Intermediate Blacksmithing

Unpacking The Designer’s Toolbox

with Master Blacksmith Sandra Dunn

“Between the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act, Falls the shadow."
- T.S Eliot, The Hollow Men

The Class:

If you want to learn more about the design process and how to develop a personal style in your work this is an opportunity you won’t want to miss.. This hands on workshop combines research with practical drawing and forging exercises in a format that facilitates critical discussion about designing and making. These discussions are meant to spark experiments in forging that respond to an individual’s personal research and ultimately lead to a more rigorous design practice.

The Details:

This four day course will lead people through the various steps of a design process that uses personal
research as a touch point to inform and expand an individual’s personal style.

Developing a rigorous design process is integral to producing well designed and successful functional
objects and sculptures. This is an area of blacksmithing that has its own difficulties, with practical makers often being unsure how to come up with original ideas and develop them into a well-considered
result. We tend to excel at solving technical problems but aren’t so great at articulating and identifying
the skills used to develop really strong original designs.

We will kick off the course by forging a simple functional object. This will enable participants to get a
sense of the work space and tooling available. Then we will begin to unpack the designer’s toolbox
starting with an overview of the design process. Individuals will present their personal research and we
will discuss how to cultivate a better vocabulary for assessing and critiquing designs. The key to realizing a personal style and approaching forged metal with a fresh perspective is gaining insight about our aesthetic preferences and understanding why we make certain design choices. Group discussions will raise issues such as relevance, context, comparisons, groupings, importance, quality, and personal

Drawing is one of the most important tools designers use to figure out how something will look and/or
function. Drawings communicate all sorts of information. We will examine a variety of techniques and
drawing methods that can be used to explore, refine and present design ideas. Visual and technical
journals record our ideas in different ways through words and images. Both are critical aspects of the
work we do and we will discuss the merits and distinction of both.

Also critical to the process of developing a new design is exploring a concept or idea by working the
material directly. How, for example, can one convey the notion of vulnerability in a piece of forged iron,
or emptiness, or exuberance? Individuals will spend half a day experimenting at the forge with how to
convey concepts like this.

Then we will take a look at the original functional object we forged and re-design it using a combination of the insights we’ve gained from our personal research, drawing exercises, our visual and technical journal entries and our forging experiments.

The goal is for everyone to produce a forged version of their final design, but time may not permit this to
happen for everybody. The final presentation is really much more about exploring and engaging in all of
the drawing and forging exercises that facilitate the design process.


Participants should have some previous forging experience and should be prepared to get hot and

All participants must bring examples of personal research they’re prepared to present to the group.
See specific instructions below.


  • A comprehensive new toolbox for bringing your imagination into the design phase
  • New techniques and skills to bring your designs to life
  • A completed or nearly complete project of your choice
FAQs, Schedule and Required Materials listed below.

Date: Thur. July 23rd – Sun. July 26th, 2020

$445 Early Bird; $495 After May 1st

  • Early Bird Course Tuition of $445
  • 21 Hours of Course Time
  • Material & Equipment Fee of $125
  • Daily “Boreal Bites”  
  • Morning Yoga
  • An unforgettable experience

Material & Equipment Fee: $125
Some tools, equipment and materials are supplied by forestART and vary from course to course. Details in the FAQ section below.

Meals & Accommodation: Purchased Separately

Available options are on the registration page.

Contact Us
We are happy to help answer any questions you have about forestART!

Phone: 306 481 4883
Email: nesscreekforestart@gmail.com

Your Instructor : Sandra Dunn

Sandra Dunn is a Canadian artist who works primarily with forged steel and copper to design and build
architectural features, sculpture, furniture and large scale public art. She has lectured, taught and worked on projects across Canada, and internationally. Her designs are driven by a deep interest in hand made work.

Acknowledging the tenuous role this currently plays in contemporary art, architecture and manufacturing, she’s passionate about creating opportunities for people to really understand the value of the skills required to shape raw materials by hand into functional objects.

Sandra holds an BA Honours degree from University of Waterloo. In 2008 she was a K-W Arts Awards
recipient. Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council have significantly contributed to her research and to the development of her work. Sandra taught at Haliburton School of Art and Design for twelve years: one of two Blacksmithing Certificate programs offered in Canada. In 2017 she established a teaching facility at Two Smiths in Kitchener Ontario.

The methods and processes she developed over the past 25 years are all deeply rooted within the context of traditional craft, but the objects she’s currently producing are not small scale nor are they production runs of multiples. Working at the upper limits of what can be made by hand, Dunn is manipulating 150 lb pieces of steel and 12 ft sheets of copper into needles, bones and water.
Not alone, of course; larger scale work demands collaboration at all stages. Developing a strong working
relationship with metal fabricators that have a 20 tonne crane and large hydraulic presses at their disposal opened up new possibilities for Dunn in terms of scale. Working with machinists that can turn the ends of large forged pieces also reinforced the potential to do interesting work that combines forged steel with fabricated parts.

At her business Two Smiths, Dunn currently mentors younger blacksmiths. Together they have developed a strong collaborative design process and working method which is critical to her practice. That collaboration also reaches beyond the shop walls when Dunn invites the public to step up to the anvil and shape parts of her sculptures with their hammers.

Plant forms, animal forms, skeletal structures, growth patterns and gestures of hand work are prominent in the designs that Dunn has produced recently. The narrative that is emerging from this body of work references her time working on a trapline in Northern Ontario thirty years ago. It is an experience that has stayed with her.


"Sandra Dunn is an excellent teacher, gives clear explanations and is a supportive instructor. Works with students from where they are at. First timers taking a blacksmith and coppersmithing with Sandra leave with a product with both form and function. The shop lattes are an added bonus. I took a coppersmithing course and came back for the blacksmithing too."
Shona Lalonde
Past Course Participant
"So pleased with how my candle holder turned out!!! What an incredible way to spend a weekend. Sandra is so knowledgeable, patient, enthusiastic and just a pleasure to be around. Blacksmithing can be an intimidating artform to attempt but the instruction, guidance and encouragement we received really made the whole process enjoyable, even when things didn't quite work out. Lots to learn still, so I'm looking forward to continuing my blacksmithing journey"

Agnes Niewiadomski
Past Course Participant


FAQ & More Info

Supplied by you:

  • Prior to the class you will need to do some Initial Research
    You might like to investigate the potential for developing a personal style/creative identity or perhaps you are more interested in looking at a particular design problem such as something that addresses a specific site or uses an established aesthetic style that you are interested in.
    1. Collect 10 examples of visual information that inspires you, comprising of both primary and secondary source material Primary source material can be e.g. observed drawings from your sketchbooks, photographs taken by you, actual objects, investigative forge examples etc. Secondary source material can be e.g. downloaded or magazine images, examples of work by others, research, creative writing etc
    2. Try to avoid collecting examples of ironwork that you like as this will tend to push you towards working within an existing style
    3. As you collect the information try to be selective and intentional in your approach have a reason for your choice. Choose images and words that excite and inspire you.
    4. For each example produce a word or sentence that ‘explains’ what you like about it. Try to use emotive rather than descriptive. For example ‘I like this because it reminds me of the spring’ rather than ‘this is a snowdrop’
  • Closed toed shoes and cotton or wool clothing + safety glasses, ear plugs and gloves if you
    have them.

Supplied by Instructor and covered in your Materials/Equipment Fee:

  • Safety glasses, ear plugs, gloves
  • Drawing paper
  • Charcoal, pencils, pens, soapstone,
  • Drawing boards
  • Plastic triangles and ruler
  • Mechanical pencils
  • Blue pencils
  • Tracing paper
  • Vellum
  • Tape
  • Handouts
  • Design Elements and
  • Principle Cards
  • Power Point
  • Presentations
  • Drawing exercise templates
  • Steel for forging

Yes, this is an intermediate course and you should have at least taken Introduction to Blacksmithing or equivalent course/experience

No. This is a course designed for people who want to understand more about the
design process and how to develop a personal style in their own work.


  • AM: Arrival
  • 1pm: Group Orientation
  • 2 – 5pm:
    • The Design Porcess: An Overview
    • Forging a Simple Functional Object
    • Drawing Exercises
  • 5 – 6pm: Palette Cleanse (Social Hour with Boreal Inspired Appetizers)
  • 6 – 7pm: Supper


  • 7am: Yoga
  • 8am: Breakfast
  • 9 – 12pm: Instruction Block
    • Presentation of Personal Research
    • Design Vocabulary- Elements and Principles
    • Visual Journals
  • 12 – 1pm: Lunch
  • 1 – 5pm: Instruction Block
    • Forging Experiments
    • Examining Parameters – technical/ physical/ design
    • Drawing Exercises
  • 5 – 6pm: Palette Cleanse
  • 7pm onward: Free time


  • 7am: Yoga
  • 8am: Breakfast
  • 9 – 12pm: Instruction Block
    • Conceptual Drawings
    • Drawing Exercises
    • Technical Journals
    • Technical Drawings
  • 12 – 1pm: Lunch
  • 1 – 5pm: Instruction Block
    • Design Development – Drawing in Layers
    • Forge Final Object
  • 5 – 6pm: Palette Cleanse
  • 7pm onward: Free time


  • 7am: Yoga
  • 8am: Breakfast
  • 9 – 12pm: Instruction Block
    • Present Final Forged Object – Group Critique and Discussion
  • 12 – 1pm: Lunch
  • 1pm: Group “Show / Share” & Farewell

Days: 3 full, 1 half.

Instructional Hours: 21 hours

It’s choose your own adventure, with options to suit every budget! You can cook all your own meals, pay for lunches only, or get the full meal deal. You can camp with or without power, bunk in with some fellow artists in shared accommodation, or rent a private cabin. 

Full Details on our Food & Accommodation Options can be found on the main forestART page or when you go to register!

  • Participants will gain insight about the design and design development process from concept through to presentation drawings.
  • Participant will be able to provide critical discussion about designs they and others have produced
  • Participants will be able to forge a simple functional object
  • Participants will understand how to create visual depth in their drawings using shading
  • Participants will understand how to give volume to shape in their drawings
  • Participants will understand how to produce technical drawings : elevations, plans and sections
  • Participants will understand how to develop their designs through layered drawings
  • Participants will be able to produce examples of visual journal entries
  • Participants will be able to produce examples of technical journal entries
  • Participants will understand how to explore apsects of their personal research through experiments in forging
  • Participants will understand how to produce a series of conceptual and technical drawings that illustrate their designs
  • If time permits, participants will forge the object they have designed

Are you joining us??

 We look forward to seeing you in Unpacking the Designer’s Toolbox with Sandra Dunn!

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