“Being a creative has helped me channel this extraordinary insight into madness, or genius- let the audience decide.”
— Bex Simon
Most commonly, people refer to their career as if it were a “path”. For Bex Simon, it has been a winding, never-ending journey into the realm of creativity and design.
There is no one word to describe Bex: She is an artist, a mother to two, and a dedicated student. Most importantly, however, she is a born explorer. Bex’s artistic endeavors have always been an intricate dance between design, texture, and form. She has always sought to innovate and break barriers wherever her art would allow. An insatiable thirst for exploration led her to a forging/welding demonstration at her college, where her eagerness to learn quickly turned into a fascination for blacksmithing. She knew at that moment that it was something she “needed to explore further”
Equipped with newfound curiosity and a keen eye for artistic design, Bex dove headfirst into the world of blacksmithing and all of the creative avenues it offered to her. Drawing inspiration from some of her favorite artists such as Antoni Gaudi, she approached art as if it were a tangible connection between herself and the natural world around her. From small garden sculptures to 40-metre collaborative pieces, she approaches every intricate detail forged by her hammer with both fluidity and precision.
Bex continues to explore all of the ways she is able to transform this very old, beautiful craft into something contemporary and exciting. Most recently, she has been honing a tufted metal technique that mimics the look of a leather-tufted seat. She has playfully dubbed her most recent piece as the Copperfield Bench, and credits her inspiration to Al Pacino in saying “it’s easy to fool the eye… it’s harder to fool the heart”.
When it comes to working with clients, she takes a more personalized creative approach. Bex believes that considering the piece’s surrounding environment is pivotal to the success of the design itself. She finds that the “why” and “where” of the piece—shape, form, and balance—are far superior to the “how”.
Though she has faced her own challenges in pursuit of her art, Bex does not discourage other women from chasing their dreams. She encourages women to be prepared to follow new paths they might not have previously. She asks that they never give up, follow their vision, and prove to their non-believers that they are a force to be reckoned with. She stresses that art is journey, and every step along the way is an opportunity to learn new, valuable skills that will be vital for your growth.
Bex’s most important advice to her fellow artists: “Remember to enjoy the ride. It’s going to be tough, but worth it”.
Describe the moment you decided to become a blacksmith? After a year at Art College, I wanted to continue my studies but was unsure of what practice to sign up to until I walked into a forge and saw people hitting hot metal with hammers and welding, I just knew this was something I needed to explore further.
If you were handed any project in the world, what would it be? Who would you like to create something for? Where would it be located? What materials would you use? Would it be a collaboration? With who?I would love to be given the opportunity to fill a gallery space in somewhere like the White Cube, Saatchi or the Tate Britain with some of my sketchbook scrawlings and about the positive side of my experiences with mental health how being a creative has helped me channel this extraordinary insight into madness or Genius and let the audience decide.
If I had the chance to do a collaboration with anybody of my choice, it would have been Gaudi. He has been an inspiration of mine from the start of my career. I loved his full on approach to design and his relationship with nature especially the metalwork used in his buildings but more recently my attentions have turned to Zaha Hadid. She, to me, is the contemporary to Gaudi, another innovator of their time… Plus the fact she was a woman! And learning that she would design a concept image first rather than knowing the processes that would be used to build the piece of architecture, a design technique I have been criticized for using myself, but have always believed to be the core of original design. Her work started out favoring oblique lines and acute angles, then later using curves that went in all directions, these works are like a futuristic Art Nouveau.
What is the inspiration behind your most recent project/creation/object? My most recent piece is the Copperfield bench. It was inspired by an Al Pacino quote ‘it’s easy to fool the eye it’s hard to fool the heart’. The bench is made from copper and steel and has the look of a leather tufted seat until you are up close or touch it you then realize it is hard metal.
Walk me through your creative process. If I am working with a client, we talk about their influences, surroundings and create a brief for the piece they are commissioning. Then I spend some time doing research and sketch down some ideas until I am happy with the form and balance of the design. I will usually offer the client 2-3 designs to choose from.
What design rule do you love to break? When designing, I just focus in on the shape, form and balance of the piece. I never think about techniques or how I will build the design, I find it restricts you. I also don’t think like a blacksmith!
What technology in your industry do you totally geek out on? This could be a software, a machine, a material, etc. I love the craft of the Blacksmith and am halfway through a 2 year part time level 3 blacksmithing course. Sometimes running your own creative business takes you away from what was once the very core of why you started it in the first place. I am also interested in current technologies and exploring ways of transforming this very old beautiful craft into something contemporary, new and exciting, exploring new possibilities. The great thing about going back to college is it is giving me the chance to put time aside to do this.
How has technology changed the way you work? This can be material innovation, software, how they gather inspiration…There is a new maker’s movement occurring at the moment which I think is a reaction to our technology-growing world, similar to that of the Arts and Crafts movement—a reaction against the industrial revolution. Consumers are looking more for unique and bespoke products which is fantastic for any craft.
What are you most excited about for the future of your business/industry? Keep calm and carry on. I get so excited about my vision for the future of our business, but every step along the way you are learning new, important and valuable skills that will be vital for the growth of your business.
How has being a woman in your industry/career been challenging? What have you learned from those specific challenges? I have experienced my fair share of sexual discrimination along the years but I just put up with it, what can you do. These people make you work harder because you want to prove them wrong in their insults. The blacksmith community is amazing. I have never experienced any male blacksmith show anything but support towards the women in the trade and I think that is something very special.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to young women who are just getting started? Advice I would pass on to any women starting out in their business would be to listen to advice and take on board what is relevant to you and your business. Be prepared to follow new paths and adventures you never thought you would have done previously. The ones that show negativity towards you, help you the most, never give up, follow your vision. Remember to enjoy the ride, it’s going to be tough but worth it.