With a nickname like “The Steel City”, it’s no wonder Birmingham is home to a thriving metalworking scene. I reached out to 5 Birmingham metalworkers to learn more about their craft. Keep reading to see where they find inspiration and learn where you can get started.
1. Julie Carpenter
Julie Carpenter learned to weld and cast metal when she was studying at the University of Montevallo. Ever since, she’s incorporated both processes into her artistic craft.
For one of her recent commissions, she welded an arrangement of vibrant flowers. This Birmingham metalworker makes a variety of works including intricate jewelry.
“I have been inspired by the intricacies of form and color in nature to delve further into building a variety of other plants and flowers from metal in the near future.”Julie Carpenter
Find Julie Carpenter online: Instagram
2. John Rhymes
John Rhymes has been a part of Red Mountain Makers since 2014 where he’s taken classes on making nails and focuses on woodturning. For both metalworking and woodturning, the difference between a good piece and a great piece can come down to the subtle details.
“I believe that making changes the way you view the world. You no longer have to accept things as they are. You realize that pretty much everything is hackable. You can change things. That realization is so empowering!
‘My next one will be better.’ is the Makers’ Motto. It’s a recognition that making is an iterative process, that the most important attempt is the first one and the second most important attempt is the next one. It is easy to say ‘I can’t do that.’ It is smarter to say ‘I can’t do that yet.'”John Rhymes
Find John Rhymes online: Instagram
3. Emily Meisler is a Birmingham metalworker who crafts unique art
Emily Meisler began working with metal as a mandatory part of her college curriculum, but she quickly realized she loved creating with it. Now, she’s a sculpture artist who works in both metal and ceramics. In her work, she explores the organic forms you can find in nature.
“I draw most of my inspiration from the relationship between nature and construction. I’m constantly looking for ways the two interact, whether that’s plants taking over an abandoned building or a tree root bursting through a concrete sidewalk. I’m always searching for interesting ways nature shows its resilience.”Emily Meisler
4. Jacques O’Quinn
Jacques O’Quinn is a Birmingham metalworker who’s specifically interested in blacksmithing, a type of metalworking that involves creating useful items out of different types of metal. As a blacksmith, Jacques is able to make whatever he thinks is coolest at the time with any found materials.
Find Jacques O’Quinn online: Instagram
5. Kenneth Spivey teaches aspiring Birmingham metalworkers
Now an instructor, Kenneth Spivey was exposed to metalworking at an early age through his family’s craftsmen and blacksmiths. In Kenneth’s classes, he focuses on creating a hands-on and informative crafting experience with proper safety pieces. He offers over 30 different blacksmithing classes and even includes options like casting metals, sheet metal fabrication, jewelry and stained glass.
“The type of metalwork I like most involves more than just one skill to create something. I find that to be more of a challenge, especially if it’s artistic. I love making props for movies or television shows. Swords, armor, shields, jewelry… both historical and fanciful are my forte.
The process of figuring it out to get to the final piece is part of the joy. Actually seeing your creation become a reality and the satisfaction I get from that is what keeps me going.”Kenneth Spivey
Want to get started with metalworking? Here’s their advice.
When I asked each of these Birmingham metalworkers what advice they would give to those interested in starting their craft, they all agreed: take classes. Luckily, Birmingham has plenty of options to offer.
“People often find the confidence to work with metal by taking a moment to become familiar with the material itself and with the tools involved in the craft. I have seen a lot of beautiful metal art come together in a relatively short amount of time. And it is such a rewarding skill to obtain!”Julie Carpenter
Sloss Metal Arts
Workshops at Sloss Furnaces are a great introduction to processes including casting, welding, and blacksmithing. Discover their options + sign up here.
Red Mountain Makers
Future Birmingham metalworkers, the classes at Red Mountain Makers will be the perfect introduction to your metalworking journey. Kenneth Spivey teaches the craft with over 50,000 hours of metal work under his belt. Aside from offering classes, Red Mountain Makers is a makerspace that allows artisans to craft and store their own works.
- May forging classes:
- Bottle openers: Saturday, May 1 | 3-hour session | $120
- Railroad spike knives: Sunday, May 2 | 4-hour session | $160
- Punches/chisels: Saturday, May 15 | 3-hour session | $170
- Horseshoe knives: Sunday, May 16 | 3-hour session | $120
- Hammers: Saturday, May 29 | 4-hour session | $160
- Axes: Sunday, May 30 | 5-hour session | $200
- Address: 5502 1st Ave N, Birmingham, AL 35212
- Website | Instagram | Facebook
MAKEbhm is a coworking space with a twist. Rather than only holding offices and desks, they offer studio space and coworking areas for makers and creators.
Along with the space to hone your craft, you can follow along to stay updated when they offer metalworking classes.