Step into the Mill Falls Marketplace or Church Landing at The Inns and Spa at Mill Falls, and the first thing you’re likely to notice is the beautiful metalwork that enhances the charm of the historic structures. These stunning pieces were crafted by local blacksmith David Little of Winnepesaukee Forge, who has been honing his craft in the Lakes Region for almost three decades.
“I guess I refer to myself as an artist-blacksmith,” says David. “I do all sorts of different types of work, from sculpture, furniture, railings, and fireplace screens, to beds and gates and custom light fixtures. There’s a bunch of my work at the Inns. The first stuff that we did was for the Mill Falls Marketplace. I did all the railings in the center that take you up and down the different floors in the old mill building, and some little in-fill panels, and that was some pretty early work. That was in the early 80’s.”
More recently, David crafted some artisan pieces at Church Landing. “I did some handmade fireplace screens in a rustic pine motif in the lobby and for the big fireplace in the Flagship Ballroom,” he says. “I made a rustic railing that’s on the front steps, the first thing you see and touch when you go into the Inn at Church Landing.”
“It’s kind of a fun progression of how I started doing the work. My family’s been in Meredith for four generations, with a place on the lake… I went to camp on Squam Lake in Holderness, and while I was at camp when I was a teenager, they had a forge, and the first time I hit a piece of hot iron with a hammer, I was hooked.” About 7 or 8 years later, David got a summer job at the blacksmith shop at the Squam Lakes Science Center demonstrating the craft and talking to visitors about the history of blacksmithing. “Three days a week I worked in the blacksmith shop and two days a week I had a draft horse and I’d pull logs out of the woods to the steam powered sawmill. That was fun—that was kind of a dream job for me when I was in my early 20’s. Then I went off on my own and started doing shows and making railings and stuff like that, which led me to where I am today.”
When asked how he combines old world blacksmithing with modern techniques, as is mentioned on his website, David replies, “It’s kind of a philosophy. I’m not a purist in the sense that I feel in order for my work to have value it needs to be made with only traditional hand tools. Blacksmiths were the great innovators of their time, and they would absolutely have used any progressive manufacturing technique that they could, for the time. So my concern more lies with producing a well designed, and superbly crafted product, at the most reasonable price possible. I’m in for the end result, and the fastest way I can get there. So, I embrace a lot of the new technology, but you can’t necessarily tell from the work what is the technique that was employed. And in all fairness, too, the design esthetic has evolved as techniques for producing items has. My current direction is to kind of recreate nature in wrought iron, so a lot of my products have natural motifs and designs, different plant forms. It is an evolution. I did start out doing Early American restoration hardware and the like, and have moved into my own design work.”
In partnership with Steve Hayden, a local woodworker and multimedia artist, David also creates donor recognition artwork for non-profits, schools, and hospitals. According to the Donor Arts’ website, developed just for this endeavor, these pieces give donors to various organizations a tangible representation of their giving and encourage new donors to participate, while also enhancing the individual facility with symbolic imagery associated with its mission. Just this week, he shipped off a handcrafted donor recognition tree to a child advocacy center in Wisconsin.
“This particular piece is an 8’ x 4’ tree that has 100+ engraved leaves on it, and it will be installed in the lobby of The Willow Tree Child Advocacy Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin,” explains David. “The trees are great, and working with the non-profits has been really rewarding, because it’s work with a cause, it means our artwork and our installations have kind of a cause that go with them, it’s a little more than just making the household items and furniture and accessories that I’ve made for years. It’s a completely different business than Winnipesaukee Forge—it’s an interesting business that reaches out beyond our state borders and local area. We’ve done installations all over the country.”
David’s work can be found throughout the Lakes Region, in private residences as well as local galleries, such as Oglethorpe Fine Arts and Crafts and the League of NH Craftsmen. He also has his own gallery at Winnepesaukee Forge that showcases his creations, along with some collaborative work that he does with another artist. If you’d like to visit the forge, David recommends calling ahead to make sure someone will be there. His unique pieces can also be seen on his website. This weekend, David will be displaying his work at the Paradise City Arts Festival in Marlborough Mass. If you’re in the area, be sure to stop by and say hello to this talented local artist!
The Mill Falls Blogging Team
Images courtesy of David Little of Winnepesaukee Forge