The Queue: Rachel David
Get to know the people featured in the pages of our magazine as they share what's inspiring them right now.
A biweekly roundup for and by the craft community, The Queue introduces you to the artists, curators, organizers, and more featured in the current issue of American Craft. We invite these inspiring individuals to share personally about their lives and work as well as what's inspiring them right now.
Rachel David lives and works in Waynesville, North Carolina, and employs a social justice framework to create sculpture, furniture, and architectural work around the themes of landscape, human impact on the environment, and the body. A founding member of the Society of Inclusive Blacksmiths (featured in “Visionaries in Craft” in our Summer 2022 issue), she advocates for diversity in the field. Rebekah Frank wrote about David and fellow groundbreaking smiths Elizabeth Brim and Ellen Durkan in “Forging New Paths” in the Summer 2022 issue of American Craft.
How do you describe your work or practice?
I am based in North Carolina, and I carry the imprint of manic communities full of joy, terror, and magical traditions. My sculpture, furniture, and architectural work explore the broad issues of body and landscape through the lens of social and environmental justice. The forms I create are physical representations of restrictive and oppressive social systems and the battle against them.
The past couple of years have presented many challenges, from a global pandemic to renewed urgency around issues of racial equity and police brutality. As we slowly move into a post-pandemic world, how are you finding beauty and staying grounded?
I spent the majority of this pandemic moving halfway across the country, building a cabin and shop, moving trash from one place to another (often building with it), and deeply appreciating the beauty and quiet of my new place. It was also a frenzy of activism, on the streets and in my own small backwards-looking field. I am basking in my new life, welcoming old friends and new to share the beauty and space I have. It feels completely new and different to work in the place I built. I'm elated, rarely grounded, cruising on the cusp of barely mitigated chaos, spinning from one task to another making work that feels interesting and sometimes relevant. It feels gorgeous to steward a neglected place, make work to challenge the dominant paradigm, and revel in the love of friends (again, finally!).
The theme of the current issue of American Craft is “Forge.” Can you reflect on that theme as it relates to your work and practice?
I have a forging practice. I quite literally forge material on good shop days. The process of forging is a holistic one. I take that kind of wide-angle consideration very seriously in my daily practice. The forethought of order of operations in completing a forged job is in my mind just as much as when I should transplant my tomatoes and prune the apple trees.
What’s one of your favorite tools in your toolkit that the world should know about?
I use a variety of air hammer types—stationary, handheld, and slightly too big to hold by myself but not stationary. I hang that one from an overhead jib crane. It doesn’t mean my hands hurt less, but it does make doing weird things more commercially viable. Not very viable, but a little more, and possible to accomplish alone.
What podcast should we be listening to right now, and why?
Behind the Bastards: Nothing is new, everything has been done. Capitalism and the global elite are creating systems that oppress Black, brown, and poor people, and this deeply depressing podcast—especially the Kissinger series—shares some of the whys.
Believe Her: Terrible and depressing and exemplifies how a person can be basically the perfect victim and how the system is so unbearably terrible and stacked against women, primarily women of color (though this show doesn’t focus on one, it highlights some of their stories). It is one of many podcasts about how flawed the prison system is.
Ear Hustle: Very good podcast from San Quentin State Prison that encourages prison reform and features the humanity of people who are systematically discounted.
All of the Power seasons. Each is different and awesome.
If you could purchase some artwork for your home or studio, whose would it be and why?
I want wallpaper tag-teamed by Meg Turner and Pippin Frisbie-Calder. I want a splitting maul from Jeffrey Funk. I want a ring by Emefa Cole. I want a set of cutlery by Erica Moody. I want servingware from David Harper Clemons. I want more tattoos from Elise Kauffmann and Aminah Slor. I want a set of platters from Rachel Kedinger and ceramics from too many people. It feels so good to use and live with work from loved ones and art crushes.
Inspired by the people featured in The Queue?
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