Baltimost: Audrey Van de Castle, metalworker and makerspace manager for Stanley Black & Decker

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Credit: Quinn Struke

Baltimost is a Baltimore Fishbowl feature series that asks locals what they love about their city. The idea is to celebrate Baltimore and the people who make it so unique.

So what makes Baltimore the Baltimost to you? It could be a favorite place, a great meal, a memorable interaction or something else entirely. Email suggestions to Karen at [email protected]

Audrey Van de Castle, 27, is the makerspace and open innovation manager for Stanley Black & Decker. 

In her words: “I grew up in Baltimore and went to Mercy High School. My dad was in construction, so I was around tools from a young age, but I didn’t really see them as my passion until I got my hands on a welder in college.  

I went to Hampshire College in Massachusetts. What first got me hooked on metalworking was a class called Women’s Fabrication. It was taught by a woman and was only for women or gender-nonconforming students. 

Because I got my start in such a welcoming environment, I never questioned if I could do something. I just jumped right in. I love to be the person doing things you wouldn’t expect from someone who looks like me; it totally breaks these social stigmas that some people have for women in metalworking.

That class sparked my passion for metalworking, but I wanted to create sculptures, so I was looking for other techniques to incorporate with it. I got into blacksmithing and combined it with welding to make abstract sculptures and textures. 

After I graduated in 2013, I moved back to Baltimore. My first job was teaching welding classes in a makerspace called The Foundery. That role introduced me to, and allowed to me get good at, other fabrication techniques including woodworking, laser-cutting, 3D printing, and computer numerical control metal and woodworking. 

My artwork is really connected to materiality and texture. A lot of times I’ll start by thinking about the materials I have and the feelings I can evoke with those materials. 

Sometimes the materials have a mind of their own, especially working with metal. I had to learn to accept that my pieces won’t always turn out how I plan. For instance, one technique I use is to build up a lot of weld bead in one spot and allow gravity to get it to drip while molten. Dumping that much heat into metal will make it warp significantly. At first, I didn’t want the material to warp, but after a while I realized it was actually very cool to see the material respond that way. I let it rock now.  

There’s something about my materials and textures–people just can’t not touch them. I have this one piece that’s a bunch of forged steel spikes that are bolted to a fabric-covered backer. When I came in to uninstall it from a show, I found that someone had twisted the parts of the sculpture all around, so they were pointing in different directions. 

Something like this happens every time I show artwork. I don’t necessarily care if people touch the pieces, but I would prefer that they at least put it back how they found it.

One thing I love about Baltimore is Green Mount Cemetery. It’s from the era when cemeteries were made to be beautiful nature parks for people to picnic in. It’s filled with history, mausoleums and trees. They have a fantastic variety of trees there–probably 20 different mature species. The guy who invented the Ouija board is there, and the back of his headstone looks like a Ouija board.”



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