Harmony Forge features the fine ironwork and copper embossed art of Ward Brinegar, founder of Harmony Forge. I have been pursuing the art of blacksmithing since 1975. Dedication to fine craftsmanship, meticulous attention to detail and excellent service to the client were the hallmarks of my work from the beginning. I retired from my blacksmithing career on March 31, 2018. Copper embossing is a medium I have taken up to work with lighter materials and explore new artistic boundaries. My blacksmithing work was primarily residential, although I completed a number of significant commissions for commercial buildings, especially hotels.
I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and graduated from New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM, in 1974 with a B.A. in English. I was first exposed to the art of blacksmithing at Philmont Scout Ranch in northeast New Mexico, where I worked all the summers of my high school and college years. In 1975 I attended the Turley Forge School of Blacksmithing in Santa Fe. In 1976 I served a brief apprenticeship with Joe Pehoski at the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer in Grand Island, Nebraska. I replaced Joe as the resident blacksmith there in the fall of 1976 and served in that position until 1989. I also had the opportunity to be able to spend time learning from the late Francis Whitaker.
In 1989 I returned to Santa Fe and opened Harmony Forge, enjoying family, the mountains, climate and robust building market here. I learned a great deal from several partnerships, and have been fortunate to have several fine employees, some of whom have gone on to start blacksmithing businesses of their own. The best years of my career were 2001-2012, working in partnership with my son, Sam, who has moved on to a career in the coffee business; please visit www.ohoriscoffee.com. In the summer of 2001, I moved to the Dancing Anvil Ranch, 15 miles south of Santa Fe, where I was blessed to live and work surrounded by the beauty of central New Mexico for 17 years.
I sold that property on November 1, 2018, and am now living on the road in a fifth wheel RV, working at my copper embossed art between days spent exploring our beautiful nation.
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Custom ironwork was the focus of my blacksmithing career. It was my great fortune to work in many styles and sizes ranging from cabinet pulls to driveway gates for many wonderful clients. Among the areas I commonly worked in were handrails and balcony rails, fireplace equipment, gates, chandeliers, sconces, table and floor lamps, interior furnishings, door and gate hardware, memorial pieces and sculptural work. The following are photos of custom work I did prior to 2011. Please take a couple minutes to view the range of my work. All photos are my own, except as noted otherwise.
Guardrails around the mezzanine above La Plazuela Restaurant. Created in partnership with Sam Brinegar, design concept by Barbara Felix, AIA.
Detail of mezzanine guardrail
La Fonda Hotel, Interior Skylight Guardrail. Created in partnership with Sam Brinegar, design concept by Barbara Felix, AIA.
Detail of skylight guardrail
Bunny Rail. Created in partnership with Jim Pepperl, design concept by Phil Custer, AIA.
Residential Guardrail and Stair rail, 2006, Santa Fe, NM. Created in partnership with Sam Brinegar.
During my 25 years in Santa Fe, I have made several hundred custom firescreens. Every kiva fireplace is unique, and I have developed a system to create a screen that fits each individual fireplace.
New Mexico Zia Firescreen, 2006, Santa Fe, NM. Created in partnership with Sam Brinegar.
Kiva firescreen with butterfly and flower, 2009, Santa Fe, NM. Created in partnership with Sam Brinegar.
Hinged fireplace doors and tool set, 2004, Santa Fe, NM. Created in partnership with Sam Brinegar.
Glass doors, 2008, Santa Fe, NM. Created in partnership with Sam Brinegar.
Horse gate, Santa Fe, NM, 2003. Created in partnership with Sam Brinegar.
Garden gate, 2005, Santa Fe, NM. Created in partnership with Sam Brinegar.
Quatrefoil garden gate, 2007. Created in partnership with Sam Brinegar. Photo by Jared Gann.
Chandelier, Tesuque, NM, 2004. Created in partnership with Sam Brinegar.
Chandelier, Redding, CA, 1996. Created in partnership with Jim Pepperl.
Hanging lantern, steel & mica, 2006, Santa Fe, NM. Created in partnership with Sam Brinegar.
Entry hardware, Santa Fe, NM, 2003. Created in partnership with Sam Brinegar.
Bathroom entry hardware, 2007, Dallas, TX. Created in partnership with Sam Brinegar and in collaboration with Ron Siebler.
Bathroom door latch, 2007, Dallas, TX. Created in partnership with Sam Brinegar and in collaboration with Ron Siebler.
First Methodist Church, 2004, Los Alamos, NM. Created in partnership with Sam Brinegar.
Jeff Aycrigg Memorial Park Bench, 2002, Santa Fe, NM. At the Randall Davies Audubon Center.
Container for cremains, 2000, Fripp Island, SC.
My experience as a museum blacksmith was excellent training for doing reproduction work. Below is a special project, completed in 2010, reproducing a pair of Civil War era cavalry spurs. The first photo is the historical piece that I worked from, excavated at a Confederate encampment site in Mississippi.
Below is the pair I made to match this one. This pair was included in an exhibit about the Civil War at Texas A&M University.
Desert Flower 2, Forged and fabricated wall art, 12" x 25", 2007. Created in partnership with Sam Brinegar. Photo by Jared Gann.
Desert Flower 4, Forged and fabricated wall art, 16" x 34", 2007. Created in partnership with Sam Brinegar. Photo by Jared Gann.
Jemez Canyons, forged and fabricated wall art, 22" x 13", 2008. Rusted and waxed finish. Created in partnership with Sam Brinegar.
Forged and fabricated kitchen wall sculpture, 2005, Tesuque, NM. 60" x 37 1/2". Created in partnership with Sam Brinegar. Design concept by Steffany Hollingsworth, ASID.
Copper embossing uses very thin copper sheet, which is raised into 3-dimensional bas-relief utilizing stylus tools and working over leather, foam or a hard surface. The copper is 40 gauge, only about 7 times thicker than aluminum foil, but thick enough not to tear. My early pieces were made from 36 gauge material, and although the 40 gauge is more fragile, I find I can create greater detail in the thinner material.
Some of the wooden stylus tools I use are standard ceramicists’ tools, but many are ones that I have carved for myself for specific techniques. All of my projects begin with a drawing that I produce, often from photographs I have taken. The drawing is transferred to the copper sheet by taping them together and going over the drawing with a ballpoint pen. In order to get the proper effect on most architectural pieces, I use drawings on the front and the back of the copper sheet so that some lines will only go forward onto the copper.
The process involves working from both the front and the back of the sheet, pushing forward from the back into leather or foam and then flipping it over and flattening certain areas over a table top. I use an old pitted piece of steel to get some textures.
Once I’m satisfied with the piece, and it is glued either to Masonite or a piece of lumber, I use a chemical patina to darken the entire surface and then I use steel wool to polish and bring out the details that I’ve worked to put into the piece. The final step is to use a satin clear sealer to prevent any further oxidation.
My early pieces were framed, but I have transitioned to wrapping the copper around pieces of wood, which I find creates a more interesting piece with the additional texture and detail on the side edges of the work. And, in living on the road in my 5th wheel, I don’t have room to carry a lot of framing materials, so the solution of wrapping works well for two reasons.