David Flynn lives a life of fire and metal.

Flynn, 53, is a sculptor and a blacksmith.

He spends his days at his northwest-side workshop shaping pieces of scrap and steel with heavy hammers, monster machinery and homemade forges burning at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

His work is part business, part pleasure.

Flynn loves to create. He holds a degree in art education from the University of Wisconsin, Stout, and his pieces can be found in homes, parks and other public spaces throughout Southern Arizona.

But he's also a businessman with a practical side. Under the moniker Diablo Forge, Flynn has created a range of custom home-decor items, including large ornate gates, thick iron tables with clawed feet and steel light fixtures resembling cow skulls.

His latest efforts have gone toward fabricating decorative "forever roses," with copper petals and barbed wire stems, for a friend who sells them in Hayden, Ariz.

"You usually think of fire being more destructive," Flynn said. "When you are harnessing and forging it, it can do wonderful things for you."

"I got the bug"

A lifelong artist, Flynn discovered his love for shaping metal as a graduate student at the University of Arizona.

He studied under Fred Borcherdt, a local artist who worked in forged iron, wood and stone.

Flynn was fascinated by the process.

"I got the bug," Flynn said. "It was the coolest thing ever. I started pounding everything."

After a five-year stint teaching art in Compton, Calif., Flynn hit the road on a self-imposed apprentice program, seeking the most talented blacksmiths and metal artists in California, Illinois and northern Minnesota. He and his wife moved back to Southern Arizona in 1997.

He started Diablo Forge shortly after.

Together with his brother-in-law, blacksmith Jon Molden, Flynn has become a regular contributor to public-art projects.

The brass and steel shields, rolling gates and fire hose benches that sit in front of Tucson Fire stations No. 20, 4798 N. First Ave., and No. 21, 8620 E. Tanque Verde Road, were part of a project they worked on together in 2006.

They also fabricated the rolling river piece, dubbed "Reflection," at Rillito River Park, 4200 N. Campbell Ave., that pays homage to the convergence of the Pantano and Tanque Verde washes.

See works in Oro Valley

Flynn worked with Molden and artist Caryl Clement to create "Moon Flowers" at Oro Valley Marketplace - a large floral display with stems that spread out 24 feet and light up in the evenings.

Most projects require specific tools that Flynn creates himself.

"You can't be a blacksmith and not make your own tools," he said. "If you do this and want to make money at it, you have to figure out how to do this stuff."

On a smaller scale, Flynn has tried his hand at making knives, bowls and other kitchen utensils with his intern, Julian Doiron.

They've been selling the pieces at the Oro Valley Farmers Market, held at Oro Valley Town Hall, 11000 N. La Cañada Drive, every Saturday.

Doiron, 21, is a UA art education student with a passion for blades.

He sought out Flynn at the beginning of last semester to hone his craft. As summer approached, Doiron was at the workshop nearly five days a week.

"He gives you enough room to do your own thing and he is open to your ideas," Doiron said of Flynn. "He takes a scholarly approach to it all because he used to be a teacher."

Flynn said the items they create together are a good way to generate public interest in what he does.

"One of the things that is fascinating about forging is that your imagination is your only limitation," Flynn said. "It is all about what you think you can pull off."

On StarNet: View more photos at www.azstarnet.com/gallery

More info

David Flynn is a regular vendor at the Oro Valley Farmers Market, held from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays at Oro Valley Town Hall, 11000 N. La Cañada Drive.

Visit diablo-forge.com to learn more about Flynn's work.

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at ggay@azstarnet.com or 807-8430.