Blacksmith forges love affair with Footscray

Footscray blacksmith artist Matthew St George. Photo by Damjan Janevski.

The ancient art of blacksmithing lives in on the heart of Footscray, thanks to Matthew St George of Dragon Forge. He speaks with Benjamin Millar.

What is your connection with Footscray?

I had already clocked up some fond memories of Footscray prior to living here, so when the opportunity came to buy an old, run-down rabbit abattoir that was in dire need of repair, my partner and I didn’t hesitate to take on the epic task of deconstructing it and converting it into a place to live and work.

Ten years later, I can honestly say I’m glad we didn’t know what we were in for, otherwise I would have chosen a site that was far less challenging.

What do you love most about the area? 

I love that Footscray is a ‘crucible’ for arts and culture. There’s so much diversity in so many ways, which keeps things interesting, but this is also changing rapidly. I hope the Council maintains its support of artists and the different cultures in the area and enables them to continue to contribute to the suburb’s future in a meaningful way. 

Do you have a favourite local place or places to spend time?

I enjoy going for walks with my family along the Maribyrnong. We sometimes grab a coffee at the Happy River Cafe and drop in to the occasional exhibition at the FCAC gallery. We also frequent the Footscray and Little Saigon Markets. We’re fortunate enough to live right next door to The Reverence Hotel with their fantastic food and great support for a variety of performance artists. They are also very considerate neighbours.

Footscray blacksmith artist Matthew St George. Photo by Damjan Janevski.
Footscray blacksmith artist Matthew St George. Photo by Damjan Janevski.

How did you become involved in blacksmithing?

Blacksmithing was a natural evolution for me. It’s something I’ve been interested in since I was a teenager. I spent a long time exploring and making things from clay, wood, stone and precious metal, but when I eventually discovered that blacksmithing still has an important role in this age of disposable, machine made goods, I leapt at the opportunity to do something that satisfied my appreciation for making things that last.

What’s the best thing about being a blacksmith?

The magic of being a blacksmith is that it’s a bit like alchemy. You take raw material, expose it to heat, air and water, and with a lot of careful hammering, you can create something really interesting and beautiful that will stand the test of time. 

What’s the most unusual thing someone has asked you to create?

The most unusual thing that I made in recent years was some finger armour comprised of three stainless steel, interlocking rings. It was for a kinesiologist who was rather attached to his finger and preferred for it not to be bitten off when working inside the mouths of young children.

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