by Natasha von Kaenel
In 2006, Byrd Pappas was living in New Mexico, when on a whim, they decided to move to the Bay Area and rent a sublet for three months. Byrd had started metalworking four years prior, and says The Crucible and the queer metalworking community of the Bay Area was calling them. “It’s way more common for women and queers to be in the trades here,” Byrd says. Three months turned into seven months, and eventually Byrd was in the Bay for good.
Currently, Byrd works as a Studio Manager at The Crucible and is focusing on metal fabrication – making decorative and functional ironwork, as well as fabricating simple, practical pieces by hand, including nails, rivets, and spoons. For the last two years, Byrd’s work has been featured in our annual Fire & Light Soirée and Art Auction. We sat down with Byrd to chat about their dream projects, fire bowling, and some of their favorite Crucible memories.
You have been at The Crucible for nine years now. What has kept you around?
Carla Hall [our former Youth Program Director] was pretty much my mentor and played a huge role in my metalworking career. She was really my inspiration for wanting to be here. And I think it’s really important to say this. The thing that has always kept me really committed is that everybody here is really free and safe to be who they are. We have no tolerance for people being disrespectful or rude or sexist or inappropriate. So, for that, I will always love it here. It’s been a space for me to grow and be myself and not have to worry about it. I’ve worked in a lot of shops, and everywhere else you go is not quite the same.
You said that you were attracted to the Bay Area and The Crucible because of the active queer and female metalworking community. How do you feel like The Crucible intersects with those communities?
The Fire Arts Festival has put us on the map in a lot of ways, and that really made it clear to the queer and women community, as well as more diverse communities, that we are kind of culturally fringe here and you can come here, be yourself, and have fun. Throughout the years, we’ve also had a good, diverse array of things for people to do, like Women’s Blacksmithing, Women’s Welding and Fire Dancing. And we have a really diverse faculty. So I think once people get in the door, they see it is really diverse and that this is a place they can be themselves.
What’s something that happened at The Crucible that you will never forget?
At the last Volunteer Appreciation party, we made fireballs. I loved that. Kier Lugo [our current Operations Manager] took the time to blow these glass balls, leaving a hole in the top where you put in the gas, then seal it off with clay. You throw the white gas, hand-blown glass ball at the fire and it explodes. It’s really fun.
What’s something you’d like to see more of from the people involved with The Crucible?
I think it would be really amazing to have an art wall in the events space, where we get people to come in and paint a mural or something. And then it could be a rotating thing.
What’s your dream project?
I have a couple of them. I want to build an aerial truss made out of aluminum schedule 40 pipe. And I would like to build a really big sculpture. I don’t know how that’s going to happen or what the sculpture is going to be. But it would be really big, it would have fire, and it would be made out of metal. I’m also trying to come up with some more fun aerial things to fly on. Something that’s not just a steel hoop. I have some shapes in mind, and have made some prototypes.
Do you do aerial silks yourself?
I do the lyra, the hoop. I’ve climbed on the silks and I’ve always done the rope a little bit. They’re hard. They’re fun. The lyra hurts.
What have been some of your favorite memories?
Some of my favorites are working on projects with Carla Hall, like the railings that we installed here. It was just really amazing to contribute something to this place in that way. And I’ve always loved our events. Especially since becoming a Studio Manager, it’s really fun to work really hard on all of the different projects. I met my partner and person of my dreams last year at Hot Couture. So I have this place to thank for that.