June 9th, 2023Artists of the Central Highlands
with Eve Lamb
The creations of Creswick artist blacksmith Ernie Terry are the sort of pieces that stop people in their tracks and start conversations. Forged from fire, steel and beautifully burnished copper – among other metals – they’re imposing, frequently life-sized and capture a fiery elemental energy that’s been winning this local creative plenty of fans and commissions – functional and purely aesthetic – ever since he opened his Lucky Monkey Blacksmith workshop and gallery at Creswick in fairly recent times.
Eve: G’day Ernie. You’re pretty well known for your blacksmithing artistry. Can you tell me a bit about how you got into blacksmithing?
Ernie: Well years ago I bought a property with my now–ex, and on that property was an old-school forge, and I always hung on to that and thought one day I would like to do blacksmithing. So about eight years ago now there were classes being run locally in Creswick and I just went to them and started my journey from there.
Eve: I hear your background is actually in forest fire fighting and prevention. How does that background feed into your creative work?
Ernie: I think it’s the nature-based aspect of that environment. You get to appreciate nature’s beauty. I’m fascinated by eucalypts, the species and colours… A lot of energy out there.
Eve: What other subject matter inspires you in your creative work? I know your horses and whales are pretty imposing!
Ernie: Leafy sea dragons I find fascinating. Leaves. Birds. Native Australian birds. I’m working on a couple of Australian birds, brolgas in particular. Maybe it’s a shape. It just sort of seems to flow.
Eve: Are there any artists or other creatives , current or historic, that influence you?
Ernie: Nah. They’re all boring! Just kidding. Yeh there are a few artists that I really do follow. One is Kitty Woodhouse over in Perth. Amazing. Staggering work that she does with recycled materials.
Eve: What are you working on at the moment?
Ernie: I’ve got commissioned horses to do. Today is play day making leaves and trying an enamelling process which is fascinating. I’ve also got two whale commissions to make.
Eve: Blacksmithing looks like it can get a little physically challenging at times. Does it? What are the main challenges?
Ernie: Personally I don’t find it physically challenging at all. In summer when it does get really hot and windy, if I know it’s going to be a really hot day I light the fire early so I’ll be finishing the work on the forge by lunchtime. Then I’ll shape it with hand tools when it’s too hot. This is a far more comfortable place in summer with a fire going then it is at a bushfire!
Eve: And not a bad place to be, by the forge fire, at this time of year I notice! Have you sustained any blacksmithing injuries Ernie?
Ernie: A few burns. The worse one I got when I took my eye off what I was doing.Touched the forearm with mild round steel. It was black heat so I didn’t realise it was that hot and I brushed my arm against it. Got a fairly deep burn. Put my arm in the quench bucket but the water was a bit dirty so it got a bit infected…I’ve only burned myself badly twice, which is not bad.
Eve: To date, what have been the personal highlights for you in your creative practice?
Ernie: I think just meeting some really wonderful people.
Eve: Do you have any exhibitions, special events or workshops coming up that you would like to let others know about?
Ernie: I’m basically in here all the time making stuff and it heads out to the world from here.
Eve: What are the main rewards that you derive from your creative practice?
Ernie: To me it’s like starting with that bit of metal and going into that space and then coming back with something else. It is alchemy. It’s kind of a discovery as I go.
Eve: It sounds like a bit of a meditative process.
Ernie: It’s brilliant.
Eve: And you teach people as well? A few kids are learning from you at the moment I hear.
Edie: Yes. I’ve got three children who are learning at the moment… Adults as well. I’ve had one man travel over from Warragul and spend a week here.