At the old icehouse in Florida, New York, home to Fine Architectural Metalsmiths and Center for Metal Arts, Laurie Marshall and her Weimaraner dog, River, greet me. She leads me through the cavernous forge, past imposing power hammers and ordered racks of steel hammers and tongs, to her workbench. Laid out are the components for a bracelet commission. It’s a striking piece of jewelry with strong sculptural qualities. It begs me to pick it up and play with its intricately connected moving parts.
Marshall runs the small metals program at the center. Her primary focus is steel, the element that unites her jewelry and sculpture. She likes its strength and versatility, using colored enamel and powder coating to add depth to her work. I watch as she rivets together multiple steel tabs to form a section of the bracelet.
Her experimentations in steel began at Missouri State University, where Marshall got her BFA in metals and jewelry, followed by an MFA at Southern Illinois University. Eager to explore further, she accepted the job at the Center for Metal Arts and moved east with River and her partner Patrick Quinn, who now runs the blacksmithing program.
“When Laurie arrived,” said director Rhoda Weber Mack, “I liked her ability to be fearless in trying out new things in her work, borrowing design ideas from hot forging to cold steel connections and powder coating. I liked the way she created kinetic and playful works using techniques from the forge and large metals studio.”
Under Marshall’s stewardship, the small metals program has grown steadily. She teaches workshops in enameling, riveting, soldering, and small pendant making, and hosts classes taught by visiting metal artists.
Marshall shows me a small wall sculpture she’s working on. Just as her jewelry borrows from her blacksmithing experience, her sculptures use jewelry-making techniques. Each section of the sculpture has been meticulously enameled before being assembled, at which point, said Marshall, “they come together to naturally take on a life of their own as a group.”
The process might appear painstaking to the layperson, but for Marshall, “doing things in multiples allows me to be meditative.”
Soon, Marshall will pack up her car and head home to Springfield, Missouri where she’s been invited to teach the spring semester of small metal arts at her alma mater. She’s looking forward to having time to work on her next series of wall sculptures, and to seeing where this artistic road trip will take her next.
See Marshall’s work at lauriejmarshall.com and a class schedule at centerformetalarts.com.