Kenneth Spivey brings concepts to life at Fire & Brimstone Forge
Written by Grace Thornton
Photography by Dawn Harrison
When Kenneth Spivey was young, like many kids, he watched movies and just wanted to play with the swords and weapons.
“‘Back to the Future,’ ‘Hook,’ fantasy movies with amazing props, Batman or what have you — I wanted the props in those movies,” he said. “Like any kid, I pestered my parents to take me to the toy store.”
But here’s where his interest deviates from the crowd — for Spivey, a plastic sword just didn’t cut it.
“Even when I was young, I was very disappointed when I didn’t find what I was looking for,” he said. “So I went home and began to make them myself out of aluminum foil, cardboard and duct tape.”
As the Vestavia Hills kid grew into a teen, his knowledge of the craft grew, and he began making things out of wood. But it wasn’t long before teachers who noticed his interests steered him toward a youth apprenticeship at Sloss Furnace to learn about metalwork.
“It all goes back to wanting to make a sword,” Spivey said.
Today, Spivey runs a smithy shop and studio at Artists on the Bluff called Fire & Brimstone Forge.
He got a degree in art, a master’s in education from the University of Montevallo and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Savannah College of Art and Design, graduating with honors.
He became a blacksmith in order to make the blades. He learned metal sculpting in order to make the hilt.
And then he became a leather smith so he could make the sheath.
“I had to learn the other crafts in order to make a sword from start to finish and make the whole thing unique to me,” Spivey said.
And much like when he was a kid, in a lot of ways, he’s standing alone.
“I only know of one other person in the world who’s doing the kind of work I’m doing,” he said.
When Spivey was in Atlanta working on his master’s with SCAD, he worked on various sets creating props for TV shows and movies. For instance, for the TV series “The Vampire Diaries,” one camera shot goes through a conceptual piece that he designed.
“It looks like an engine, to put it simply,” he said. With stained glass on top, when the engine spins, it looks like the helix of a DNA.
“I made that as a project at SCAD and they called SCAD looking for student work and they liked it and took it for that,” Spivey said.
A lot of the artwork he does these days is the “real life version of fantasy objects, whether they be tools, weapons or what have you.”
One such piece is Hammer of the Gods, a three-foot-long iron hammer with a giant crystal as the head.
Another is the Zombie Slayer, a jagged-edged sword fashioned from the blade of a two-man pull sword.
Spivey also sells pieces from railroad spike knives to letter openers to decorative tables and offers a piece called a Persona Blade, a dagger tailored especially to your personality. To make Persona Blades, he gets to know the person requesting the blade and works out the colors and materials according to the buyer’s individuality. This can include birthstones, birthdates, even the incorporation of tattoo designs, he said.
All of Spivey’s pieces have an old-world feel, because he uses medieval crafting methods for each piece, he said.
“He’s probably one of the best craftsmen I’ve ever worked with,” said Ted Metz, a well-known Birmingham artist who taught Spivey at the University of Montevallo. “He’s kind of an intuitive engineer. The kind of work he does is not taught, so he’s really self taught and educated himself on a lot of processes not offered in university settings. He’s a unique guy.”
And now Spivey is passing on his skills too through classes he’s offering at Fire & Brimstone Forge.
Classes in the past have included skills such as casting your own sterling silver ring, and starting in November, he’ll be offering blacksmithing.
“I just got a blacksmith forge for that purpose, and in the classes you can learn anything from making a nail to producing a fully functional knife,” Spivey said.
For more information, visit www.fireandbrimstoneforge.net.