Valley Forged (2011)
A Metal Sculpture
by Kathy Cunningham
Steel 33" x 46" x 10"
great, great, great grandfather, George Washington
Patterson, Sr., was a skilled and accomplished blacksmith. This
is in his honor. Techniques incorporated when making
this piece include
forging (blacksmithing), oxyacetylene-welding and cutting, tig-welding,
grinding, and polishing.
As a country, the USA was “forged” on a metaphorical
level. While steel is thought of as rigid and unbending, it is
very malleable when heated and manipulated by hammering and
forming. Not only was blacksmithing an integral part
of life for
pioneers in this country, it continues to this day. We still use
of the same implements and techniques, while improving and
incorporating modern additions such as the use of gas and the
availability of forming equipment.
Quarter inch steel square rods and flat mild steel
were used to create this piece. The square rods were formed
using oxyacetylene-welding to get the steel red hot, and then bending
them into the desired shapes. Sheets of steel were then pierced,
a cutting torch for a lacy look, and then ground down with an angle
grinder on one side. As the sections of the sheets were folded
they also showed the other side, which is very textured and was left
without grinding. The sheets were forged using fire and hammers
create the different contours. The outer form of each letter had
rods turned into molten steel and applied to the surface giving a thick
texture. The three sections were then sandblasted. The
portion of the steel was ground down to a high sheen with the angle
grinder. The rest was left as without further work for contrast.
As a nation, our people have gone through the same kinds of
It takes time, effort, patience, and willingness to changed things when
necessary. The ideals and goals of our nation continue to be
and this process will endure as long as there is spirit in our
individual and collective constitutions.