Copper in the Arts

November 2013

Fauna and Flora Beckon at Elm Grove Forge

By Jennifer Hetrick

Metal flower basket.When flowers at Elm Grove Forge are made, it can be 100 prepared all at once; this flower basket gives some attention to such a task.

Most known for their signature metal tapestries, the owners of Elm Grove Forge create decorative copper and bronze sculptures, furniture and home accents that reflect the space and beauty of the property around them. They find inspiration daily from their two properties set on 100 acres in bucolic Bucks County, located just an hour north of Philadelphia, where they reside and run a boutique hotel known as the Inn at Barley Sheaf Farm.

“Elm Grove Estate is the horse farm that we live and work on; it’s a historic farm that dates back to 1680 as part of the original William Penn land grant,” Christine explains. “The main house on the property dates to 1700.

So it seems fitting that she and Noel have a blacksmithing operation on this land they call their home; they opened the forge in 2003. As much as possible, they try to do their welding out in the open air of their courtyard when not working directly in the forge.

Christine grew up in Europe and traveled to different cities where she glimpsed the old-time decorative metalwork of decades and centuries ago; once her family moved back to Pennsylvania, her father taught her welding and other particulars of metalworking in her teenage years.

Noel is a machinist by trade, so their joint interest in metalwork blended swimmingly when the two married.

The Figueroas work in bronze, copper and other metals in their unique decorative pieces, sculptures, furniture and home accents.

Given the immense detail and difficulty associated with their efforts, Christine says designers from New York City are often reaching out for assistance to her and Noel because so few others can or will do the rare type of work their clients request. And this has made Elm Grove Forge an exclusive asset to those designers.

“We’re really known for something we call our Bucks County Tapestries or Metal Tapestries,” she says. “Very often, people will come to us because they’ve heard of us or seen our work, and they will commission us to do a representation of their property, their garden, or an element of their garden that they love in metal,” she says. “What I try to do is draw their favorite things about that space.”

Bronze flower bouquet.This bronze flower bouquet served as a wedding gift from Noel to Christine and will last forever.

In the past, Noel and Christine worked alongside each other in all parts of their process, but today, she handles design and templating while Noel does most of the final labor, as they have a busy household of young children to raise.

The two source their bronze and copper from auctions, metal suppliers and scrap metal dealers around Southeastern Pennsylvania.

“Sometimes it’s a literal representation of a landscape,” she adds of their work. “Often it’s an interpretation of a favorite thing. We’re very eclectic in terms of designing spaces and metal features. We like to always incorporate people’s favorite elements in a very detailed way.”

With outdoor pieces but especially interior accents, Christine describes her and Noel’s efforts as defining a space by metal art, even with chair rail elements and switch plates in a room.

“You might have someone who loves her old-fashioned garden and is passionate about her foxgloves and hollyhocks or hydrangeas,” she says of outdoor persuasions. “We’ll develop a piece and installation for that person that very carefully and honestly represents those elements within the space.”

Specificity plays a very successful role in their work.

“We have people come to us to design furniture for their terrace, reflecting their gardens beyond,” Christine says. “We do series of furniture pieces that are interpretive but also very representative of the flora and fauna of the gardens that they grace.”

The enduring nature of bronze and copper is largely what Christine says she admires most about working with these particular metals.

“It’s an art form that a relatively small group of people is trying to preserve and extend,” Christine says about labors like those at Elm Grove Forge. “Together, we’re trying to keep it alive for generations.”

Resources:

Elm Grove Forge, Holicong, PA, (484) 802-5030

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