Contemporary Tradition

I sculpt metal.

My name is Celeste Flores. Welcome to my life as a blacksmith. I began my journey years ago as a child expressing myself through art. While growing up I obsessively studied drawing and painting. I attended The Academy of Art University in San Francisco, earning a BFA in Sculpture. There I was introduced to a hammer and anvil. I was hooked. Eventually I became an intern at The Crucible in Oakland. Currently, I teach blacksmithing there. I worked briefly at a small well known bronze studio in Berkeley forging architectural bronze. Together at the shop we took two trips to Buenos Aires, Argentina where we had the opportunity to teach new blacksmiths in South America.  I have served on the board for the California Blacksmith Association and the Executive Team at The Crucible.  I keep very busy growing my business forging custom objects for customer’s homes, gardens, and businesses.

I love commissioned work. For me it’s a collaboration between myself and the owner. I love the boundaries of style, era, and space that are inevitable in a site specific project. I love matching my vision as an artist to the home and to the owner. It’s a very challenging and rewarding process that drives me to continue to learn and push the boundaries of my abilities.

I have the best job.

What is a blacksmith?

A blacksmith is someone who shapes metal using heat and force.

Specifically a blacksmith effects dimensional change within a piece of steel (I also work with aluminium, bronze, and copper). Most metalworking shops have at most the ability to take, for example, a ½” square piece of metal and twist it or bend it. Though the appearance has changed the dimensions of the piece are still approximately ½” square. A blacksmith can take that same piece and flatten it, stretch it, texture it, shape it, bend it, cut it, or pierce a hole through it. The hot metal moves like clay and the volume is moved to create a new shape. This process is called forging. Blacksmiths do not simply bend or twist metal, they forge it.

What does a blacksmith make?

A blacksmith can create any shape.

Many blacksmiths may create simple shapes like tapers or leaves. These take time and repetition to perfect. It takes more work and skill than a twist or a bend. Many blacksmiths alter dimensions of the stock metal until the original stock is unrecognizable. They create sculptural forms like animals, flowers or horseshoes, that do not resemble the material originally purchased. They may also create more modern and abstract forms. The complexity of the design and requires an ability that the smith likely developed over years of practice and training.

Blacksmiths may rely on machine welding that might be visible or carefully sanded away. Blacksmiths may also rely on traditional methods of joinery and avoid any use of arc welding; this is a personal or project specific choice. Items assembled using traditional joinery are some of the most challenging and attractive things to make. Joins can be as simple as a rivet, which acts much like a bolt holding two or more pieces of metal together. They can be more complex using pins and wedges to hold the objects together. It is the difference between fine woodworking that uses dovetails compared to wooden objects that are screwed or nailed together.

When commissioning a blacksmith, it’s important to keep these things in mind when collaborating on a design or looking for a good match for a smith. Do you envision a hand sculpted, unique piece of art for your front steps? Or would a good fabricator be more your style and budget?

Oakland, CA, USA


©2020 by Clay and Steel