Tucked away in the small village of Florida in Orange County, a circa-1890s icehouse once used by the Borden Creamery is now home to the Center for Metal Arts, established in 2003. The blocks of ice that filled the space over a century ago have been supplanted by gas and coal forges today, and the sounds of hammers working metal on an anvil ring out as metalsmiths professional and amateur converge at the site to practice the art of forging hot metal into useful implements and works of art.
The Center for Metal Arts regularly offers workshops in metalsmithing techniques suitable for all skill levels: Those who are complete beginners will learn the basics, and those with a little experience can use the workshops to hone their craft and pick up tips from master metalworkers.
“The Basics of Blacksmithing” will be taught on Saturday, June 1 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Instructor Jon Ledford will lead participants through the fundamentals of working hot iron at the forge and demonstrate the essential forms of blacksmithing that include twists and scrolls. And if the word “blacksmithing” brings archaic associations to mind, think garden implements and hooks to use in your home: Any manner of contemporary design can be explored in this age-old craft, and ironworking students will leave with the product of their efforts that day. Each person will have his or her own anvil and tooling and material to forge. The cost of $120 for the day includes materials.
An introductory “Sunday Sampler” half-day workshop on copper foldforming will take place on Sunday, June 9 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Silversmith Darren Fisher will teach participants how to turn copper into a dimensional organic form in as little as three to five minutes with no previous experience. The applications for this technique include jewelrymaking or sculptural works for home and garden.
In August, the Center for Metal Arts will host the sixth annual Charles Lewton-Brain Foldforming Conference, a four-day workshop with the well-respected Canadian artist and goldsmith: an event that now culminates in a competition and award ceremony. (Visit www.centerformetalarts.com to see fine examples of the high levels of artisanship to which learning foldforming can lead.) The half-day workshop on June 9 will cost $65 and include materials, and participants will leave with what they make.
Fathers’ Day at the Center offers an opportunity to gift Dad with something that he has probably never received on that day before (and will appreciate much more than the traditional choices): a day spent working as a blacksmith’s apprentice. Dad will get to “play” with fire and iron on his own anvil from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and make his own pieces to bring home. The cost of $75 includes materials.
The studio space at the Center for Metal Arts is equipped with 12 working stations for hammer work at ergonomic anvil stands holding Habermann-style anvils with custom tooling sets. Adjacent to the classroom is the working studio of the award-winning Fine Architectural Metalsmiths, who work in all aspects of fine metals design, from traditional to contemporary forge work and mixed-media work that incorporates art glass, enameling and specialty finishes. They create site-specific works and sculpt one-off or limited-edition castings in bronze or other materials, specializing in bringing together traditional techniques with new motifs. Their showroom upstairs at the renovated icehouse is open to the public (call ahead to confirm times) and offers a wealth of inspirational design ideas.
Metalsmithing workshops, $65+, Center for Metal Arts, 44 Jayne Street, Florida; (888) 862-9577, (845) 651-7550, www.centerformetalarts.com.