Location: FOREST OF DEAN
Mission: TO CONTINUE THE TRADITION OF BLACKSMITHING AND USE IT TO CREATE ART FOR TODAY
At the end of 2015 my parents bought one of the 888,246 ceramic poppies which were on display in the ‘Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red’ installation at Buckingham Palace to commemorate the 100 year history of World War One. As this was a special piece of artwork they wanted a way to display it which was equally as special. This was how they met MissFire, a self-employed Artist Blacksmith who produces metal sculptures for exhibitions, and also commissions for public and private clients. After contacting her with details of the commission, they thoughtfully mentioned The Spiralling to her and luckily for me she was up for having a feature!
Clare graduated from a degree in Metalwork & Jewellery in 2004 at The Surrey Institute of Art and Design, now known as the University for the Creative Arts. “I have always enjoyed creating and expressing myself. The ability to imagine, design and make things is exciting and rewarding. I wanted to work with my hands and I was drawn to metal as a material for its potential to be both industrial and decorative.”
Working in steel allows for the scale and strength she requires, but heating it in the forge turns it soft and malleable. “I am able to manipulate it and bend it to my will. There is something primeval and immensely satisfying using a process that has remained largely unchanged since the dawn of civilised mankind.”
Her degree course was a struggle, “The course leader (a jeweller) made it hard to learn the blacksmithing skills I was so determined to develop. My compromising final project was not well received, so I then had to complete set referral work designing railings for London Zoo in order to pass my degree. By which time I had missed my graduation ceremony, and the opportunity to exhibit my work at the graduate show ‘New Designers’ in London.” This made the three years of hard work end with a bitter taste which made it hard for Clare to find the next step. “Looking back now I believe it made me stronger and more determined to succeed. Despite the ‘situation’ with my degree I was proud to be featured in the alumni magazine in 2014, and also in the prospectus last year.”
She worked for two other blacksmithing companies before moving back to Gloucestershire in 2008 and setting up MissFire – her own unique brand of contemporary metalwork. “It is my creative identity, evoking passion, excitement, strength and individuality. I like the idea that the work I produce will outlast its maker and that my work brings joy to others, either by owning it, viewing it, or watching me produce it. It’s basically being able to play, just with bigger and more dangerous toys.”
Currently MissFire is based in The Blacksmith’s Shop at Clearwell Caves, an ancient iron mine in the Forest of Dean. “While I have great respect for the heritage and history of blacksmithing I believe the future of the craft lies in finding new ways to produce work, embracing new technology and offering clients the unique and personal touch that only handmade pieces can provide. I love to collaborate with other talented creatives and have been fortunate enough to combine my work with wood carvers, glass artists, stone carvers, film makers and photographers.”
Her inspiration is most often found in the beauty of the natural world, “an inexhaustible source that is free and accessible to all who choose to see it. My style is inherently feminine with a sensitivity for graceful, elegant curves and fluid, organic lines. I sometimes use intense colour in my work, effects rarely seen in ornamental ironwork, more commonly seen on custom motorbikes.” As well as the natural world, MissFire also takes inspiration from Dali, Disney, H R Giger, Albert Paley, Tim Cotterill, Skottie Young, Roman Dirge, Gaudi, Anthony Gormley, Louise Bourgeois, Barbara Hepworth, and Tolkien.
One of MissFire’s greatest achievements to date was seeing her sculptures in Kew Gardens at the entrance to ‘Handmade at Kew’ last October. “It was a very proud moment and a massive step. To take part in a London show was an expensive venture that turned out to be worthwhile in the end but took a lot of hard work, energy and blind faith!” She also won first prize when she entered ‘Art Couture Painswick’ for the first time. “The prize was awarded by Grayson Perry for my piece ‘The Nutcracker’, a chain-mail style bikini made from nuts, bolts, washers and spanners.”
I asked MissFire if she had any funny stories, “I dont know if this counts as funny or tragic…I applied to be a blacksmith extra in ‘Maleficent’ and went through a few stages successfully, but shortly before heading off to Pinewood Studios I was informed that they were only looking for male blacksmiths. Couldn’t they have said that earlier?! I think Angelina Jolie would have been outraged! On watching the film when it came out the following year, they cut the entire blacksmiths scene.” However, she has had some opportunities to showcase her acting skills in the short-films produced by Inner Demon including playing a disgruntled blacksmith in ‘Burning Love‘.
If you’d like to see more of MissFire’s work you can view her portfolio here. A full list of her upcoming exhibitions can be found on her website. “A brand new one for this year is at Charingworth Court in Winchcombe, organised by the Winds of Change Gallery. I also have applied to GROW London this year, an event that brings together the worlds of horticulture and contemporary design, and am waiting to hear back from them. I am hoping to host an exhibition of my own work in the near future, that would be amazing.”