David Ponsler


Photo: Laird

You’ve had a long career working with metal. Tell us how that all began and when you first became interested in metalwork. 

 My parents were from Indiana, and my father had wanderlust which is why at 17 he volunteered to serve overseas in WW2. In 1950 he was lured down to Jacksonville to partner with a man making playground equipment out of steel. The company was called Wonderland Products. My mother worked for an accountant until I started school and then she became the bookkeeper for the company. So, at six years old I was taken to the shop after school. I have a memory of crying because I wanted to do more than just sweep the floor. At the age of eight, one of my father’s employees set me up with a welder and pointed to a barrel of scrap steel and told me to practice, probably thinking I would burn myself and quit, but I did not.

You work primarily in forged bronze, copper, and steel. Which of these materials do you enjoy working with most and why?

    Steel is my first love and the most magical and useful of these materials. Without it and my acquired skills of the blacksmith, none of my current body of work would be possible. To achieve the forms I love takes tools I have made myself from steel.  With that acknowledgement aside, I have been able to enjoy working primarily in bronze. Six years ago, I was asked to partner with another craftsman on a large project in southwest Florida. My initial response was no, but when he said he really needed a designer I was interested. We are just now in the final months of completion of this project. The work was all in bronze and included 14 balcony railings, fencing, and four pedestrian and two vehicular gates. Since 2007, my sculptural work has been forged in bronze with the exception of four eight-foot-tall pieces of forged and fabricated steel I made in 2016 specifically for an exhibition at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. Since then, I have shifted back to bronze mostly because the forms I desire are best achieved in this softer material. 

Whatever piece you are working on, for whatever purpose, you seek to bring out an elegance of form to an otherwise rigid and resistant material. How do you go about that process?

First let me say thank you for noticing, because yes, as imagined it doesn’t come easy. Most often that gracefulness takes extreme heat and force plus all my 48 years of experience forging hot metal. For both my architectural and sculptural pieces I am fanatical about line quality and harmony.  My favorite quote about my sculpture was from renowned American metalsmith Daniel Miller. He said, “It’s as though a cosmic event or some moment was captured in time.” In the case of the architectural works, it starts with design. I draw everything by hand to scale first and eventually to full size for production.

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Author: Arbus

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