She once made things in the Miami print center. Now she molds metal into beautiful things.

Kristin Kieffer began her art career as a child in Buffalo, New York, drawing and coloring various pictures with crayons or markers on the back side of recycled computer paper her dad brought home from his work as an engineer.

In her early teens, she began taking classes in tole and decorative painting. She eventually began selling her work at local craft fairs by age 15 and teaching beginner classes at a local fabric store.

Kieffer attended SUNY Fredonia in Western New York and graduated with a bachelor of fine arts in graphic design. She has worked in the design and print industry for 25-plus years.

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She worked at Miami University from 2005 to October 2017.

“I had a few roles over the years: managing creatives (graphic designers, web designers, photographers and a videographer) but mostly oversaw the on-campus Print Center until it was outsourced in 2016 as well as the student Pay-4-Print Program on campus,” Kieffer said.

At Miami University, Kieffer continues to teach part-time for the Interactive Media Studies department.

When Kieffer left Miami in 2017 due to a job elimination, she decided to start her own company, ksquar design and metals LLC, combining her knowledge and skill sets of design and print with her newfound love of steel, iron, wood and copper.

The “metals” part involves creating and selling yard and garden art using a mix of forged iron or copper and other repurposed metal items.

Her love for blacksmithing began around 2006 when she took a one-day welding workshop, where they constructed and welded a six-foot-tall garden trellis, with a butterfly at the top, from steel.

“From that point I was thinking of things I wanted to make and knew that I wanted to learn more about welding,” she said.

It was 2013 before Kieffer began her present journey.

“Originally, I was looking for a class or a place to learn more about welding without having to devote a huge chunk of time or money to take a certification program,” she said.

“After some searching, I found Blue Hell Studios owned and operated by Christopher Daniel in Cincinnati. While Blue Hell is a blacksmithing school, the classes also covered welding and metal fabrication more from an artistic standpoint.”

After taking a few sessions of classes at Blue Hell, Kieffer was hooked.

“I wanted to make garden sculptures using found objects and incorporate items made using the techniques learned in the blacksmithing classes,” she said.

“From there, I started to acquire tools, bought a forge, an anvil, a few hammers, and rent studio space at Smithhaven Studios (also owned and operated by Christopher Daniel and where Blue Hell is located). I now share space and tools with five other artist-blacksmiths I met through the classes.”

Over time, she became interested in forging copper for creating jewelry as well as sculptural and functional pieces, thus expanding her work and ideas to include steel, iron, wood and copper.

“I want to continue to develop my skills and expand my knowledge of blacksmithing and working with copper and steel in general,” she said.

In 2015, a few blacksmiths and Kieffer formed a group (Cincinnati Blacksmiths Guild) to get local blacksmiths together to share knowledge and foster the art.

“I am still working on getting my business off the ground as I simultaneously develop my skills as a blacksmith. In the meantime, I also offer services such as graphic design, print consulting, and marketing,” Kieffer said.

Contact contributing writer shirl54bel@gmail.com

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