Somewhere along the way in her early twenties, Christina Sporrong was given the nickname, ‘Spitfire.'
“I’m not sure if we grow into these names, but I think it’s fitting,” noted Sporrong. Born in Sweden, the artist and metal sculptor has lived all over the world yet the magnetism of the mountains and small-town serenity of northern New Mexico eventually pulled her home.
With a concomitant down-to-earthiness and cosmopolitan worldliness, Sporrong established Spitfire Forge, a fully outfitted ‘smithy’ in 1996. The shop has the potential to support every metalworking dream. Complete with forges, metal fabrication, and machine tools, architectural ironwork and sculptures of every conceivable size can be produced in the shop – it simply awaits imagination to walk through the door. To welcome those imaginations, ‘Spitfire’ … oops … Sporrong has hosted welding workshops and a variety of other classes for more than two decades.
Intrigued by the increasing incompatibility between man-made technologies and nature, Sporrong is motivated to learn everything she can about the root of that initial deviation. Her approach is process-driven and her inspiration comes from trying to make sense of the world we inhabit. In doing so, her work sends messages of how others might begin to discover the same. After teaching her inaugural women-oriented welding workshop she not only confirmed love of teaching, she realized the workshop had resulted in forging a successful step toward de-mystifying the medium for women.
Beginning October 30, Sporrong is offering a four-week welding and blacksmithing workshop with the goal to introduce people to what can be an intimidating art form and to continue to de-mystify metalwork.
“Metalworking is a tool-intensive trade and most people do not have access to a shop. We are moving away from an artisan culture. Technology is definitely mystifying the world around us,” explained Sporrong. “Do you know how to repair your digital devices or basic appliances? Do you know how they function? I want to help people understand how things work and what they are made of. Knowing how to weld and work with steel is one component of that puzzle.”
Clearly, it’s not only an intricate puzzle to de-mystify but the puzzle is positioned in the center of a male-dominated trade that has not historically welcomed women – except perhaps for the ‘Spitfires.'
With the same fortitude she uses to bend and forge metal, Sporrong has customized her form of gender-bending workshops to literally open the doors to everyone. She has purposefully advertised this workshop as LGBTQ-friendly. “This art form can be discouraging for those who don’t identify with the ironworker machismo. When I outwardly express as LGBTQ-friendly it creates an inviting and friendly environment, rather than a competitive and entitled one,” explained Sporrong. “The workshop is open to everyone including demographics that are already exposed to the many ways of being in this world.”
Sporrong, the celebrated artist who is fluent in four languages, has been featured in dozens upon dozens of publications, with global exhibitions from Berlin to Burning Man, recognizes there is more to her welding workshops than de-mystifying the magic of the medium – she’s empowering her students.
“My takeaway from all these years of teaching is that when people learn this seemingly intimidating medium to work in, they don’t only walk away with new skills but they tap into a wellspring of self-confidence, power, and purpose. It’s when we understand the world around us in a new way, how things go together, and our connection to it all, that we can take better responsibility for our choices, and we have more autonomy.”
The LGBTQ-friendly, open-to-everyone workshop is project-oriented which means students will create their own projects. Upon completion of the workshop, they’ll take home something tangible – a reminder no doubt, of far more than welding techniques.
Following the workshop, Sporrong plans to host an Iron Moon Salon, an idea born from welders, blacksmiths, and metalworkers wanting to share skills and meet other like-minded artists. “It’s an age-old tradition to gather in this way. It fosters resource sharing and it’s a joy to meet other blacksmiths and metal workers. We do not have a set date but hopefully, it will be soon,” concluded Sporrong.
Sporrong’s work is, according to this writer, ‘destination art.' It’s the art you learn about and plan to see rather than stumble upon. Granted, there are likely thousands of ‘Stop the car, what was that?’ moments as people discover her inspirational and transformational sculptures. Her work embodies a dynamic mixture of skill, science, imagination, and patience.
The Spitfire Forge welding and blacksmithing workshop will run for four consecutive Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and will include COVID-19 safety protocols. For more information and to register, visit spitfireforge.com.