An interview with a smith

Assistant Professor Daniel Randall works a piece of hot steel using the power hammer at the Appalachian Center for Craft.  Photo by Jacob Bray

Daniel Randall, 38, is currently an assistant professor at the Tennessee Tech School of Art, Craft and Design where he oversees the metalsmithing and blacksmithing concentrations. His passion for the metallurgic arts started while attending high school in his home state of Vermont and has allowed him to showcase and teach his craft in places as far as Seoul, South Korea. 

Q: When did you first get introduced to metalsmithing?

A:  I was introduced to the field of metalsmithing when I was in high school. I was very fortunate to attend a school that still had metalsmithing and ceramic art programs. It was through that high school program that I was introduced to metalsmithing and essentially from that point I have not deviated from it as my primary focus.    

Q: When did you know you wanted to teach metalsmithing as a career?

A: I had always enjoyed teaching, but I did not decide to pursue that as a primary mode professionally until 2010 when I was invited to teach at Seoul National University of Science and Technology in South Korea. 

Q: Was it a difficult decision to make the transition?

A:  It is interesting. At that time, I was working for a company doing architectural ironwork, and I was in the process of setting up my own studio space with the intention of being a business owner. However, I felt unfulfilled doing that, and I felt like I had the potential to do a lot more and impact the field I care so much about in a positive manner.   

Q: How did you end up at Tennessee Tech?

A:  I was living and teaching in South Korea when a colleague of mine sent me the job posting thinking that it would be a good match for me. After doing some research into the Appalachian Center for Craft, it sounded like an excellent fit for my theory around teaching and making. 

Q: What is your favorite thing about the Appalachian Center for Craft?

A:  The manner in which they are focused on education and the way that they teach the values of craftsmanship and hand skill. You have to understand the materials and the process, and that is very much the focus of their programming, which is what I am interested in teaching.   

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to students?

A:  The biggest piece of advice I give to students is not to be discouraged by failure. You are not going to learn anything if you are not taking risks, and if you’re taking risks there is going to be failure.