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Tacoma Metal Arts Center meets Black Sabbath's "Paranoid"

Amy Reeves rocks out while crafting works of art

Tacoma Metal Arts Center owner Amy Reeves also fell victim to Best Of Tacoma 2010 3-D hoopla. All photography by Patrick Snapp

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There's heavy metal, and there's heavy metal. And then there's heavy metal that's meant to be written with a capital H and M and a jagged Halloween font with scary skulls as the a's and a devil hanging off the y - all circled 666 times with some sort of blood that's been licked to an uneven crux by aging members of, oh, Winger.

Of course, I'm talking about early 1970s Black Sabbath and a little ditty called Paranoid, which turns 40 in exactly one month and is all about the aforementioned twice-baked Heavy Metal that's so utterly perfect, so beautiful, so breathtaking in its ... I don't quite know what to call it. Genius? Epic proportion? Gorgeous vision of sludgy hell? Yes.

Now here's another glorious vision: Tacoma Metal Arts Center principal Amy Reeves twisting and grinding metal into art while headbanging to "Rat Salad." OK, headbanging isn't quite the description. Maybe kneebanging. Yes, better.

You see, Reeves enjoys the musical stylings of Ozzy and the boys while she creates her metal art. No, not every second. And certainly not when Brownie Troop 253 drops by to earn a badge. But Reeves does spin it during work. Imagine the scene wherein Reeves mouths the lyrics in exaggerated glee while etching a butterfly. Seriously. Drop by unexpectedly and you may catch Reeves sing sing SINGING "Iron Man." And embossing. And knopping. And wriggleworking wistfully.

I don't know if she's been listening to heavy metal during work since 1992, the year she began taking jewelry-making classes. I don't know if Reeves rocked out while earning her BFA in Metal Design at the University of Washington, graduating in 2003. I'm not sure if she plays Paranoid ever so softly (a sin!) while she teaches at Pratt Fine Arts Center in Seattle. And I have no clue if she listened to "War Pigs" the day she opened her Tacoma Metal Arts Center in the winter of 2009. I will find answers to these questions when I meet with Reeves again for our discussion "Crafting Metal to Crazy Train: Too Much?" 

In the meantime, I asked Reeves to match her preferred metal art task with each song on Paranoid. Is this a spoof? Surely, you think, this is a parody, this must be an SNL skit. You'll be at once frightened and thrilled to find out it is not: It is very, very real - and stop calling me Shirley.

Here we go:

"War Pigs"

AMY REEVES: I was funded for the 2009-2010 TAIP grant cycle to make four figurative vessel-like sculptures. Right now I am working on a copper piece that requires a lot of heating with a large torch and hammering and forging the metal.  That's a good one for "War Pigs."  With the fire and the pounding, it's very cathartic.

In terms of the TAIP grant, I applied for it because I wanted to take my metal work from the jewelry scale to small sculpture.  Along with working bigger, I also wanted to explore new (to me) materials like steel, wood, paper and cement, less traditional in the jewelry world.  My TAIP project is to incorporate these materials with the copper, bronze and enamels I am used to working with. 


REEVES: Sometimes I like to build pieces by using the repetition of a single or similar form. "Paranoid" is a good one for cranking out multiples or repetitive pieces.

"Planet Caravan"

REEVES: That's a design type of a song.  It's very dreamy, and my mind tends to wander anyway. It's conducive to exploring possibilities.

"Electric Funeral"

REEVES: This is the perfect song for electroforming, one of my favorite processes, which is also slightly scary and a little ominous (intimidating, maybe for some) - since it involves chemicals and electricity. But it's pretty dang cool. 

Because Wikipedia can explain it better than I can: "Electroforming is a metal forming process that forms thin parts through the electroplating process. The part is produced by plating a metal skin onto a base form, known as a mandrel, which is removed after plating. This process differs from electroplating in that the plating is much thicker and can exist as a self-supporting structure when the mandrel is removed."

Translation: I can grow a copper surface over any form. Anything!  You can create very complex hollow forms that wouldn't be possible using any other method.  It is a process popular with glass artists also because they can embellish the glass pieces with copper surface in any pattern.

"Iron Man"

REEVES: That's the TMAC anthem. It's sing-a-long time!

"Hands of Doom"

REEVES: "Hand of Doom" reminds me of when I use the hydraulic press.  It's a tool that uses 32 tons of force to smash a sheet metal into different shapes with minimal effort.

"Rat Salad"

REEVES: This might be the "melt it down and start over" song. It reminds me of those times when my hands and my brain are out of sync and I end up with a pile of chaos on my workbench. Melted metal blobs or cracked, over-hammered metal.  Not everything turns out a masterpiece; it's just part of the process.  The great thing about working in metals is you can just melt it down and start over. 

"Fairies Wear Boots"

REEVES: "Fairies Wear Boots" is like the reaction I get sometimes when I am teaching.  Students new to the craft are often amazed at how metal fabrication works.  From the way the solder flows, or the way the metal moves under the hammer or to set a stone, it is little mysterious and often counter-intuitive.  Many times I have heard students holding a finished project say, "I still don't believe it worked!"  De-mystifying the process for them is very gratifying.

How cool was that America? Want in on that action? The first step is to purchase the Paranoid CD if (gasp!) you don't already have it framed on your hearth. Second step, sign up for classes at the Tacoma Metal Arts Center. The full delicious gamut is right here. You could learn how to make a sterling silver self-portrait Pez Dispenser. Yes, Reeves made one(!). Maybe you could make a sterling silver Ozzy Osbourne Pez Dispenser. Or an Amy Reeves Pez Dispenser. Take your pick.

Tacoma Metal Arts Center

711 St. Helens Ave., Suite 102, Tacoma

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