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Glassell Park blacksmithing school forges new signage for Debs Park

Photo by Martha Benedict

Story by BRENDA REES & photos by MARTHA BENEDICT

GLASSELL PARK — “Get it hot and then hit it hard,” says Gary Standke with a laugh as he wanders through  Adam’s Forge, a local blacksmithing cooperative/school that celebrates and continues the tradition of molding metal the old-fashioned way with heat and muscle.

In an industrial warehouse lot off San Fernando Road in Glassell Park, instructors like Stanke and students are busy at work, clanging hammers, handling the fiery torch, punching holes and twisting metal strips into pieces of art. The group is coming down to the wire on a project that began late last year – four large wayfinding signs that will be installed at Debs Park this summer.

Designed to withstand the weather, vandalism and graffiti, these charming and unique directional posts will guide hikers and, when the need arises, emergency responders in the approximately 300-acre park.

“We wanted the signs to be indestructible given that this is a public park, but we also wanted them to be an art feature and to involve the community,” says Marcos Trinidad, director of the Audubon Center at Debs Park, who was one of the early organizers/advocates for the project. “Each sign was designed by an artist based on a specific location.”

A Lesson in Art & Blacksmithing 

Photo by Martha Benedict

A volunteer instructor, Standke says the project has been “an amazing educational experience” for the students who have followed the process from discussions to design, from field research to creation. “This really gives them a taste of what it’s like to do this kind of work for a living.”

For many Adam’s Forge students, however, blacksmithing augments their established careers. According to President of the Board for the Forge, Heather McLarty, the forge has welcomed students from all walks of life since its inception in 2002. “People studying cosmology, medical doctors and yes, even rocket scientists,” she says rattling off occupations of students who want to learn about a trade that goes back to the Iron Age.

Today, the ‘smithers are deeply focused on the Debs Park assignment. A team of three is driving a rivet into a large plate, working in a carefully choreographed dance. “They are doing this the way that shipbuilders created the Titanic,” says Standke about the process that involves one person heating the rivet to a glowing red color before another pounds it quickly into place.

Signs of Nature

Photo by Martha Benedict

Nearby, student Becky Schimpff shows off the details of one arm of a four-directional sign that will point to the Walnut Forest. “Look at the leaves,” she says pointing out that each walnut leaf on the swirling decorative arm has been crafted by a different person.

On a large table with blueprint designs, delightful snails and dragonflies await be added to the signage that is also adorned with colorful marbles. A smooth songbird rests here, but that metaled flapper will be affixed to another sign that features a super tall pole with a nest at its apex.

Like pieces of a puzzle, a large butterfly fashioned out of slim rods will be the focal point of another sign.

Veering away slightly from the nature-inspired elements, another sign presents tall abstract modern rectangles as the downtown Los Angeles skyline.

One of the biggest joys of this project for students and instructors alike is knowing that the work being done today will be appreciated for decades to come.

“It’s exciting to be working on a project that isn’t destined for someone’s backyard – these signs will be seen by so many people,” says Schimpff.

Photo by Martha Benedict

Photo by Martha Benedict

Photo by Martha Benedict

Photo by Martha Benedict

Brenda Rees is a writer and resident of Eagle Rock. Martha Benedict is a photographer who lives in Montecito Heights.

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One comment

  1. Thank you! Great article. Great photos. Can’t wait to see the finished product. Will there be a special celebration day when they are installed?

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