Blacksmith school being passed on to two Berthoud residents
By Shelley Widhalm
Berthoud blacksmiths Otto Engel and Dakota Myers are expanding the offerings at David Norrie Blacksmith School in Berthoud as David Norrie shifts his involvement to an art center in Cozumel.
Engel and Myers, co-owners of Innovation Forge LLC, added a weekend camp tool-making class that began Oct. 19.
“In a certain sense, we’re picking up the torch of where David left off and (following) his teaching philosophy and picking up some commission work,” Myers said.
Innovation Forge, which provides forged metal design and blacksmithing classes, is housed at the set of red barns at 1521 First St. that for the past 10 years has been the site of David Norrie Studios Inc. Norrie no longer operates the studio there, and Engel and Myers are the managers and instructors of the school.
“It’s available to own it whenever they choose to,” said David Norrie, owner and president of David Norrie Studios and David Norrie Blacksmithing School at forgewithintention.com, about the buildings and associated property. “That’s kind of what all three of us are working toward.”
For the past 43 years Norrie operated his blacksmith shop, David Norrie Studios, at various locations. He started it in Toronto, Canada, moving it to Jackson Hole, Wyo., for five years, and Boulder for another five years before moving it to Berthoud, spending three years in a space in town and another 10 at his current location. His work includes architectural metalwork, public art, furniture and sculpture out of steel, stainless steel, copper and bronze.
Norrie opened a school five to six years ago in an addition he built onto the studio, shifting his focus to teaching and doing less commission work. At the time, he had four employees working in his studio, but he shifted to a sole operation.
“I wanted to teach more and do less big projects. I downsized to do that,” Norrie said. “We really set this building up as a teaching center.”
Norrie changed his focus again after moving to Cozumel in July, where he and his wife Anita Norrie, operate the Casa de Creatividad, a free art and music center under the nonprofit, Art Power, Inc. Norrie will focus his teaching on inspiring and encouraging others, as he did at the Berthoud school.
“My thinking in the school, if you do each step intentionally, it’s a thought process that goes along with the work,” Norrie said. “It’s a focus on creating something that gets the best possible results.”
In July Engel and Myers took over instruction at the school, teaching weekend classes three to four times a month and a Wednesday night introduction class, Flirt with Fire. Their classes include metalwork at levels one through three, welding, tool making, forge building, and intensive classes for custom work. They also provide corporate teambuilding events.
The metalwork classes include three different sets of projects to teach the basic skills of blacksmithing. The projects involve making a set of hooks and a roosting fork, a wall ornament to introduce the processes of forge making and leaf making, and a section of a decorative grill.
“The first couple of classes are more free forging, more hammer control,” Norrie said. “It’s almost like teaching people to draw. Instead of pencil and paper, you use a piece of hot metal and a hammer.”
The more advanced classes require working to exact dimensions and measurements and additional tool usage, such as punches and chisels.
Engel and Myers met at the American College of the Building Arts in Charleston, S.C., where they earned associate degrees in forged architectural ironwork and then studied for one year at the Hereford College of Arts in Hereford, England. Engel met Norrie after doing a summer internship with him while attending American College.
“We were able to learn in a very traditional manner,” Myers said. “We learned about using hot metal as an art medium. It’s really gratifying to take the skills we learned … and laying it out for people in a way they can understand.”
Myers and Engel align with Norrie’s teaching style, they said.
“We mesh pretty smoothly with David’s idea of forging with intentions. It’s not just bashing steel,” Engel said. “There’s lot of forethought that goes into the things you do, so you turn out with the best possible results.”
Myers and Engel want to expand their offerings at the school, including weeklong classes and a knife-making class once they get the required equipment. They also provide commission work, repairs and replications, and have plans to make public sculpture and get involved in group projects.
“We’re keeping it moving forward from where it started because it was in a great place to start with,” Engel said.
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All photos by May Soricelli / The Surveyor
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