Blacksmith monument captures the eye with feminine and soft sculptures | Thetribune
Your image as a blacksmith is probably outdated.
It is probably about a man hammering a piece of hot iron on an anvil.
But if you conjure up a sculptural blonde doing the same job, welcome to the 21st century and to the studio of Jodie Bliss, Monument blacksmith and extraordinary metal maker.
A tour of Bliss Studio and Gallery reveals a busy and in-demand blacksmith who will be celebrating his 10th birthday at the boutique this fall.
Bliss is from Monument, where her mother owned High Country Feed and Tack and taught Bliss how to drive a forklift and boss boys around.
“I didn’t have to break a stereotype in my head of women unable to do anything,” said the Cheyenne Mountain High School graduate. “I had a strong mother.”
With that kind of influence, it’s no surprise that Bliss is part of an elite club – the 1% of blacksmiths who are female, by her estimate. She only knows of two others in Colorado.
There are, of course, pros and cons to being a woman in her profession. One downside is the occasional need to have to prove yourself when people assume you don’t know what you’re doing, she said.
“I’ve learned to be confident that you keep doing what you’re doing and it won’t take long for them to realize that you know what you’re doing.”
She sees many more benefits, however, including the novelty aspect – people often notice the marketability of such a niche. But she thinks more about her aesthetic.
“When I compare my designs to those of other people, they have a more feminine touch, which sets them apart from a lot of other things. It is neither heavy nor masculine.
Some see her work as downright “goddess”. These are the words Shanti Toll uses to describe her new sculpture, “Spirit of Manitou,” which was recently installed in front of Econo Lodge at 107 Manitou Ave., after the Manitou Springs Urban Renewal Authority launched a national appeal to artists.
Bliss’s winning piece is a curvy female figure holding a cog of the old Manitou railway in the air. She also featured a dozen vignettes of scenes from Manitou’s life, including the celebration of tilt and carnival.
“I love her. It reminds me of the diverse nature of Manitou Springs,” said Toll, member of the Manitou Springs Art Council and curator / director of the Spirit of Manitou Legacy Art Project. ‘art.”
It’s noon on a Tuesday in Bliss’ Second Street complex, which is truly a resort, with its blacksmithing and metalworking shops and an old gallery that’s now a work space. Most of its seven employees are scattered all over the place, bending down and working on large-scale eye-catching sculptures and commissioned pieces. There is his Muse of Water and his Muse of Earth Sculptures, both 9 feet tall and heading towards stations in the City of Thornton Regional Transportation District.
There are also geometric pieces on the floor. These go to the Garden of the Gods Club and Resort, where they will be sentries in the roundabouts near the station. Some of his other pieces adorn the roundabouts in the development of the Flying Horse. And then there are the ornate fire tables, one of which is decorated with a peacock.
In total, Bliss estimates that around 15 of its public art works are placed across Colorado Springs and Manitou, including two at the University Village Colorado Mall. His large-scale sculptures can also be found in the state and in a few towns in Kansas.
This number is growing exponentially for private collections. Last year, Bliss and her team made more than 100 pieces, large and small, for Colorado Springs customers: elaborate gates, railings, doors, furniture, and other custom metal parts.
“His art is very artistic, detailed,” said Herman Tiemens, one of Bliss’s clients and local art philanthropist. “It’s metal, which makes it heavy, but it almost has a delicate flair. He looks soft even though the materials she works with aren’t.
Bliss’ personal favorite is probably the majestic 11-foot “Path to Vitality”, commissioned by the Eagle Pointe Recreation Center in Commerce City. Crafted from hand-forged mild steel, the piece lasted around 400 hours and is based on one of the nine ancient Greek muses meant to inspire people. Evocative ladies influence much of Bliss’ work; she made them into watercolors that hang in a specific row, high on a wall, so women always seem to be watching whatever is happening below.
If the blacksmith had his druthers, his time would be spent on creations involving these muses.
“It’s a form that can express a lot of different ideas and emotions,” she says. “I’ve had people say, ‘Can you do a male figure?’ I’m not averse to it, but every time I try to draw male characters they just don’t have as much life.
Path to public art
After high school, Bliss attended Western State College in Gunnison, where she began working in metal making jewelry. She started visiting her uncle’s carpentry shop on weekends, and an industrial steelworker who had a shop next door invited her to come dig in the scrap pile and use his welder. The welding bug got a little tough, and jewelry making went down the drain.
After earning her BA in Fine Arts and BA in Creative Writing, she earned an MA at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where she tinkered with ceramics and silk painting and had many experiments, all incorporating metal. It wasn’t until she returned to Colorado, however, that she took her first blacksmithing course. The craftsmanship, and the way it allowed him to create organic shapes, was enchanting.
“In previous years, I felt like I was dating,” Bliss said. “Since I’m going to try to sculpt in clay, I’m going to try this, I’m going to try that. And now I have fallen in love. It’s a time when you know, you know a kind of thing.
After a relationship ended, she needed a place to land, a place that could accommodate her piling up stack of tools. Her parents therefore offered her their building in Monument where her mother’s grocery store was located.
For five years, his life turned out to be robotic: making as many metal sculptures as possible, packing them in the van, touring the country, pitching tents at art fairs, coming home, starting over. In your early thirties, this life was getting a little less romantic. At the same time, she was on the Front Range Open Studio tour, which invited art lovers to artists’ workplaces. During one event, his artistic life was hijacked. Three separate visitors said they loved her art, but wondered if maybe she could also make a door out of it.
“I set aside six months of work to do artistic architectural work,” she said. “It got me off the road for six months, which was a break I needed. I thought, “I’m going to do this and start doing art exhibitions again.” But once I started doing this custom metal job it just kept coming. “
In 10 years, she hopes that her career will be mainly devoted to large-scale personalized pieces. But to build that public art resume, she has to start small, she said, with $ 2,000 sculptures, and work your way up.
The timing is right, even though the time in her life has always seemed auspicious to her. Things come to her when she’s ready.
“I don’t know exactly how it works, if my energy is flowing with the universe,” she says.
“But when I look at the major milestones, my life seems really fortuitous to me.”
Contact the writer: [email protected]