Meet Your Maker and Field Trip: Willway Forge

fireIf you've been to the shop, you've probably noticed the metal anchors, belt buckles and railroad spike bottle openers among other super cool metal objects. Well, we went out to visit the guy we're calling the MacGyver of Craft, Matt Sieber of Willway Forge. Most of his equipment and tools have been made by him out of salvaged and reclaimed bits, much like his art. Anvils made out of railroad track, old military surplus bits, even old skateboards are reused in the shop. We spent a lovely morning with Matt in his garage studio, chatting and watching him work horseshoes into hearts, nails into tiny swords, and other "useless" bits of metal into beautiful, functional pieces of art. We'll let Matt speak for himself :) "I am an Artist Blacksmith, I have worked with metal for many years, including 20 years (still on active duty) as an Aviation Metal Smith with the USNavy. I have been involved in artistry my entire life. Throughout my grade school years growing up in New England, I was very fortunate to have been involved several extra curricular artistic ventures. All of which have greatly influenced my direction in creativity and craftsmanship. I have been very fortunate to have come of age in a family interested in artistry as well as generous support for my creativity. My greatest satisfaction comes from the magic of shaping and creating metals into artistic designs and seeing them come to life in a finished product."

The supply stash: rakes, horseshoes, nails, rebar, and whatever else he can get his hands on...

How did you come up with Willway Forge?

"Well, its the street I live on. And my first thought was, 'If I am ever lucky enough to be successful, folks will think they named the street after me.' Lol.."

The Forge, made from a barrel and other reclaimed materials, the hood, bought from an other metalsmith.

The Forge, made from a barrel and other reclaimed materials, the hood, bought from an other metalsmith. To the far left is a small propane forge, used for smaller items. The blue bins to the right hold coal and coke to fuel the large forge. Above the bins sit the "twins" Danny and Arnold(Yes, from the 1988 classic Devito/Schwarzenegger flick...)

What's your inspiration?

"All Metal artists young and old. Metal smiths of all types have interesting ways of getting things accomplished. All of whom have developed their own inventive ways to simplify rather difficult tasks. A good metalsmith can see the invisible and make the impossible happen. My inspiration comes mostly from the metal forms and items I acquire. They typically sit in my shop for a short and sometimes long period until the shape tells me what it wants to be. Then I do my part in the process to attempt to reveal its artistic design."

To polish rough edges, the piece is put in the tumbler - Note the bike tires, skateboard trucks/wheels and old drill press motor used to make it...

What's your typical day like and how do you balance a full time military career, a family(he's got a lovely wife and two really sweet daughters) and still have time to create?

"1st, work my real job. 2nd (after work) Manage life with my wife, two wonderfull daughters and whatever needs done at home. 3rd hopefully find enough time to spend in the shop and get some projects worked into reality. More frequently those 3 items are juggled into no particular order. [Balance comes from] long hours and knowing when to stop. Sometimes I get so caught up in a project, I don't hear what is happening outside the shop. Thats when I have to force myself to put out the fire and go see whats needed of me elsewhere and understand that if my work is not done this minute, its OK."

Yes, this was made from discarded bits from his job as an aeronautical metalsmith. Here he's using it to stamp veins in a leaf.

How do you break yourself out of a creative rut? What resets your batteries?

"Go camping. I didn't realize this was what I needed until it happened. But while out there in the wilds, where the dealings of everyday life are nonexistent, my creative brain relaxes and takes a different look at things. [On a day to day basis, it's the] beach, and hiking trails. I like to have my day to day clocks reset with a vista and fresh air."

To close out, here's a little demo of how a tiny cowboy hat comes into being:

matthat2

A small piece of metal is heated in the forge - the green handled tools were all made by Matt to serve a specific purpose.

matthat3The hot metal is formed into a disc and then hammer molded in a die to create the crown.

matthat5

matthat6

The brim is folded and crown formed into the telltale cowboy shape.

matthat7

While still hot, he uses a wire brush to remove any sharp bits and as a happy byproduct, some of the metal from the brush melts to the surface of the hat, giving it an antiqued brass patina.

As we were leaving, we wandered through the Siebers' oasis of a backyard - from the home built firepit ring, to a covered patio, to a complete outdoor shower(Working with coal = too dirty to walk on the living room carpet) - all surrounded by pretty plants - his wife has a heck of a green thumb. Thanks, Matt for letting us visit! To find out more for yourself, you can find Matt online as well at http://willwayforge.blogspot.com/!