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Photos by Jon Anderson.
Artist Kenneth Spivey III works to create a knife out of a railroad spike in his studio at Artists on the Bluff in Bluff Park. He will be one of more than 50 artists at the 14th annual Art in the Gardens event at Aldridge Gardens on Sept. 24-25.
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Photo courtesy of Kenneth Spivey III.
This is one of artist Kenneth Spivey III’s finished handcrafted knives, made from a railroad spike.
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Photo by Jon Anderson.
Artist Kenneth Spivey III handmade these invitations to a reception that will open an art exhibition at Artists on the Bluff Oct. 1-31.
Art in the Gardens
WHEN: Sept. 24-25
WHERE: Aldridge Gardens
HOURS: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 24; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 25
ADMISSION: $5; children 15 and younger free
Kenneth Spivey III has been fascinated with re-creating things he sees in movies ever since he was about 5 years old.
He built cardboard and aluminum foil swords and was really intrigued by the bayonet hook worn by Dustin Hoffman when Hoffman played Captain Hook in the movie “Hook.”
But as he got older, Spivey wanted his replica creations to be more realistic. At 15, the Vestavia Hills teen joined the youth apprenticeship program at Sloss Furnaces and learned how to forge metal.
He loved it so much, he bought his own forge and equipment and started a foundry in Wilsonville — at age 16.
Now he’s 30 and is a full-time artist and art instructor. He teaches classes at the Artists on the Bluff facility in Bluff Park, where he opened a studio a few months ago.
Spivey, a smith who specializes in metal forging, welding and fabrication, is one of more than 50 artists who will be featured at the Art in the Gardens event at Aldridge Gardens Sept. 24-25.
This is the 14th year for the Art in the Gardens show. More than 50 artists are expected, all from Alabama, said Jennifer Gowers with GoPro Event Solutions, which is coordinating the show.
The juried show is expected to include metal forgers, woodworkers, photographers, sculptors, printmakers, glassmakers, jewelry artists, potters, fine artists and mixed media artists, Gowers said.
In the past, the show has been held in June, but this year, it was moved to late September to avoid hot summer temperatures.
“We couldn’t take the heat anymore,” Gowers said. “You’ve got 80-year-old artists out in the heat. They can’t do it. We didn’t want to risk anybody’s health.”
This will be Spivey’s fourth year at Art in the Gardens. He’ll be forging on site but also will have a second booth featuring his fine arts pieces.
Spivey is known for turning railroad spikes into ornate, polished knives. He formerly collected them from near railroad tracks until he learned that was illegal, he said. Now, he orders them from a company in Nashville.
While Spivey specializes as a metal forger, he has learned numerous other art forms, many connected to his love of swords and other weapons. He learned how to work with leather in order to make sword handles and knife sheaths, and he learned how to work with jewelry in order to set stones in swords. He also does woodworking. His knives come in wooden boxes recycled from wine crates, and he knows how to make a clock.
After graduating from Vestavia Hills High School, Spivey got his undergraduate degree in art from the University of Montevallo. He also got a master’s degree in education from Montevallo and a master’s degree in fine arts from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.
He now teaches more than 30 classes, from metalworking and blacksmithing to jewelry work, silver casting, glass staining and stone carving. He teaches at Artists on the Bluff in Hoover and the MASS (Music, Artistic, Scientific and Social) Collective in Atlanta and leads summer metalworking courses at the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Spivey typically participates in about five art shows a year, mostly in Alabama. His knives range from $100 to $200, but he also sells smaller jewelry items for $15 to $30 and key chains made out of nails for people with small budgets who want something unique.
Some of his larger custom jobs have included a $20,000 restoration of an antique Cessna 170 airplane and a $5,000 sign he made for Oxmoor Valley Orthodontics. The Artists on the Bluff facility has proposed a $100,000 sculpture to put in front of the building, but funding has not yet been acquired, Spivey said.
Staying true to his love, Spivey also has done custom props for the entertainment industry. He worked as an intern under Bruce Larson and helped make a special prosthetic leg for a character in the movie “U.S.S. Indianapolis: Men of Courage,” and he crafted a mechanical engine for the CW series, “The Vampire Diaries.”
Spivey has collected about $150,000 to $200,000 worth of movie props, including more than 100 from James Bond movies, he said. Others are from Indiana Jones movies and “Back to the Future.”
At 18, he made a replica of the time machine from “Back to the Future” that included some of the original tubes in the flux capacitor featured in the movie, he said.
He also made a replica of a glowing ring from the “Lord of the Rings” and the arc reactor in “Iron Man,” he said.
Spivey said he simply loves to create things and to see people’s reactions when they look at his handiwork.
For more about Spivey and his creations, go to fireandbrimstoneforge.net. Art in the Gardens will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 24, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 25. Admission is $5 per person, but children 15 and younger get in free.