Jul 18, 2016
From Kitchener, Ontario, Sandra Dunn is one of the owners of Two
Smiths, a studio that creates contemporary forged metalwork. She
regularly collaborates with builders and other artists on
architectural projects, restoration and large scale public art.
She’ll be one of 25 master blacksmiths at the Ypres 2016
International Blacksmithing Event in Belgium, where she will lead a
team to develop one of 25 unique panels for a large World War I
What We Talked About
- Sandra received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Waterloo
University, but discovered blacksmithing while in a painting class
with a friend who worked with a glass artist. That artist set up a
forge to make lamps and after Sandra came in to try it, the thee
set up a shop together.
- After a year at the shop, Sandra gave up her night job teaching
art to focus on blacksmithing full time. She says she knew nothing
and had no skills, but took two weekend courses and attended some
ABANA conferences. “That’s really what enabled me to learn. Just
the environment of people who are extremely open and
- After forging full time for four years, Sandra joined with
coppersmith Stephen White. They worked together 14 years, which
allowed her to learn about how to work with copper.
- Dunn recently won a public art competition for a piece that’s
displayed at the Waterloo Service Center (the city department that
deals with sewers). She describes the piece as a section of “sewer
pipe” suspended 12’ in the air with a column of copper “water”
coming from the pipe and three fish swimming in and out of the
water before it pours into a drain in the ground.
- Sandra explains how several grants have enabled her to travel,
research and ultimately build several pieces, including a
commercial door using a full sheet of copper.
- Dunn’s best advice on landing grants is to have really good
photos of your work. She says her writing skills and English degree
also come in handy.
- Sandra spent 12 years as a seasonal instructor at Haliburton
College of Fine Arts in Ontario teaching Forge Fundamentals,
Applied Design and History of Ornamental Ironwork, but ultimately
left because of the 4-hour commute and the increasing time
- For this September’s Ypres International Blacksmithing event in
Belgium, Sandra will appear as a master blacksmith. She will design
and build one panel of 25 that will surround a 12-ton World War I
Cenotaph (empty tomb) to be installed in a public park.
- Her panel design consists of several plant stalks leaning at
angles and at different heights. Each one will have about 20 bronze
discs as flower tops to represent the ID tags the soldiers wore.
Each disc will be stamped with words from actual letters describing
the soldier’s experiences, desires and fears.
- Sandra’s father is a veteran and her grandfather fought in WWI,
so this piece has significant personal meaning to her.
- As for the techniques involved in creating the piece on the
spot, she’s feeling confident. She will use traditional joinery
techniques and try to keep it simple so it can be installed in the
two day window.