Swinging Sledgehammers

Maker Faire
Celeste Flores of Clay and Steel

Celeste Flores of Clay and Steel Brings Blacksmithing to Maker Faire Bay Area

The Industrial Arts area of Maker Faire Bay Area will feature Celeste Flores of Richmond’s Clay and Steel along with a diverse group of blacksmiths, “swinging sledgehammers and making hammers,” among other things. I caught up with Celeste just before this weekend’s opening of Maker Faire Bay Area on Mare Island.

Sledgehammer in action at a Crucible booth. (photo from Clay and Steel)

Dale: Celeste, if you’d introduce yourself.

Celeste: My name is Celeste Flores. I am an artist blacksmith. I do architectural work, luxury architectural work for homes and businesses, and I also teach blacksmithing. 

Dale: How did you become a blacksmith? 

Celeste: I actually, I always wanted to be an artist from the time I was a very small child, and I went to school in San Francisco for fine art sculpture at the Academy of Art University, and their general metal shop class had a forge and anvils that were mounted like this high. They were mounted so high for me, and that I thought it was so cool, and I thought I would focus on this for just that one semester, and now it’s been 16 years later, and I’m still doing it. 

Dale: What do you particularly like about it? You have different media that you could choose as an artist to work in. 

Celeste: I actually was originally a drawing and painting major, and it was so difficult for me to sit still for all that, for hours and hours on end. So I like the physicality of it but also the fire part is very cool, and when you have hot metal on in your hands, it really focuses you.

So you’re not thinking about all sorts of other things, so I really like the intensity of it. And I like that. I like the challenge of it, because years and years later, it’s still so difficult for me. And I think every blacksmith has that experience. It never ceases to be a challenge. 

Dale: And so you turned your art into also a business, right?

Celeste: Yeah, absolutely. 

Dale: Tell us where you’re located? 

Celeste: I’m in Richmond at a place called Seaport Art Studios with a lot of burners and a lot of other makers, really cool place and cool community. I’m very lucky to be here.

I started out doing small commissions for friends. A set of curtain rods for a friend of a friend was one of my first bigger commissions. I did a railing for another friend and, 10 years later, I’ve just built upon that. The railings bring in the most business. I actually have one right behind me. There’s always a railing in my shop, but they’re also extremely high in overhead. So I’m going back to my roots and doing more small gift items and teaching again. So that’s really exciting. 

Dale: Are there new people interested in learning blacksmithing?

Celeste: Always. People love this. It is so easy, honestly, to sell classes. I also teach at the Crucible, not very much anymore, but I did for a long time, for 11 years. And the blacksmithing classes, the beginning classes always fill up. They bring in 900 people a year or something like that into blacksmithing.

There’s a desire, especially, I think, for a lot of the tech people around here. There’s a desire to work with your hands and just get your hands dirty and do something physical. And it’s such a cool way to do that. 

Dale: We’re also seeing more women interested.

Celeste: Yeah, here at Sean’s studio, at least half the renters are women and they’re all professionals. Besides me, there are welders, and there’s a woodworker with a shop right behind me. I would say about half of the instructors at the Crucible are women, and more than half the people who come in here and use my shop are women. So, if you open the doors to them, there’ll be plenty of women who are interested. 

Women at work. (photo from Clay and Steel)

Dale: We’re really excited to have you join us at Maker Faire Bay Area on Mare Island. We have an industrial arts area and you’ll be in there. Your business is clay and steel. Tell us what you’ll be doing there.

Celeste: So I will be with a whole bunch of other Blacksmithing friends and we’re gonna be doing team striking which is swinging sledgehammers We’re gonna be making small gift item sort of things. We’ll be making hammers for a couple days. We’re gonna be making an axe one day. So we’re just gonna be doing all sorts of stuff Blacksmithing related.

Dale: That’s great. I look forward to seeing you there, and I’m really think it’s an opportunity for a lot of people to like you said that the Maker Faire has a reputation for tech, but I also like it’s just hands on makers people that create things. 

Celeste: All sorts of makers. 

Dale: Thank you, Celeste, and good luck, and we’ll see you at Maker Faire. 

Celeste: Alright, see you at Maker Faire. 

Click to go to Maker Faire Bay Area to get more information on our Mare Island event, taking place Oct. 13-15 and 20-22.

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DALE DOUGHERTY is the leading advocate of the Maker Movement. He founded Make: Magazine 2005, which first used the term “makers” to describe people who enjoyed “hands-on” work and play. He started Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and this event has spread to nearly 200 locations in 40 countries, with over 1.5M attendees annually. He is President of Make:Community, which produces Make: and Maker Faire.

In 2011 Dougherty was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” through an initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” At the 2014 White House Maker Faire he was introduced by President Obama as an American innovator making significant contributions to the fields of education and business. He believes that the Maker Movement has the potential to transform the educational experience of students and introduce them to the practice of innovation through play and tinkering.

Dougherty is the author of “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing our Jobs, Schools and Minds” with Adriane Conrad. He is co-author of "Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities" with Peter Hirshberg and Marcia Kadanoff.

View more articles by Dale Dougherty
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