West Concord’s Beharrell Street is full of surprises, even to some longtime locals, and Hammersmith Studios might be one of the biggest on the block. The full-service blacksmith’s workshop is located behind the post office, in an area chock full of creative enterprises.
For some tourists or residents who happen by, perhaps drawn from the shops on bustling Main Street to the bygone sound of metal hammering red-hot metal, the studio is a bewildering sight.
“When people walk in here it must look like the Barnum and Bailey Circus,” said Carl Close, the man who does most of the hammering. He and his wife Susan own and operate out of a large, industrial warehouse space with blackened walls and gritty, old world charm.
“I love that I’m doing something that was done 300 years ago,” Close said. “Paul Revere could walk in here and work in my shop. The trade hasn’t changed much.”
Close remembers experimenting in his father’s blacksmith forge for the first time as an eight-year-old. When he decided to take up the trade himself he spent years studying the work of great blacksmiths of the past, while making a living repairing machinery as a metal worker.
“It was just something I always wanted to do,” Close said. “You could take something that was so cold and brittle and make something warm and artistic."
Close met Susan at a country line dance in the early 1990s and they’ve been working together ever since. The bulk of their business comes from collaboration with architects and interior designers, both locally and around the country, and their shop looks like a cross between a furnace room, a scrap metal repository and a Hollywood prop closet.
Right now they have dozens of projects underway, ranging from the painstaking reproduction of hundreds of antique metal shutter fixtures for the Alexander Hamilton House in Manhattan, to the repair of a life size metal giraffe head and the occasional piece of family heirloom silverware that needs reshaping.
“One of the things we do a lot of is restore people’s memories and treasures,” Close said. He also occasionally dons period dress for reenactments as a blacksmith with the Stowe Minutemen and his work has been featured in a recent Discovery Channel documentary.
The Closes also teach two intensive, daylong Saturday classes per month, in which students each make a steel barbeque fork and learn all the basic skills of the trade ($225/person). Susan also offers a girls-only course during open studio hours on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and next week the couple will run half-day classes for teens during school vacation ($100/person).
“We teach because we want to keep the art alive,” Susan said. “This is also a highly educated community, and people search us out. They want to know.”
The couple settled their studio in West Concord four years ago after moving it around the region several times. “We could never find the right place,” Close said. “The biggest problem was finding a community we could feel like we belong to. This community is so full of art, history and genuinely nice people.”