Michael Budd is an artist blacksmith with an independent forge in the town of Sligo, Ireland. Originally from England, Michael grew up watching his father, who was a welder fabricator. Although he began professionally blacksmithing in his 30s, Michael quickly found success with his hand-forged work and is an award-winning artist as well as a lecturer and mentor. He supports his family through public sculpture, privately commissioned work and blacksmithing courses he provides at his shop, The Forge. Everything Michael creates is hand forged and forge welded.
What We Talked About
- Michael spent his childhood Saturdays in his father’s workshop watching him weld and fabricate. His blacksmithing career didn’t begin until he moved to Ireland at age 30. He found a great teacher who agreed to take Michael on as an apprentice. Eventually Michael opened his own blacksmith shop and decided to only perform forge welds instead of MIG welds. Although a far slower process, it’s much more satisfying work for him.
- Because of the nature of being an artist and the pace of his work, he and his wife (a goldsmith) agreed to make sacrifices to do the work they love. He values the freedom and contentment of his work more than vacations and new cars.
- For extra income, Michael holds demonstrations and teaches classes out of his 75 square foot studio, which contains two forges and three anvils. People come in for an hour and do a small project under his tutelage. Michael says this often drums up sales as well.
- Although blacksmithing is a time-honored trade, Michael uses modern technology (the internet) to bring awareness to his art and to blacksmithing. He uses social media, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to feature his work.
- Michael earns his living in three main ways: teaching, public commissioned work and private sales. He enjoys the diversity, but admits it’s challenging to get in-depth into a personal sculpture piece when he also needs to be available for customers and paying jobs.
- Michael feels fortunate to rent his shop in Ireland for a very reasonable price. The space had sat empty for 15 years and needed a lot of TLC to make it a habitable workshop. He had to install the electricity himself and still today, it has no running water or plumbing.
- As for his business model, Michael says it’s not a bad idea to sometimes work on gut feelings and just a sincere desire to do a project. Sometimes losing money on one job leads to profit on another. He says, “If you want to make more money, then buy yourself a welder and go at the thing you know how to do. If you want to be a better blacksmith or a better artist, then you have to take risks and take losses.”
- Recently Michael collaborated with an author and a filmmaker on a special project for a new book called “This Burning World” that will be made into a movie. His forged piece will be part of an auction to earn money to pay for the movie production.
- On taking risks: “Sometimes you have to learn a new technique for a job and even though it might take twice as long, it pushes you forward as a craftsperson, artist and designer. It’s not the most cost-effective way to work, but if you always choose most the cost-effective way, you won’t produce the most interesting work.”
- Michael’s Facebook page – www.facebook.com/michael.budd.96
- Michael Budd’s Website – http://www.michaelbudd.ie
- The sculpture center where Michael teaches group classes – http://www.leitrimsculpturecentre.ie/programme/workshops.html
- Twitter handle – @MichaelJBudd
A big thank you to today’s sponsor – Nimba Anvils, http://www.nimbaanvils.com