Copper in the Arts

February 2016

Celtic Lure in Bronze

By Jennifer Hetrick

Craft Celts pendantA pelican pendant created by Crafty Celts.

Photograph courtesy of Danny Hansen. 

When Danny and Sherry Hansen opened Crafty Celts as a metalworking operation in 1989, they had no idea their business would become one of the leaders in their niche.

The husband and wife team first showed their product line at trade shows, and then opened up an online shop in the mid-1990s. Today, Crafty Celts is one of the top sellers in their category.

Pendants, arm rings, bracelets, earrings, brooches, cloak clasps, belts, buckles and weaponry are some of the main types of pieces Danny designs in bronze and sterling silver. His wife Sherry manages office work for the business, which is based in Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina.

The jewelry is often of Celtic but also Germanic and Norse Viking in heritage.

“I’m of Scottish and Viking descent,” Danny notes.

At the age of 16, Danny joined the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc., known as SCA, for short.

He’d met other members of SCA at a fantasy convention in a bookstore at a nearby mall.

Membership in SCA kickstarted his understanding and appreciation for anachronism, which he describes as something out of place in history.

And he says many members look at themselves more as re-creationists versus re-enactors since they’re researching and creatively reliving the past.

Danny took seven or eight jewelry-making classes while in college at University of South Carolina, where he double-majored in computer science and studio art.

He’s also visited the National Museum of Ireland and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, for inspiration and knowledge.

“I do a lot of research,” Danny says about how he develops his metal product line. “Everything I do is original, but I’m often looking at ancient designs.”

Sherry’s brother, James Glendening, helps Danny with manufacturing aspects of the company’s work.

Torcs, Celtic neck rings with animal heads at each end, are a big seller, Danny says.

With only a handful of companies producing torcs across the country and overseas, Danny points out that Crafty Celts has one of the larger niche markets for this kind of jewelry.

Danny suspects the demand for torcs is based on the fact that historically, they symbolize being freeborn, not as a slave, and also because of interest in Celtic aesthetics.

Greek-styled leopard head axeA Greek-styled leopard head axe by Crafty Celts.

Photograph courtesy of Danny Hansen. 

And Danny has noticed increased markets as buyers of fan-based audiences through Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings films, compared to older days when about half of customers were re-enactors or those attending fantasy conventions.

The History Channel’s television show Vikings, which debuted in 2013, is a big part of this, too, Danny says.

Hand fabrication and lost wax casting are the main approaches Danny and Glendening use with bronze.

Several fully-functioning bronze cannons using just powder instead of actual cannon balls have been a part of some of Danny’s latest efforts.

Axes with Greek-styled leopard heads are a recent creation of his, as well.

“And, anything with a wolf in it is very popular,” he adds.

He sources bronze as unfluxed brazing rods from Airgas National Welders in Columbia, South Carolina.

Sherry has mailed orders to customers in all states across the U.S., but shipments also often go to the U.K., Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Australia, and New Zealand.

Danny appreciates bronze most for its color but points out that he and Glendening experimenting with making their own ancient bronze out of 90 percent copper and 10 percent tin, and with great success.

“It is unbelievably tough,” Danny says about the ancient bronze. “We make swords and knives out of it, and it’s very strong, unlike people would expect.”

Resources:

Crafty Celts, Batesburg-Leesville, SC

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