Episode #43 – Lynda Metcalfe “The Metals Girls”

Lynda Metcalfe is an artist blacksmith and jeweler. Originally from England, she attended West Surrey College of Art and Design before making her way to the U.S. She lives and has her workshop in Brasstown, NC. Lynda teaches blacksmithing at John C. Campbell Folk School and has demonstrated for state and local blacksmithing groups.

Railing for NOMMA Top Job Award Room divider screen Gate by Lynda

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 hardware.
  • 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 instead.
  • 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 deadlines.
  • 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 a lull.
  • 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 different clients.
  • 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?  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.”

earrings Pendant

Guest Links

  • Facebook: www.facebook.com/LMetcalfe.MetalDesign/
  • Web: www.lyndametcalfe.com
  • Instagram: Lynda.metcalfe.metals

Thank to our sponsor today, Nimba Anvils, www.nimbaanvils.com. Nimba Ad picture

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