Meet Heather Young: empowering, inspirational, and so over the stereotype of men controlling the blacksmithing world. She is the owner of Iron Maiden Metal Fabricating in the North Loop of Downtown Minneapolis. Her profound talent includes exciting designs for interior and exterior railings, benches, bed-frames, fences, window-bars, and fireplace screens—even coat racks.
“I like the contradiction between pretty and structurally sound,” Young defined her art. “I like getting dirty, and imagining how it’s all going to work.”
Young is a “Jill” of many trades. She serves at a local Minneapolis restaurant for part of the week, but succeeds as well at her passion of being a blacksmith.
As Young explained, “I like the balance of my busy life combined with being at ease in my studio.”
Maybe that’s what contributes to the fluidity of Young’s stylish work, as each piece, energy, or “the squiggles”—as she calls them—is complemented by the calm. Each achieves a look organic in nature, combining the hard, manufactured element of steel with soft, spontaneous curves and ornamentals.
Young’s experience dates back to the mid-1990s, when she was working for a Minneapolis-based metal fabrication company in its administrative department. Because she was not able to keep busy, she was asked to join the team in the shop to work on the assembly line, building and welding steel furniture frames sold to many big-name retailers.
When I asked Young how it felt to be female in a male-dominated workforce, she leaned back, collected her thoughts, and replied, “Well, I hate stereotypes. It was the older generation that doubted my ability, mostly due to my gender, and the men closer to my age questioned my sexuality. When I got the chance to work in the shop, it just looked way more fun.”
Working on the assembly line several years taught Young the fundamentals of refining and perfecting her craft to what you see today. Additionally, she received higher education in welding at a local technical college, and joined a Twin Cities-based blacksmithing club.
If that weren’t enough, Young traveled to the African country of Malawi on a mission trip on more than one occasion. There, she taught locals how to be resourceful with the steel artifacts around them, along with how to turn them into tools for gardening, farming, home building, and so on by using the art of blacksmithing. In Malawi, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is so rampant that many elders are not able to teach their children common tasks as Young did. She succeeded in educating an entire community on the know-how that now contributes to its survival.
When asked how the trip changed her and her art form, Young enthused, “It was the best time of my life!”
Young went on to mention that her art stems from a resourceful approach to the recycled tools she uses, which, in turn, results in the natural look she conveys in each piece.
As Young shared, “A car is a blacksmith’s goldmine.”
You may be surprised when looking at Young’s work at the tools she uses to create the bold, statement-worthy pieces.
After the grand tour of Young’s spacious art studio, I had to ask, “Where did you come up with the name ‘Iron Maiden’?”
Young laughed under her breath, and responded, “It was a nickname. My friends called me ‘Iron Maiden’ after the British Heavy Metal band. They were—and still are—my favorite.”
My first impression of Young was that she’s funny, professional, and artistically radiant. It’s obvious, too, that she’s tough as, well, steel.
For samples of Young’s work, to set up a consultation, and other information, visit www.ironmaideniron.com.