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Member Spotlight: Forging Ahead

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Tessie Wallace and her husband, Matt, have been NASE Members since 2010. They own Wallace Metal Works LLC in Charleston, W.Va.

Tell us about your business.

Wallace Metal Works LLC is a blacksmithing studio that specializes in hand-forged decorative and architectural wrought iron. I’m an artist-blacksmith and I work with my husband who’s the primary artist-blacksmith here. He started the business in 2000, and I took over as owner in late 2009.

We design and produce custom wrought iron gates, fences, railings, furniture, fire screens, and many other home and garden accents. We use a hammer and forge to create exquisite, one of-a-kind wrought iron items using traditional methods seldom found today.

What challenges have you faced in running your business?

Our biggest obstacle is getting the word out to people that artist-blacksmiths still exist! Also, since we hand-forge everything (we don’t use power hammers like other blacksmiths), it’s often hard to compete with cheap wrought iron items sold in catalogs. People think we can just whip up a table at a store-bought price, but that isn’t the case when you’re making everything by hand, from scratch. I’d say that educating the public is a huge challenge for us right now.

How has the NASE helped your business?

We received an NASE Growth Grant® last year and used the grant funds to purchase a new drill press for our shop. We were using a 40-year-old drill press that was always breaking and was difficult to handle. But now, with the new drill press, we’re able to work faster and more efficiently.

What’s your biggest success as a business owner?

My biggest success as a business owner is that I absolutely love what I do for a living, which not many people can say. My job has never felt like work—it’s fun, and I look forward to it every day. Another huge success was our first publicly-funded project, which allowed us to create a huge tree sculpture and handrail in a high-end shopping district in Charleston. People always compliment us on it, and it’s great to see our sculpture become such a huge part of that community.

Any advice for your fellow NASE Members?

Find something you love and try to make money doing it!

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