Kington comes back

By Gus Bode

While in high school in 1950, L. Brent Kington created his first piece as a metalsmith, a sterling silver ring. More than half a century later, the founder of SIUC’s blacksmithing program has had his work exhibited across the country, including museums in New York City and Memphis.

Kington’s work has been on display in Carbondale, where the ‘L. Brent Kington: Mythic Metalsmith’ exhibit was shown at the University Museum in Faner Hall.

‘It’s really nice to bring a body of work made over a 45-year-period all together in one place, and to have people I’ve known my whole educational life be able to see it,’ Kington said.


In the late 1960s, Kington established a blacksmithing program at SIUC, where he helped bring notoriety to a little-known field. Since he joined the faculty in 1961, Kington said the program gained recognition and developed a reputation because of the quality of the students and their work. The program is one of the few in the United States to offer both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the craft.

Kington said the acceptance of his own work nationally and internationally also helped the program.

‘It’s nice to know that I had a hand in its growth and development,’ he said.’ ‘I had excellent students to work with, and they’ve done very well.’

The type of work Kington completes is very diverse, he said. The recent exhibit at the University Museum included pieces spanning over 40 years of work and a multitude of materials, including silver, bronze, iron and steel.

His body of work has left an impression on current SIUC metalsmiths.

‘ ‘Its pretty amazing someone so accomplished built the blacksmithing program here to be the best in the country,’ said Sarah Renshaw, a graduate student from Carbondale studying metals.

She said it is great someone who is known internationally as a metalsmith has had such a strong influence on the program.


‘ ‘He takes an active role in the students lives. He talks to you and helps; he’s there to answer questions and comment on work,’ said Stephanie Ellis, a graduate student from Ottumwa, Iowa, studying metals. ‘He is very down to earth and very supportive of all the arts. He and his wife have always been a big part of the metalsmithing around here.’

Though many of his sculptures are across the country in various exhibits, Kington said he works in his two studios at his home near Carbondale. While his career has been successful, he said the field of metalsmithing is growing continually stronger and there is an increasingly wider audience interested in unique sculpture.

The factor determining whether people will be drawn to metalwork is an individual one, Kington said.

‘It depends on the quality and thinking that goes into the work,’ he said.

Chris McGregor contributed to this report.

Genna Ord can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 275 or [email protected].