Smith & Hammer

Phillip Bowling shapes a heated piece of iron for a pierce that he is designed for a client Nobel Forge wearhouse in North Hollywood, Calif. on March 22, 2016. (photo by joshua duarte)
Phillip Bowling shapes a heated piece of iron for a pierce that he is designed for a client Nobel Forge Warehouse in North Hollywood, Calif. on March 22, 2016. (photo by Joshua Duarte)

The hot orange glow of the metal grows brighter by the minute. As soon as it reaches a pale yellow, the iron is ripped from fire and beat into submission. When the scorching metal takes the desired shape, the still-glowing rod is dunked into water, hardening the sizzling material in a cloud of steam.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Phillip Bowling is the owner of Noble Forge in North Hollywood, California. He started with an apprenticeship as a broil maker at DWP Powerhouse, welding tubes, pipes and other metals. While working at the DWP, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) had blacksmiths that would make wedges and other tools. This is when Bowling first became interested in blacksmithing. But he didn’t start to “hit on the anvil” until he moved to the San Fernando Valley. Once in North Hollywood, Bowling says he was learning by the seat of his pants. At the time, he also began to attend a metal working seminar, demonstrated by the Orange County Blacksmith Association.
Many people lump all types of metal work together. Bowling is proud of the trade he took so long to learn, and he wants it to be respected as its own art form.
Claudia Martinez is a welding student in Glendale, California. She, like Bowling, emphasizes the distinction between the different types of metal work.
“Blacksmithing is not the same as welding. It’s much much harder,” said Claudia Martinez, a Glendale welding student.
Bowling has been professionally blacksmithing for 20 years, since he moved from Kentucky to North Hollywood, California, in 1996. Bowling is mostly self-taught, except for a few seminars he attended in the San Fernando Valley. He creates fireplace screens, iron sculptures and railings for stair cases, in which Bowling makes a house call to get the right measurements of the stairs, but he himself does not install the railings.
The process of completing a piece is time consuming. Bowling says that it can take anywhere from a few months to two years.
Sometimes the metal will fight you the whole time, from not fitting up, to not matching up, to the metal not looking like the drawings, according to Bowling. Sometimes, what looks good on paper will not look good on metal, making it much harder to create pieces in a timely manner. But sometimes, things get easy. Some pieces that look elaborate are fairly easy to create, but sometimes pieces that look easy to make are difficult to create.
When working for a client, the process can take a bit longer. When designing and drawing up the prints for a piece, he may need to send, and re-design several proofs before he can even began to work with metal. After finalizing the design, Bowling can finally begin crafting the piece.
More than 1,000 degrees later, the metal becomes workable. It becomes more like plastic, but once the metal cools it becomes immovable again, taking its final form.
Bowling’s clientele varies. Sometimes he gets repeat customers, but he also gets one time customers, mostly during the Christmas season. He has shipped his pieces all over the county, to people from all walks of life, but most of his clients are from Los Angeles. Each client, regardless of circumstance, receives a completely custom made piece of art.
“The more people know about blacksmithing and other hand crafts the better it is for all of us,” says Heather McLarty, president of Adam’s Forge, a Blacksmithing school located in Los Angeles.
Noble Forge has been featured in several magazines. including Architectural Digest, The Anvil’s Ring, Today2 and Ironworks. Bowling has also been featured in the Pasadena Showcase House of Design for several years.
Bowling plans on staying in Los Angeles and keeping his shop open, until he can no longer do the job that loves.

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