As you walk toward this blacksmithing studio, you’ll harken back to the days when streets were paved with dirt and sidewalks made of wood, and feel your senses awakened by the ringing of a Beaudry Mechanical Hammer forging molten steel into mesmerizingly beautiful shapes.
When you step inside, you’re immediately welcomed by the smiling Lorelei Sims, one of the premier blacksmith artists of this generation, wearing her favorite oil-tanned leather apron and smoke-stained jeans.
A graduate of Eastern Illinois University, where she studied sculpture and metal smithing, Lorelei was influenced by her great-grandfather Soren Zachariesson, a seventh-generation coppersmith from Denmark. Lorelei will tell you his passion for the craft carries over into every demonstration she puts on for visitors. Maybe this explains why some patrons have traveled from as far away as Europe and Southeast Asia to marvel at the white-hot sparks of metal exploding off her anvil as she clangs unfinished wrought iron into works of fine art.
Throughout her studio are examples of Lorelei’s imagination and skill, the end-results of her strength and the precision aim of a four-kilogram ball-peen hammer. It’s like being within a few feet of a magician, where one minute you see red-hot steel, and in next magical instant a beautiful design has taken shape. Every one-of-a-kind piece hammered into creation represents her own passion for designing and crafting ironwork that emulates the asymmetrical patterns found in nature.
While Lorelei’s artistic range spans lighting, furniture, and architectural ironwork, she has an exceptionally keen eye for shaping botanical artwork inspired by the natural beauty of Charleston’s surrounding countryside. Her sunflowers, dragonflies, butterflies and floral sculptures are often public commissions, and some of her favorites are now permanent art installations in public spaces like the Omaha Botanical Gardens, Fordham University, and the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site here in Illinois.
Lorelei is an avid teacher of her craft and author of The Backyard Blacksmith and Organic Metalworking. See her work at blacksmithchic.com or visit her studio in Charleston and feel the heat of a new work of art as it comes to life before your very eyes, forged by the talented hands of a master blacksmith.
Discover more Illinois Artisans at Illinois Made.