Forging a New Identity
Fire on the Mountain Festival returns to Spruce Pine on April 28
Centuries on, the burly-armed, grime-coated blacksmiths memorably wrought by Sandburg and Whitman still grip the stereotype, still "environ the anvil," as it were. The smolderingly physical aspect of blacksmithing hasn't changed much. However, its artier edge will likely carry it through the 21st century.
Metalsmithing is on fire, seen in garden sculpture, urban-loft-style welded furniture and progressive green construction -- think wood-and-steel indoor balustrades, iron-railed decks. Asheville bastions such as the River Arts District and the Grovewood Gallery complex are filled with talented, successful smithies.
But few locales are more appropriate for a blacksmithing festival than Spruce Pine, N.C., in the pristine Toe River Valley area of WNC. Daniel Boone IV established a forge here. And Spruce Pine is home to celebrated blacksmith Bea Hensley, honoree of a National Heritage Fellowship and North Carolina Living Treasure designation for his life's work. A short drive down the mountain is Penland School of Crafts, an intensive, nationally revered craft-education center.
Hensley segued from utilitarian pieces to decorative ironwork in the mid 20th century and today runs the forge with his son, Mike, making wrought-iron wall sconces, railings, fireplace accessories and chandeliers. The Hensleys will appear at the Fire on the Mountain Festival in Spruce Pine on April 28, along with a worldwide selection of their peers offering demonstrations and exhibits. Don't miss the iron ladies, too, including jeweler April Franklin and sculptors such as Elizabeth Brim. An accompanying exhibit will show at the Toe River Arts Council Gallery April 1-30.
For more information: (828) 765-3008, email@example.com, www.sprucepinefestivals.com