JEN: When I first saw your work at last year’s Somerset show, I was blown away. How did the idea of The Forged Fly come about? I’ve always felt an uncontrollable curse, where I imagine most things I see “in metal.” For over a decade, I’ve been looking for something that hasn’t been done in the world of metal art. When I got back into fly fishing, I was drawn to the possibility of creating flies of steel. I saw flies as tiny sculptures. One day, I desperately wanted to fish in an area, and didn’t have money for lodging. I created my first few two-dimensional, stainless steel flies in barter for a stay at a lodge to fish for steelhead. These displayed pieces got ridiculously positive feedback, and it wasn’t long before I started to think about them in a three-dimensional form. The thought of imitating each material in the fly tying world out of different metals and techniques became an endlessly intriguing thought process. I’m not saying that I made the first iron flies by any means, but I am honing in on details, techniques, and proportions that I have not seen before. This part makes me feel good inside. I am literally tying flies out of metal. I use enlarged, rigid materials, and manipulate them to act as soft as natural feathers and fur.
Jen: You’re a truly unique person. What is your workshop like? My workshop is a single car garage converted into a metal shop with a studio apartment upstairs, and a hole in the floor to jump down into the workshop when an idea sparks.
Jen: of course it is!
Jen: What is your mission? The mission for The Forged Fly is to keep tying, learn as much as possible, and commemorate the legends and the influential flies tied in this sport. I want to honor the people who are responsible for these creations and their story, turn it into steel, and document it. At the same time, I want to raise money for organizations that support underprivileged kids, our waters, and our sport. Take a kid fishing programs and river clean ups are my main focus.
Jen: I commissioned you to create an award on our behalf that looks like our logo. You did that perfectly. Was it difficult? Creating the project DUN mayfly was easy in a way because I could envision the whole thing before it started. I believe you have to see it before you can build it. Seeing it on paper is one thing, but being able to see the process, and being able to walk through it in your mind is the key. It was difficult because of unexpected issues during the process. Just like hunting down a smart rising trout, the process unfolded differently than I thought it would. The one thing about metal is that it can be manipulated in so many different ways. I did the legs over on the DUN mayfly three times before I got them right.
Jen: What flies did you create first? I started out with local trout flies and classic dries, then turned to saltwater flies. I am currently on target to hit some classic salmon patterns. I’m in love with the learning that takes place during these projects.
Jen: I’m sure you’re using recycled materials. What tools of the trade do you use and where does the metal come from? The most used tools of my trade are the hammer, torch, forge, and grinder. Most of my sculptures come from metals I’ve collected and recycled over the past decade. I love bringing old metals to life.
Jen: You look like you’re 20. Do you mind if I ask you how old you are, and how long you’ve been doing metal work? I’m 33 years old and have been doing metal work for about 14 years. My father was a master sheet metal fabricator, and I joined the union at around 20 years old. Now, Hartist Metals is my main business, and has been alive for over a decade. That business creates metal sculptures, railings, and anything custom. The Forged Fly has a lot of momentum at the moment and could easily lead into flies on railings, signs, and home decor applications.
Jen: How did you get involved in fly fishing? My father took me fishing when I was little. I caught my first trout around 6 or 7 years of age, and was ice fishing by around 8. My dad got me my first vise when I was 13, and we tied a few basic flies. I got back into tying in my mid-twenties during a soul-searching mission.
Jen: Did this gift you have come out of the blue or are you from an artistic family? Both of my parents are artistic in different ways: my father in sheet metal fabrication and my mother at arts and crafts, and custom doll making. My mom was a huge inspiration.
Jen: Does Matt Hart have a favorite fly? I do. The Hornberg streamer is my favorite fly.
Jen: How does someone contact you to buy one of your pieces or commission your artwork? If you would like to see my work, you can check out The Forged Fly online or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love to do custom pieces. Tell me your story and we will create it.