When I first met Ben Kastner and Richard Coley in their shop/studio to do the shoot, I looked around and for some reason my first thought was the scene in one of the Mel Gibson movies where he and the character played by Rene Russo compared scars incurred in their line of work. I thought to myself, I bet Ben and Rich have some scars to compare, what with all the red hot surfaces, heavy material and serious tools that have the potential to contact human flesh. The craft that these artists practice is perhaps the most physical I have encountered. It takes great concentration and care when you are in their studio, both as an artisan and observer. Fortunately we got through the shoot unscathed.

Ben and Rich began their careers as artisan blacksmiths while attending the College of Oceaneering in Los Angeles. From there they went on to working off shore oil rigs as Lead Dive Coordinators performing underwater welding and inspections. However, artisan blacksmithing was where their  hearts were taking them and it became their focus of concentration. Eventually it led to studying at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina and the forming of their current venture, Intracoastal Iron. In that time they have also collaborated with several internationally known blacksmiths and their talent has been recognized in several publications. Ben and Rich are members of the Artist’s Blacksmiths Association of North America of which Ben is President of the Southeast region. They have recently started  ALLOY Artisan Group with award-winning artist and designer Toby Keaton as a design/craft collaboration focusing on public works of art.

It was hard for me to concentrate on my task at hand during our session as I was mesmerized by the whole process of their art. Each piece is unique and requires careful thought and design. From small sculptured pieces to large custom railings and elaborate staircases, each project starts as a non-descript piece of iron and is transformed into something of intrinsic beauty. They are often called upon by architects and designers to create pieces for fine custom homes and commercial applications and many can be seen both in our area, as well as other areas of the state and country. As mentioned above they are also involved in public art commissions. I wish I could portray some of their work here, but thats another project in itself.

You can view more information on Ben and Rich by going to their website at Intracoastal Iron . For commissions and consultations you may call at 910-547-3131 or email ben@intracoastaliron.com or richard@intracoastaliron.com.

Ben forming iron while its malleable.

Rich inspecting iron before shaping.

Small pieces for various projects.