Pete Mattila, 2023 Cambria Iron Conference Featured Demonstrator

Pete Mattila Photo by Scott Gelston

Photo by Scott Gelston

Interview by Yamila Audisio

Pete Mattila, an industrial blacksmith living and working in Tasmania, has a diverse background in metalworking, starting with heavy metal fabrication trade school to learn about boiler making, welding, and engineering. He then secured an apprenticeship at an industrial blacksmith shop, where he honed his skills in forging alloy steels and creating tools for mines and agriculture. This experience led him to pursue a Bachelor of Contemporary Arts degree, which he completed with first Class honors. To become a certified industrial blacksmith, Pete traveled to Sydney, New South Wales, where he attended a technical school for two years. He then embarked on a journey to pursue his Master’s degree, spending time in Pittsburgh, Memphis, Rochester, Milwaukee, Tahoe, and San Francisco utilizing the skills and experiences he gained from working in different shops. Today, Pete runs his workshop/studio in Battery Point, Hobart, Tasmania’s largest city.

Pete is set to lead a workshop at the Center for Metal Arts in Johnstown, PA, and he’s also the featured demonstrator for the Cambria Iron Conference. For Pete, teaching means sharing his insights on the creative process and how to perceive and understand materials in different ways. To achieve this, he’ll be collaborating on a sculpture design, incorporating design aesthetics and choices he’s learned throughout the years.

According to Pete, it’s crucial to consider how objects are viewed and the relationships they form with one another since there is visual communication involved. This is especially important in a skill-based medium, as it helps unlock creativity and fosters a better understanding of the creative process.

Inspiration is gathered and influenced by everything and always keeping an open mind, and observation of the process specific to the forged aesthetic. He believes that everything can be used to his advantage and the key question for him is always, “Can I make this happen?.” Pete has had the opportunity to meet numerous mentors and masters during his travels. During a trip to Europe, he had the chance to observe the work of Gaudi, which was a great inspiration to him, witnessing what the masters before him were inspired by. Pete noted that all of them were motivated by the materials and the process, resulting in dynamic and interesting work.

We asked Pete to share some guidance with young, aspiring blacksmiths. He emphasized the importance of taking ownership of your success and creating your own opportunities, rather than waiting for them to be handed to you. Additionally, he advised trusting your instincts, as blindly following others’ advice may not lead you down the right path. Pete’s message to young blacksmiths is to believe in themselves and forge their own path toward success.

We inquired Pete about book suggestions for fellow blacksmiths. Pete suggests reading “Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths” by Tom Joyce, as it provides valuable insight into the material perception that many people in the West are currently lacking. He emphasizes the significance of recognizing that the materials we work with are ancient and that despite an abundance of tutorials on how to create things, preserving the ancient knowledge and intellect inherent in the profession is crucial.

He shared his interest in exploring the significance of myths in various cultures and their impact throughout history. He emphasized how relevant this knowledge is in today’s fast-paced world. According to him, blacksmiths have always been pillars in their communities, and this trait is inherent to their profession. He also highlighted that creation myths often feature blacksmiths, who are portrayed as working with good intentions and imbuing their work with moral values. This primal aspect of blacksmithing adds to its appeal.

Further Reading

Pete Mattila’s Website

The Work of Antoni Gaudi

Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths by Allen F. Roberts (Editor), Tom Joyce (Editor), Marla C. Berns (Editor)

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