A monthly column that keeps its finger on the pulse of Forsyth’s artists and their inspiring stories
This month’s featured artist, Paul Spainhour, turned a lifelong hobby and appreciation for nature into a small business forged in one of the longest-established crafts of blacksmithing. While many may have preconceived notions surrounding metal working, Paul continues to reshape the market with his art, creating standout pieces such as his most recent Locks of Hope project with Novant Health.
Paul Spainhour | Artist, Blacksmith, Metal Fabrication
How would you describe your work?
Most of my work is hand forged iron sculpture or custom architectural ironwork.
When did you first start creating art and working with metal?
After a lifelong interest in blacksmithing I used vacation time to attend Penland School of Crafts for my first class in 2006. It was after the class that I was hooked! I came home and immediately started building my shop. It was a strong hobby for me until retirement and it is now my small business.
What influences your work most?
Nature is my first influence for designing a piece of work. I always try to include natural aspects when I am working with a client, decorator, or architect. Of course it helps that my wife is also an artist.
Can you tell us about the Locks of Hope project you did with Novant Health Center Medical Foundation?
I had been considering an attempt at public art for a while when the call for artists came along for this piece. Based on my experience as a mechanical contractor, I decided to submit a proposal and was fortunate enough to be chosen for this project. After coordination and planning meetings with Novant, I began the fabrication process with the help of friends that have similar skills. The sculpture was installed in October 2020.
Why was the Locks of Hope project something you personally wanted to do?
I have a condition called Hemochromatosis, also known as iron overload. My hematologist is located at the Cancer Center, and I receive treatments there as well. The idea that patients can add a lock of “HOPE” to the sculpture grid is very pleasing to me, it feels special.
What is one misconception most people have about being a blacksmith?
Most people think it takes brute strength to be a blacksmith. I explain to people that at the proper heat the iron is somewhat like clay under the hammer. Some of the better blacksmiths that I know are women that forge with finesse rather brute strength.
How have you evolved as an artist over the years?
In the beginning my work was all functional items like door pulls, wall hooks, and fire pokers. After attending more classes and joining state and national organizations, my interests turned towards creating artistic pieces. However, a good part of my work is still functional.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to share with fellow artists?
I would say, don’t wait too long to explore your interest in creating any type of art! There are lots of educational opportunities available if you search for them.
If you are interested in learning more about the artist, Paul Spainhour or see his work out in the community you can check out his website paulspainhour.com or follow him on Instagram @spainhourpaul. If you’d like to inquire about custom projects email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.