Hi, my name is Lisa Geertsen. I’ve been a blacksmith since 1999 and been doing metal sculpture since 1994. I got my BFA in sculpture from WVU in 1997 and almost didn’t even try metalwork. You see, I was scared to death of the flames and the sparks, but a friend urged me to “just give it a try” and…well… I was hooked. I had no idea this was possible to do, that someone like me could do it. I absolutely loved it and how it transformed how I made art, the passion to do more, to learn more, drove me to pursue it after I graduated and moved to Seattle.
I went to a blacksmithing conference and joined the NWBA because at that conference my mind was expanded. I saw amazing smiths from Germany transform metal into beautiful fluid forms and I saw other women there who did this kind of work too. Just seeing other women who swing hammers and move metal, gave me the courage to do the same and stick with it.
These women became friends and encouraged me to apprentice with a master blacksmith, Darryl Nelson, so I did. The training and support of this master smith and the local blacksmith community gave me the foundation to start my own business, Firelight Forge, in 2007. It gave me the courage to start teaching blacksmithing at Pratt Fine Arts Center in 2007, it gave me the support to power through difficult times and step into bigger things like managing the sculpture department at Pratt Fine Arts Center in 2013.
Since I have been able to pass on what I have learned to so many, I have taken an opportunity to learn and expand my own skills further by entering the MFA program in Blacksmithing and Metalsmithing at SIUC. It is an honor and a privilege to be able to pursue this degree, especially now. The value of this opportunity is far grater to me now than it would have been 10 years ago. As a woman in this field, and an “unconventional student” (read “older”) I feel that it is important to represent skill in the field of blacksmithing from a perspective that is not always considered.
If I can give just one person the courage to try blacksmithing who might otherwise think they don’t belong in the field, I have fulfilled my dream, everything else is a bonus.