Cathy Pender Emmert

Lowcountry Originals 2023

CathyEmmert0723July 2023 Issue
photography (top and bottom left) by Cassidy Dunn Photography

Art: Metal, both new and repurposed
Hometown & Current Residence: Beaufort
Career: Welding/Fabrication/Art
Family: Happily married 21 years to Travis Emmert. Three children: Zachary, Bailey, and Mitchell. One granddaughter: Madelyn, age 5. Parents, Jim and Jackie Pender and my sister, Jennifer Petersen, her husband Christian and their two boys, Gavin and Reese. 

When and how did you discover your artistic talent?
I discovered my artistic talent in December 2015. My family’s business, Pender Brother’s, bought the contract to purchase the last two and one-half miles of the Port Royal Railroad in 2011. When we purchased the contract to take up that section of railroad, we also purchased the rights to keep what we took up, meaning we kept the rock, rail, crossties, spikes, clips, and plates. They wanted to scrap everything, but I kept insisting we could do something with it. We sold off most of it, but kept the spikes, along with some clips, plates, and rail. I was scrolling Facebook a few weeks before Christmas and saw a picture of a horseshoe Christmas tree on someone’s page. I shared it to my page thinking “I can make that.” A few days later my husband and I were in the shop, and he took a few horseshoes my dad had, and laid them out into the shape of a Christmas tree and said, “Here honey, weld that together.” I did, which prompted me to make the words “Love” and “Joy” out of the spikes. And that started it all.

How and/or why did you choose this medium?
I chose this medium because I grew up in a welding shop and have always been around all types of metals. My dad taught me how to weld, so it just made sense to use what was around me.

What do you love about it?
I love taking things and repurposing them. I also love the father/daughter bonding time that has come with it. I tell people my parents didn’t have any boys, so my sister and I had to “man up,” so to speak. Dad taught me how to blacksmith and operate our propane forge.

As a “creative” you are unique. What makes you the most YOU!
I’d say what makes me the most ME is I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty, and I won’t ask anyone to do something I’m not willing to do myself. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, something else I got from my dad. I am willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

What do you hope people who view your art “get” out of it?
I hope people see the beauty in the old spikes. I hope they appreciate where they came from and what they’ve become. I also hope it sparks a bit of nostalgia or brings back a memory. They are a very unique way to preserve a piece of history, and most people have their last names made so they kind of become heirlooms.

What’s the best encouragement you’ve ever received in pursuing your artistic talents? 
The best encouragement has been that my creativity is only limited to my imagination, and my imagination is only limited by me. So, I should never stop imagining.

What is your dream project?
I would love to do some really large-scale pieces of metal art that would be on display for people to enjoy.

Do you foresee it coming to fruition? 
I don’t know if it will come to fruition or not, but I hope it does.

What artist inspires or influences you the most?
My dad, Jim Pender! The things he’s able to do and the things he comes up with amaze me. His ability to take something and completely repurpose it to make it useful for his needs is incredible. He’s not an easy man to please, but he is patient and always willing to advise, teach, and demonstrate.

In your artistic pursuits, what is your proudest moment so far?
I’m proud just knowing people like my art. It’s very humbling to know that people notice what I’m doing, and they appreciate it and like.

What’s something unique in your house/studio/collection that more than likely no one else has?
One unique thing we actually use, almost daily, is a 50-pound trip hammer that was made January 1, 1901. I don’t think many people have one of those.