Tiskilwa woman makes customized steel, copper pieces
Although there are women who are blacksmiths, Vickie Schertz of Tiskilwa said she is the only one she knows who is doing this work on a full-time basis.
“There are women who do blacksmithing, but most do it on the weekends or as a hobby,” she said. “I am the only woman I know who comes to the shop every day.”
Schertz opened DOC’s (Designs Originally Created) Blacksmithing, located at the intersection of Owen and Sycamore streets, in the village of Tiskilwa, 17 years ago.
“I was curious and had never worked with metal before,” she said. “My personality is to jump into something with both feet when I am learning something.”
When Schertz first started, she was making fabricated pieces by welding pieces of cold steel together to make gates, etc.
“Two years later, I started blacksmithing, which allows you to do more with the steel after heating it up,” she said. “You can reshape and mold it into different designs on the steel.”
This process allows Schertz to make something like a fireplace poker with a horsehead handle or other intricate designs or customized piece.
“You can’t do that without heating up the steel on my forge,” she said, adding she then uses a hammer and an anvil to mold the steel into the desired shape.
Schertz takes custom orders for the items she creates but does not have an inventory of items to sell at her Tiskilwa shop, since her pieces are original and one of a kind.
“Every piece is different even though the process to make it is the same,” she said. “There are different ways to shape and form designs. (I am) always learning and expanding my knowledge.”
She has been working on a technique called repousse, a French word for working on the reverse of metal like copper and steel to form a raised design on the front.
Schertz also teaches beginner blacksmithing classes twice a year at Sugar Grove Nature Center, which is located in the Bloomington area. Since many people are interested in learning how to work with copper, Schertz has picked up teaching four copper classes in Bellflower in Illinois and the Kalamazoo area in Michigan.
Schertz helps 120-150 Boy Scouts a year earn their metal merit badge at a jamboree held in Rantoul. She has demonstrated her craft at blacksmithing events in three states and also learns from other blacksmithers on ways to improve her creations. She attends 3-4 different shows a year in Illinois with the biggest one at Pontiac over the Labor Day weekend.
She belongs to the Artist-Blacksmiths Association of North America, which has about 4,000 members, and the Illinois Valley Blacksmiths Association, which has 450 members.
The property where DOC’s is located used to be a blacksmithing shop many years ago run by Bill Slygh. The building burned down in 1940 or 1941. Another building was built by Schertz’s husband, which now houses DOC’s blacksmith studio.
“We had this shop that was empty,” she said. “I started learning to weld and work with steel. I enjoyed it and kept going. Tom (her husband) had run a small motor repair shop out of this building. After we got married, he started working for the state of Illinois, and I then decided to transform this place into a blacksmith shop.”
Schertz mainly relies on word of mouth to bring in customers. “I have enough work coming in. I don’t sell products on the internet because I custom make everything I do.”
Schertz can be reached at 815-646-6679 or email her at email@example.com.