The Forge

"tap-a-tap, tap, tap, tap"

The Forge or Metal Shop, built in 1903, was the primary location for metalworking at the Byrdcliffe Art Colony. According to a 1907 brochure, The Forge was a large and accommodating three-room structure for the use of artisans. “The largest room is provided with a forge, a lathe, a furnace, and a complete outfit of the tools designed for work in copper and iron; the second room is devoted to finer work and jewelry, and the third contains an enameling kiln and baths for plating by means of a small dynamo. The power for the various machines is supplied by a gasoline engine, and the shop is equipped with a set of buffing wheels.”

Metalwork at Byrdcliffe included work in brass, copper, iron in the form of jewelry, furniture hardware, and other objects. The artisans included Laurin Martin of Boston, Franz Hazenplug an associate of Jane Addams at Hull House, New Zealand native, Ernest “The Brassbeater” Chapman, Edward Thatcher, Edmund Rolfe, and Bertha Thompson, some of whom also taught at the school. Long time Byrdcliffe resident, Bertha Thompson was born in England and overcame polio before studying metalwork under Laurin Martin in Chicago, George Geblein at Arthur Wesley Dow’s Ipswitch Summer School, and even took classes in book binding with Ellen Gates Starr at Hull House. Her sister, Annie, remembers when Bertha used to work she used to hear “her pleasant tap-a-tap, tap, tap, tap, as she beat the metals into shape. She made lovely things, had increased her skill a lot…Mr W. brought his friends to see her work, and she had orders to fill. She was happy in her work there I’m sure.” Later in life Thompson became an occupational therapist in North Carolina.

Edward “Ned” Thatcher, was a longstanding and popular Woodstock resident who was also trained under Arthur Wesley Down at Pratt before coming to practice his craft at Byrdcliffe. Thatcher, who may have been Byrdcliffe’s most well known metalworker, was also an instructor at Teacher’s College at Columbia University alongside his mentor, Dow. He arrived at Byrdcliffe in the first summer and set to work teaching metalwork as well as designing and crafting metal fixtures for the Byrdcliffe furniture. Thatcher was not only a metalworker, however, he also was a painter and writer with a quick wit who wrote for the local newspaper under the name “Iddie Flitcher.” He later opened the Thatcher Summer School of Metalwork around 1911 which specialized in teaching students the arts of jewelry, enamel, and hand wrought metalworking. Like fellow metalworker Bertha Thompson, Thatcher also entered the field of occupational therapy developing ways to teach wounded World War I veterans how to make toys and other objects out of tin cans, for which he accrued a good amount of fame and offers from toy companies.

Images

Interior of the Forge

Interior of the Forge

Interior of the Forge. One of the two craftswomen pictured in the background could be Bertha Thompson. | Source: The Winterthur Library: Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera, Collection 209 | Creator: Jesse Tarbox Beals View File Details Page

Design for Andirons

Design for Andirons

This is a design for andirons that when finished may have been used at White Pines. | Source: Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild | Creator: Edward "Ned" Thatcher View File Details Page

Drawings for Hinges

Drawings for Hinges

A design for hinges, presumably for use on Byrdcliffe furniture. | Source: Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild | Creator: Edward "Ned" Thatcher View File Details Page

Metal Hinge

Metal Hinge

A Ned Thatcher iron hinge that adorned the fireplace cabinets at White Pines. | Source: Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild | Creator: Edward "Ned" Thatcher View File Details Page

Access Information:

This is still a working studio, please respect the privacy of the artists.

Cite this Page:

Thomas A. Guiler, “The Forge,” UpstateHistorical, accessed October 21, 2017, http://upstatehistorical.org/items/show/8.
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