Sep 28, 2015
Lynda Metcalfe is a blacksmith and jeweler. Originally from
England, she attended West Surrey College of Art and Design before
making her way to the U.S. She now lives with her blacksmith
husband and their son in Brasstown, NC. Lynda teaches blacksmithing
at John C. Campbell Folk School and has demonstrated for state and
local blacksmithing groups.
What We Talked About
- How Lynda got started in metal arts: At art college in England
in the late 80s she developed an interest in architectural
ironwork. She found it hard to earn a living in that line of
business. She took at “real” job putting on trade shows, but found
it very mundane and bought an around the world plane ticket. It led
her to the U.S. and, ultimately, to the John C. Campbell Folk
School in North Carolina.
- Lynda did a 12-week work study at the Folk School in 1999. It
included three blacksmithing classes, a tool making class and a
furniture making class.
- Lynda now teaches classes at the folk school in their program
for kids called the Little Middle Folk School. She has really
enjoyed introducing kids age 7-17 to this hands-on experience.
- This year Lynda was part of a team that won the NOMMA (National
Ornamental and Miscellaneous Metals Association) Top Job Silver
Award for a decorative railing for the Daniel Stowe Botanical
Gardens near Charlotte, NC. It took 475 hours for her to design,
build and install the 30-foot railing.
- Lynda's skill set also includes working with copper and
stainless steel. She likes to experiment with different materials
and learn as she goes.
- In addition to architectural pieces (railings and gates), Lynda
also makes jewelry and does “forged accents”, such as lighting and
- Lynda got her undergraduate degree in 3D design specializing in
metals. There were many women also attending at the time. They
became known as the “metals girls”, though most of them all wanted
to make jewelry, Lynda decided to work on large metal projects
- She got into jewelry making as a resident artist at the
Appalachian Center for Crafts in Tennessee from 2000-2001. She
attended a workshop there where she learned how to use hot metal on
a small scale.
- Most of Lynda's income comes from architectural projects where
a client needs a series of items – for example, a new home where
they need a balcony railing, a porch entrance railing and a kitchen
range hood. Once you have a chance to build a rapport with the
client, Lynda says, they trust you and your design aesthetic and
one project rolls into another. She's had 3 such clients over the
past 7 years. In between those, she works on smaller one-off
projects and jewelry.
- Lynda prefers clients who want unique items, not just basic
pieces that anyone can make. She prefers not to work on tight
- Lynda says she appreciates breaks from the bigger projects so
she can work on jewelry, which has a much faster turnaround time.
Therefore, she refrains from sending out marketing emails,
newsletters, etc. and chooses to focus on her jewelry when there is
- Despite living in a rural area, Lynda's website and Facebook
pages give her visibility to nearby cities such as Chattanooga,
Tennessee and Asheville, North Carolina. She has gotten clients
from people seeking her out online.
- Like many artists, Lynda has found it challenging working with
clients on design before even a promise of being paid. She requires
a commitment from the client to use her for the project before she
goes very far into the design. “I do understand that they're
approaching me without knowing me personally at all and building up
that trust in the relationship only happens over time and that's a
difficult thing to jump into,” Lynda says.
- To help broach the subject, Lynda put a page on her website
that explains the pricing process. She finds that most clients want
a fixed price and she needs them to understand everything involved.
It's still guesswork and it usually works out in the client's
favor, she says.
- Lynda charges a design fee for each project. It could range
from $150 - $1,000 based on the size of the project. It's generally
10% of the final project that is paid up front. She includes her
design time in the fee as well.
- Pricing of work: shop rate is $60/hr. They have a 2800 square
foot studio in an old chicken shed. The rent is very reasonable,
which keeps the shop rate down.
- Lynda shares the shop with her husband, Elmer, who is also a
blacksmith. They each work about 2/3 of a full-time week so they
can also raise their 12-year-old son. They do not have any
employees and don't want that burden. “We run a lean shop, but it
means we can be flexible in what we do.”
- Lynda says her early experience in trade shows gave her many of
the skills necessary for running her own business and marketing to
- She enjoys pushing the boundaries a little bit in her art: “I
came from kind of a post-punk goth sort of sensibility in the 80s
and… just that thing of kicking the establishment a little bit.
Giving things a bit of a nudge. Turning things upside down a little
bit. Anything like that, really, I enjoy. If I can just do a little
bit of that in iron work, that's exciting to me.”
- Q: If you had one day to learn from a blacksmith, dead or
alive, who would that be? A: Albert Paley, when he was making the
Smithsonian Gallery entry gates. “Seeing his work at that time was
one of the things that made me go, 'Yeah that's what I want to do.'
“ “The layering and the texture and the grouping of those bars and
the consideration of what the different twists convey when they're
all packed together. It's just so interesting.”
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/LMetcalfe.MetalDesign/
- Web: www.lyndametcalfe.com
- Instagram: Lynda.metcalfe.metals
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