Oral history interview with L. Brent Kington, 2001 May 3-4
Kington, L. Brent (Louis Brent),, 1934-2013
Douglas, Mary F., 1956-
Thomas, Richard C.
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
Cranbrook Academy of Art
University of Kansas
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America
Place of publication, production, or execution:
Transcript: 95 pages.
Originally recorded on 7 sound cassettes. Reformated in 2010 as 14 digital wav files. Duration is 6 hr., 54 min.
An interview of L. Brent Kington conducted 2001 May 3-4, by Mary Douglas, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, in Kington's home and studio, Makando, Illinois.
Kington describes his childhood and the impact of the Depression; his adopted sister Kay; and his hyperactivity and difficulty accomplishing schoolwork. He comments on his high school teachers; his academic and athletic accomplishments at University of Kansas (UK); his studies at Cranbrook Academy of Art with Richard (Dick) Thomas "the intellectual silversmith" and his "mentor"; Hugh Acton and the GM Tech Center; and fellow metalsmiths Fred Fenster, Mike Jerry, Stanley Lechtzin, and Heikki Seppä.
He discusses exhibitions including "Kansas Designer Craftsmen," "Michigan Designer Craftsmen," "Fiber, Clay, Metal," "Creative Casting, Young Americans 1962," and "Objects: USA." He talks about Ashanti gold weights; Scandinavian design; teaching at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois (SIU) and Illinois State University (ISU), and taking students to the Saint Louis Art Museum to see granulation in Mycenaean gold. He comments at length on his toys and experimenting with ideas about toys.
Kington also describes blacksmithing workshops held at SIU and the "renaissance" of blacksmithing in the United States. He recalls his involvement with the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG), American Craft Council (ACC), World Crafts Council (WCC), Artist Blacksmith's Association of North America (ABANA), the Kentucky School of Craft, the National Ornamental Metal Museum, and other organizations. He discusses his weathervane pieces and other series such as Icarus, Crozier, Europa, and Axis Mundi. He comments on the influence of Mircea Eliade's book "The Forge and the Crucible" (1979), considers the blacksmith's role in various cultural mythologies, and evaluates publications such as "Anvil's Ring" and "American Blacksmith."
He comments on the current state of affairs in metalsmithing; his retirement from SIU and teaching in the University of Georgia-Cortona program; the impact of Cyril Stanley Smith's insights and the importance of his book "A History of Metallography" (1960); his appreciation of Daryl Meier's work; exploring new techniques such as mokume gane, kuromido, shibuichi, rokusho (patination process); encouraging Mary Lee Hu to pursue wire structuring; and his enthusiasm for sharing information. He recalls John Allgood, Philip Baldwin, Robert Ebendorf, Phil Fike, Maija Grotell, Marvin Jensen, Richard Mawdsley, Lee Nordness, Ron Pearson, Bob Peterson,Gene and Hiroko Pijanowski, Jim Wallace, and others.
Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with L. Brent Kington, 2001 May 3-4. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Funding for this interview was provided by the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America. Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.
L. Brent Kington (1934-) is a metalsmith from Makanda, Illinois. Mary Douglas (1956-) is a curator at the Mint Museum of Craft and Design in Charlotte, N.C.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 750 9th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001