they can make whatever they want. It gives them a huge boost in confidence because it seems kind of mysterious, but once they understand the basics, it’s not so scary.”

Morton honed his metal fabrication skills while an undergrad at Winthrop and then as a graduate student at Clemson. But it was apprenticing with blacksmith and metal artist Ryan Calloway in Greenville, S.C., that really opened up the world of blacksmithing and its applications to contemporary sculpture.

“The aspect of taking something that’s normally seen as such a cold, industrial, very rigid material like steel and applying heat and a lot of force so that you can then turn that material into something that’s highly organic and very ephemeral is really unique,” he says.

The students are also transformed in the process.

“When you realize you can conquer any fear of these scary tools and fire, you can apply that to so many things in life,” says Morton. “Being able to be self-sufficient and solve problems in a creative manner is really what all art is, for the most part. Learning how to navigate through those scenarios helps train the mind to think more creatively, and you can apply that to solve any problems that might come your way.”

Photos by Heather Moran