Chelsea Miller might be the most badass woman I know!
Chelsea Miller makes knives for a living. I’m not talking the cute throw in your clutch, mother of pearl encrusted penknife type of knife, I’m talking, “sweetie I’ll slice your face off if you look at my husband like that again,” kinda knife! Thick, strong, beautiful chunky hunks of metal razored down to diamond sharp blades, coupled with handles carved out of wise old wood, a syncing of man’s most primal elements, make these babies the Mad Max of knives..
Born n’ raised in rural Vermont, this gorgeous, hot, cheekbones that could poke your eyes out, pin up babe was raised on a diet of metal, passion and hard work. Her father was a blacksmith, who worked in a barn on their land and every spare second Chelsea had growing up she was by his side learning the secrets, dreams and desires of these metals. She was, if you like, in training to become what can only be described as the Metal Whisperer. No one knife is the same, each piece of carefully chosen metal tells her their own story and she crafts according to what she hears. She never knows what the final piece is going to look like, that is something that grows along the journey to becoming a knife. She honestly seems like the most tapped in Zen person I have ever met; her process is so organic, so utterly fearless and trusting that the universe will take her (and her knives) to where they are meant to be. Initially coming to New York with dreams of becoming an actress, she soon found
the lifestyle did not suit her and rather than sell her soul to the devil she decided to take it back to her roots and dived into the hot fiery world of metal. This 90 degree about turn was made only three years ago and it was as if fate gave her the keys to its favorite shooting star! She literally rolled the dice, moved two squares along the game board of life, landed at the bottom of a ladder and ascended into success faster than you can say “I take my steak rare”. After the first article was written about her, restaurants and foodies alike ordered so many of these middle earth beauties that she quickly became “burdened” with a three year waiting list. Not wanting to take away any of the magic of making these by having to rush, she decided to change the price of each knife from $450 to $850, fully expecting at least half of the future orders to fall away… They didn’t…. But luckily for her (and for her customers) she loves making them, so the six or so, she makes a week is less a burden, more that she is fulfilling what, clearly, she was put on these here shores to do. Perhaps that is how it goes, some say that if it is meant to be then it is easy. That doesn’t mean hard work, patience, blood sweat and tears are not involved, just that it all seems rather effortless … or maybe it’s because she didn’t jump into an industry that was saturated with every Tom, Dick or Harry thinking they could do it, because they would find out at first grind, when they lost a finger, that they couldn’t… Either way it is working for her.
Not long after our photo shoot I saw on Instagram that she had cut herself on one of her machines, something she rarely does.
From this accident she takes it as a sign that she needs to slow down, in fact let me quote what she says.. “ Greetings earthlings. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, but also, be specific and don’t divide your attention…. or like me, you’ll divide your actual hand. 8 stitches are a good reminder to slow down and respect the work.”
In theory I could not have put it better myself and we would all do well to put this into practice, but it also means I’m totally rogered! With all the pies that have my fingers rammed in them, it means I’m gonna only have toes left to write, draw, photograph and sing with…hmm! oh well I shan’t be alone, what with most New Yorkers being a blah slash blah slash model slash blah these days it looks like the toes only club might be the next big thing you see on your twitter/snapchat/instagram feeds… High five guys!!
Who is Chelsea Miller?
I’m a knife maker. I grew up in rural Vermont, mainly unschooled and apprentice to my blacksmith/carpenter father. I was very isolated and had many imaginary friends, I was determined from a young age to be in New York City where the people were. I’ve always had a thirst for my independence and artistic expression.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a storyteller. I wanted to have an interesting life full of surprises and to share my experience through art. I also wanted to be a meteorologist for about a day because I thought they could decide future weather patterns.
How did you get to be where you are?
By insisting that I do everything in my own way and in my own time. I’ve never been able to follow rules and have always been interested in process over product. Anything that interests me I want to smell, taste, break and fix myself.
If you could go back in time and give your 16-year-old self some advice what would it be?
Don’t pluck your eyebrows! Don’t resist change, change is inevitable, stay true to yourself and hold your ground energetically. You have nothing to fear but fear itself. Love whenever you can and laugh it off.
If the cupboard in your bedroom would lead you to another world what would your Narnia look like?
If you were to push through all the sun dresses and cut off jean shorts in my wardrobe you’d find a ladder leading to the cockpit of a sailboat on an open sea, that’s where I like to project my thoughts. Out there on a massively dynamic canvas.
By day you are a ….? By night you are…?
By day I’m under a helmet, covered in sweat, dust and metal filings pounding, bending and grinding metal. Putting my fingers on raw materials I’m transported to a place of inspiration, expression and physical labor. Each peace develops through the making process, I never know from the beginning what the end will look like. By night I am listening to or talking about music, ooing and awing over champange and oysters wearing fishnets and heels. Walking or biking over the bridge screaming “life is so fucking beautiful.”
What was one of your favorite past projects?
The very first knife I made for a special friend of mine. It was in that first one I felt the permission to live fully and on my own terms. I see this knife occasionally and after my initial temptations to change everything about it because my skills have improved, I see it for what it really is: imperfect, innocent, and an expression of pure creativity. I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since.
What are you working on now and what do you dream of happening in the future?
I am working on specificity in my philosophy, in as few words as possible sharing why what I do is important to me. My knives are an invitation to slow down in our daily routine and contemplate what we’re eating and who with. Absorbing nutrients through healthy food, and through our friends, lovers and families.
What song do you love that you keep secret cause its too embarrassing to say publicly you like it?
I once got caught by a real musical snob friend of mine listening to this Robyn song called Dancing on my own….
I was going through a pretty emotional time and was blasting it while jumping on my bed.
Which version of I’m on fire do you prefer, Bruce Springsteens or Johnny Cash or John Mayers?
Bruce!!! There’s such an intimate, sexy quality in the dynamics of this song. I’ve just played it 6 times in a row through my 70’s Pioneer sound system. Music is my savior. I don’t think I would have survived my teens without music.
Are you a morning person or night person?
Both. There is a different rhythm to day and night but my concept of time is very loose.
Any advice for peeps just starting out?
Yea, what do you think is lacking in the world? Create more of that.
Is there a quote or mantra you live by?
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.
It is not upon you to finish the work, nor are you free to desist from it. the day is short but the work is great.