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Indepth Arts News:

"Master Metalsmith: Peter Ross"
2003-09-28 until 2003-11-16
National Ornamental Metal Museum
Memphis, TN, USA United States of America

Each year, in conjunction with Repair Days Weekend, the Metal Museum presents a one-person exhibition of work by an outstanding American metalsmith. Master of the Shop at Colonial Williamsburg’s Anderson Forge for the past twenty-one years, Peter Ross’s interest in blacksmithing began when he was in high school. On a whim, his dad decided to take a night class in hook making offered by a local historical society; he convinced Peter to take the course with him. Although his dad lost interest, Peter Ross was hooked.

He began volunteering at Old Bethpage Village Restoration in Bethpage, NY on weekends and during the summers. Ross attended Rhode Island School of Design, then worked with Dick Everett of Connecticut who specializes in the restoration and reproduction of 17th and 18th century hardware and fur-nishings. In 1976, after several months of travel in Europe studying ironwork, Ross opened a one-man shop in Deer Isle, Maine where he concentrated on the restoration and reproduction of English hardware, tools, and cooking utensils from the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1979, he began working as a journeyman blacksmith at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Three years later, he was appointed Master of the Shop.

Fascinated with the how and why of traditional iron working methods, Ross has shared his research findings through demonstrations and workshops at craft schools such as Haystack School of Crafts, John C. Campbell Folk School, Peter’s Valley Craftsmen, Penland School of Arts and Crafts, and Touchstone Center for Crafts. A Board member of the Haystack School, he has demonstrated at national conferences of the Artist-Blacksmiths Association of North America (ABANA) as well as pre-sented numerous workshops and demonstrations at regional blacksmithing conferences across the country.

His research and investigation into 18th century methods, forms and technology have increased his appreciation of everyday items. "Traditional objects," he writes," combined fashion, function, and economy. The challenge was efficient use of iron and labor…so that early pieces are a delightful mix of simple, yet elegant solutions. Early work has a casual and spontaneous character that gives each piece life and charisma – even very repetitive things such as nails or door latches made by the thousands. "

Recently, Ross has been exploring the differences between the modern workman’s aesthetic and that of the pre-industrial worker’s. The 18th century took the natural world and the infinite variety of nature as a model whereas the 21st century worker sees the uniformity and measured precision of the indus-trialized world.

The pieces in this exhibit range from inexpensive everyday objects to luxuries found only in the most sophisticated households. They reflect our very human response to everyday challenges and exalt our creative capacity as problem solvers in the design, the material, and the mastery of the craft of blacksmithing.

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