ITHACA, N.Y. — Tucked into the South Hill Business Campus is a new workshop that will offer a creative and educational space for local residents to test out or hone their skills in metalsmithing. Founded and led by Elaan Greenfield, of Ithaca, the recently launched Metal Smithery will offer regular classes and work space.
Greenfield, of Elaan Greenfield Designs, primarily crafts jewelry, but will be teaching a range of metal working skills at her workshop.
She said she has always been approached by people to teach her craft because there are not many places in the region to learn. Local universities don’t have metals departments and the nearest programs are in Rochester or Syracuse. The gap in local places to learn metal smithing provided an opportunity for her to share a craft she loves and teach — something she is also passionate about.
“I really like working with teens and kids especially, and just giving them this tool to empower themselves because people find that it’s really fun and empowering to even just stamp out a word on a bracelet and then have a bracelet that says something that means something to you that you made,” Greenfield said.
Metalsmithing, or smithing is one of the oldest metalworking occupations. Though smithing may draw up images of blacksmiths laboring between large forges and anvils, clanking away in a smoky shop, that is not the scene in Greenfield’s space.
Her bright, open workshop contains all shapes and sizes of tools neatly organized, bright yellow and lime green lamps, a corner that looks like a science lab. Strands of lights are strung across the room and along pipework, and there’s even a workshop pup, Frankie.
Behind the workshop is Greenfield’s studio, where she continues to make jewelry. She primarily makes metal jewelry, naturally, but has also been exploring other materials for jewelry, she said.
“I really, really love the process, which is one of the reasons why I really like teaching and really like giving the opportunity for people to learn because I think it’s an art form that you can learn and then you can really go with what you want to do. There’s just endless opportunities,” she said.
Greenfield got into metalsmithing about 12 years ago and is largely self taught. After she had her son, she said she wanted a piece of jewelry that symbolized parenthood and couldn’t find anything she liked, so she learned to make something herself by taking a class at a community college in Massachusetts. While taking the class, she realized it was the art form she wanted to do.
During a recent workshop, Greenfield taught people how to make their own stack of rings. Greenfield said she starts with metal wire, then gives demonstrations on how to create different textures with hammers, which can be found in all shapes and sizes attached to a pegboard in the workshop. After that, they size the ring and shape it around a ring mandrel, file down the edges and solder it to close it. After soldering, they put the ring in “the pickle,” an acid bath.
A range of workshops for all ages and skill levels is offered at The Metal Smithery. There will be more in-depth courses for people who want to become more serious about the craft, or a membership option for people who are metalsmiths and need space to work. For people who don’t want to seriously pursue the craft, but maybe want a taste of metalsmithing, there are one-time events weekly.
For example, she offered a two-hour course Wednesday on making a trio of bangles. For $80, participants made three bangles out of sterling silver, gold fill or rose gold fill. In the near future, she will also offer a class on making jewelry with forks and spoons and a wire name necklace.
Events won’t be limited to just jewelry. She is also planning to offer courses on making small bowls and even mini swords, with more events to come.
From 10 a.m. to noon Sunday, there is stamp what you want, pay what you can event. The pay-what-you-can events will be offered the first Sunday of every month. Later on Sunday, Greenfield is also offering a foundations class from 1 to 5 p.m. on soldering and sawing.
“My goal with this is to really give the opportunity for empowerment through metalworking,” she said.
The Metal Smithery is located in the South Hill Business Campus, 950 Danby Rd. Suite 30, Ithaca.