Flood Plain Forge - Artisan Metalsmiths - Mark & Minda Gardner
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About the Artists

Mindy Gardner

The subject matter of my artwork has been greatly influenced by my childhood. I grew up in Southeastern Wisconsin (near Racine) on the shores of Lake Michigan and my father's farm about 20 miles inland. I was also luck enough to have spent some of my summers in Northern Wisconsin. I was enchanted by the lakes, ponds, and rivers and by the plant and animal life that lived in such an environment as I was by the woods. I spent much of my time exploring the outdoors either on foot or on my horse.

I now live about a half mile south of Farmer City, Illinois between Trenkle Slough and Salt Creek. There's also a woods and 16 acres of prairie behind our house. This is now the source of inspiration for my work.

I became interested in the use of the treadle hammer, chasing and repousse` after watching George Dixon at the 1997 Upper Midwest Regional Blacksmithing Conference in Pontiac, Illinois. In 1999 I reread my notes from that demonstration and began doing chasing and repousse` with the treadle hammer. I love to draw and this seemed to be an excellent method to transfer my art on paper to art on metal. I usually spent 10-12 hours a day, seven days a week working on the treadle hammer practicing making straight lines and giving depth to my work.

My first projects were leaves, lots and lots of leaves, and they required straight lines and depth. Things kind of grew from there to switch plates, doorplates, wall hangings, feathers and shells, plus other things. I enjoy experimenting with the medium and seeing just how far I can push it.

I use 18 gauge to 12 gauge mild steel fro most of my artwork. I have also used copper, sterling and fine silver for treadle hammer repousse`

The colors I use are tempering colors, brushing an area with a brass brush and then heating the area with a torch, and sanding areas to bare metal. Areas that I want to be dark I do not sand all of the scale off. The finish is an oil and wax finish. If the piece will be handled a lot I also use spar varnish in addition to the oil and wax.

In 1999, I was accepted into the Illinois Artisan Program in mixed media (I also do wood carvings and incorporate metal into the carvings) and in metal. Through the Illinois Artisan Program my husband Mark Gardner and I have demonstrated at the Illinois State Fair, the DuQuoin State Fair, and at other functions sponsored by the Illinois Artisans program.

In 2002, I was chosen by the Illinois Artisan Program and the Governor's Office to represent the State of Illinois by creating a Christmas tree ornament for the official White House Christmas tree which is in the Blue Room of the White House. The ornament is now part of the permanent White House Ornament Collection.

Going to one blacksmithing conference in 1997, taking good notes and watching, sparked an interest that changed my life forever. I never would have had such wonderful experiences if it were not for that conference, that demonstration, and the art of blacksmithing.

Mark Gardner

I have been interested in blacksmithing ever since my Dad took me to the Thresherman's Reunion in Pontiac, Ilinois. There I watched a blacksmith for hours.

When I was about eleven my Dad bought me a small forge. I started making tools and shoes for my pony. I still have that forge, however, I do not use it very often.

I am now doing artistic and functional ironwork that includes gates, candleholders, plates, lamps, tables, wall hangings, and may other items.

I have served as President of Illinois Valley Blacksmith Association and also a member of the Illinois Artisans Program and have pieces of my work in their galleries.

My studio, Flood Plain Forge, is a blacksmith shop that was build in 1928 and is located at 111 West Green Street, Framer City, Illinois.