C hristine Ventura Goff Knoblauch makes large scale stainless steel gates, decorated with flowers and birds.
The first person I thought of when I decided to interview people from the Sisterhood of Metalsmiths, was Christine, the “Gate Lady”. She has been sharing progress pictures of her gate production with the Sisterhood, since it started.
Christine’s first career was as a makeup artist and photo stylist for TV production, commercials and photography. She also spent some time working as a food stylist, and says that welding and doing styling work are a lot alike. You need hand-eye coordination, aesthetics, concentration, finesse and skill.
Is she the only welding make up artist around? If there is another one out there, Christine would love to meet her.
Now that her children are grown, she says she has no excuse to not make art. “I finally claimed being a metal sculptor. That was my biggest challenge but once I made that change in my mind things seemed to click into place.”
Her start into metal sculpting came through the work that her husband Paul Knoblauch was doing. Paul is a master craftsman and worked for the famous metal sculptor Albert Paley for many years. (If you haven’t heard of Albert Paley, he’s an American modernist sculptor, who started out as a jeweller.)
“When we bought our building to build a big art studio, Paul needed an assistant, so I started doing metal work by default. We have now worked together for 20 years and he jokes that I assisted him for 5 minutes before I started making my own work.”
In 2016 Christine had a stroke. She says is 99% better now, and husband Paul has been an enormous help in her recovery. He does the heavy “muscle” work, all the grinding and plasma cutting. Luckily they work well together, and now the running joke is that he is HER assistant.
“My favourite metal to work with is stainless steel. It weathers outdoors beautifully.”
She describes herself as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, artist, designer and sculptor. As a sculptor, Christine uses a huge variety of tools; welders, grinders, plasma cutter, port-a-band (hand saw), chop saw and a drill press. At times, when she needs laser cutting done, she works with an independent contractor. Her favourite tool though, is the metalsmiths’ most essential item, the torch.
Christine makes her incredible gates in stainless steel. It is her favourite metal, because it weathers outdoors so beautifully. Her gates are giant and majestic, often taller than her husband, who is over 6ft. She loves the symbolism of a gate;
- It is an entrance/beginning
- An exit/ending
- A breath in and exhale
- It is what life IS; a beginning, middle and an ending
“I finally claimed being a metal sculptor. That was my biggest challenge but once I made that change in my mind, things seemed to click into place.”
Her pattern making starts with drawings, using these designs, she and her daughter cut them to scale out of cardboard. She knows if she can make it out of cardboard, she can make it out of metal. Then, she lays the cardboard pieces out on the floor and once in place, labels the cardboard pattern. The shapes are then traced right onto the metal.
Christine makes art because “it feeds my soul” but like every perfectionist, knowing when a piece is done is the hardest part. She always sees what she should have done, or could have done better.
Who is your biggest female role model/muse?
I love Beverly Pepper’s work – can’t get much cooler than her – except maybe my awesome daughter, Gabriela Maria Goff.
“I need an art rep. I would love to get a gate in the Art Basel show. If anyone from the Sisterhood knows of an art rep or gallery connections, I am all ears.”
How do Christine’s gates find her?
Christine and her husband have a strong and recognisable style. People see their work and know that it is a “Knoblauch”. Their pieces are show pieces and commissioned pieces, as well as every artist’s dream: Soul pieces, the work that they just want to make.
Applying for shows in different galleries is another way to get her gates out there. In the middle of this year, the will be in a show in Buffalo New York at the Burchfield Penny Gallery. Her dream, is to get a gate in the Art Basel show. Ideally she would love an Art Rep to help her do this.
Clients find her through these galleries, as well as word of mouth, social media and press. Clients commission pieces, which include functional art, arbors, benches and chairs. For commissioned pieces she works with the client, blending their vision with hers. This, according to Christine, is what makes a great commission.
“I never want to give up my creative control and just be a fabricator – to make only what the client wants. I’m not a machine. If they want me to make a piece, they’re getting a piece of my soul, so it has to be a blending of ideas.”
“I think we can all help the planet by eating a plant based diet bought locally, recycle and repurpose, and try to vote in politicians who care about our planet.”
To reduce waste in her workshop, Christine started Hearts of Steel project. She uses her scrap steel to make huge 1 metre wide, three dimensional hearts. These giant hearts are presented to local hospitals to display, and represent the healing and caring work of Doctors and Nurses. She stamps hidden messages on the hearts, representing the nurses thoughts. Words like; heart to heart, connection, healing, mending, caring and more.
“If you stop and look, it’s like finding a secret message. We wrapped the heart to represent the healing process and the work of the Doctors and Nurses. The different pieces represent the life’s experiences – not always smooth and even. The over all pieces represents the courage and strength it takes to live a life full of love including it all its joy, sadness, passion, pain and splendor.”
“It takes a heart of steel to get through this life.”
Thank you for sharing your story with us Christine.
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