I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Heather Mclarty at her awesome home, and workshop which is conveniently located in a full size Indian teepee in her back yard. After meeting her husband and being thoroughly sniffed by her dogs, and being found worthy to enter the premises, we headed straight out through her jungle of a yard to the teepee. I spent over three hours there and learned a TON of great stuff. On top of being a renowned artist blacksmith she happens to be quite proficient in the topic of my research inquiry this semester. Her suggestions led me to where I eventually bought my chasing pitch, and an excellent book on the topic. The entire time was very casual and comfortable so I did not want to end it all on an extremely formal interview. So we just sat down and I asked her some of the questions we had discussed in class. These were filled with many other tiny questions about misc details…
How did you get started with all of this? Did you go to art school? Blacksmithing is pretty rare in general these days, even more so for a woman.
She went to UCSD initially as an undeclared but eventually graduated as a theatre major. But not in acting. In set building and design. She then spent the next 18 years travelling around the country as a theatre technician. From the ACT in San Francisco to the Groban in San Diego, to the Alaska Repertoire Theatre in Anchorage. She learned tons of different skills along the way, including welding which was rare for a theatre tech. Finally she stopped working in the theatre to make steel furniture and delving further into metal working and blacksmithing….
So you have been awarded a few grants over the years, to study abroad. How did you get those?
She told me to apply for everything, organizations like ABANA and the CBA usually have lots of unused grant money each year. Mostly because people don’t know they exist. Her first was a CBA grant in 2001 to study at the Cambell Folk School with with Kirsten Skiles. Which she found to be an amazing experience. Then in 2005 she won the Bedayn grant and went to study Louis 18th steak repousse with master smith Alfred Habermann in the Czech Republic. Everything leading up to this was amusing because Habermann does not speak a single word of English, so arraigning a time to visit was done through his daughter and translators. The weekend before her weeks of study began with a Blacksmithing conference in Liberec castle, where she then stayed for the remainder of the trip. (yeah that’s right, in a castle). Habermann is a true master and she learned a whole new attitude about tools and toolmaking.
There was then much talk of Ukraine, and Czech Republic and different blacksmithing sights to see…
Do you always work alone? or do you collaborate?
On the Occidental College gates for example, all of the glass work was done with the help of other artists, so yes. And she just finished a show with a few other artists at the Pasadena Design home.
Do you ever need an apprentice?
When she needs an extra hand, the gardener works just fine. L
I then asked her more specific questions about a large set of rails being made for the sides of a path, made to look like vines and leaves… we got distracted…