Nic East's blog


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This is my stained glass Phoenix that has become to me a symbol of my retirement. The flames represent the fire of the forge and the smoky sky is self-explanatory. I identify with the Phoenix as he rises from the flames and ashes of his past.


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This is a window guard I made from found objects. The client was a yoga instructor who wanted faces. This is one of two screens I made for her.

Nic East


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This is a pair of gates I made for a Philadelphia surgeon. The original design came from one of my paintings, but I changed the colors to harmonize with his home. Inside the "cage" you may just make out 2 Jaguar automobiles.



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In 1991 my friend, the Philadelphia Classical Architect, Alvin Holm came to me with a proposal to build a 4 ft by 12 ft long balcony for his client, Dr Henry Clay Frick of Alpine, New Jersey. Dr Frick loves birds and also wanted a feeder attached to the railing of the balcony so that he could feed them at his leisure. Dr Frick is the third in his legendary family with the same name since he is the grandson of the original partner of Andrew Carnegie and, with his wife now hosts the celebrated Frick Museum on 5th Avenue in New York City. The house was designed in the Classical Style and the balcony was to be of "wrought iron" using the French Classic Style as a guide. We made a lot of sketches and finally came up with the design that you see installed here. The framework is of 4" standard steel channel, made in pieces, completely assembled in our shop, pre-finished and then dismantled and shipped to the site for installation. The consoles that support the balcony are cast aluminum and weigh about 40 pounds each. The railing is completely made of forged steel elements welded into panels that would be reasonably easy to install. I even made a complete illustrated set of installation instructions in my computer CADD program. Since the TURNER CONSTRUCTION CO. was building the house, we had to allow them to do the installation. It has the bird feeder on the left return rail. The owners loved their new balcony so much that they directed their landscaper to hire me to build a terrace railing to match the balcony. INNOCENTI AND WEIBEL of Long Island, NY was the landscape contractor.



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 Design is a deliberate planning process aimed toward specific or generalized results. Since Art is based upon the imaginative, fantastic or creative drives, it is a discovery process, fraught with adventures for the Artist’s mind. One solves problems with a product in mind, while the other has the encouragement of discovering novelty as its goal.


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Art is creativity-oriented, while Craft concerns constructing things as a prime objective. Craft is also about marketability of those fabricated artifacts while Art is all about Originality. Performing arts are rarely mistaken for crafts and the written arts are seldom referred to as crafts. A crafter is one who makes artifacts for general consumption without necessary regard for creativity.


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In late 1969, I began doing steel sculpture while waiting for my printers to deliver their work to me. I was operating as a graphic designer and printing broker at the time. As I welded and ground, brazed and polished, neighbors and friends often came by to watch me work there in my driveway. I remember them asking; ”Can you fix this? Can you make that?” Soon, I had a back yard and garage full of steel and two helpers working for me. Graphic design was all but forgotten. In the early seventies I rented my first commercial property and was officially known as IRON MEN Ornamental Metalsmiths. It is always with certain trepidation that we become entrepreneurs. Going out on our own is such a risky business and so stressing that we become imbued with the business attitudes of profit and loss and client-employee satisfaction. But you’ve got do the thing to really get the feeling. As time went on, our little company grew stronger and began to get more ambitious. Eventually, we got a deal on a 22,000 square foot building with over 8000 square feet of outside land including a parking lot. Now we were a BIG-TIME operation. Indeed, I almost needed binoculars to see across the main fabricating room. We built a lot of amazing metalwork and steadily gained acceptance with architects and builders. We also had a long list of estate homeowners, museums and churches. We computerized our operations during the mid-1980’s, and began to use CADD drawings to submit our work. This increased client trust and we got even more work. We also had a showroom full of samples and showed our work at a few conventions, winning many prizes and awards. Suddenly, after over 31 years of metalworking . . . half my life almost, I was getting ready to retire. It is difficult to retire an old fire horse. My wife Eileen helped me to deal with this process so that I not go bonkers every time the phone rings. I never before realized how deeply involved and empatterned I had become during all those years. Extricating one’s self from the webwork of business demands is a very difficult problem that is full of feeling. We metalsmiths must provide for the time when we will not be able to work so hard every day of the week. We need to be financially able to make those final stabilizing moves. We need to rent out our spaces, sell off our excess materials and tools . . . in fact, sell the business as a going concern if possible, or else we must auction it off. I had no children nor grand children who care to be interested in carrying on with it, so, I guess in a way; I’m the LAST IRON MAN. What a legacy; what a golden reputation to give up. The feelings of completion and mourning are poignantly intermingled and give a certain ambivalent dichotomy to all future actions taken or imagined. The perspectives are long and the satisfaction is great. So it is with a little sadness and other mixed emotions that I came to this process of celebration. It was the beginning of my brave new future, full of release from the delayed gratification of waiting for that right time. Now I truly began to live the good life for which I worked so long. I looked forward to new creative opportunities facilitated by my glorious Hill Home Forge studios and workshops. Together, my beloved Eileen and I entered into this new time and adventure together. That happened in 2000 and it is now 2008. My life and paradigm have changed for the better. I now have deep knowledge of a total of 73 artistic disciplines including wood, stone and glass as well as many forms of metalsmithing. I am here to tell you that there is definitely life after retirement and you can take that energy you used to secure a living all those years and refocus to become leaner and even more concentrated in the work you choose to pursue. I did it, and so can you. Nic East, Hill Home Forge, Jim Thorpe, PA USA

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