Passing the Torch at TACS

Shane Urquhart Metal Studio at Tryon Arts and Crafts School, photo by TACS.

“We are about to unlock areas of art exploration in metals and glass that have not been widely accessible to student artists in Polk County,” Tryon Arts and Crafts School Director Will Barclift recently told Asheville Made. Over the last two-and-a-half years, with inspiration from the life and story of forge student Shane Urquhart, a team of volunteers at the school spent Tuesdays and Thursdays building a state-of-the-art studio for torch-based work.

Urquhart spent years studying glass and metal at multiple art schools, including the Governor’s School for the Arts, Centre College, and Penland, working under professors and other mentors, until he became a full-time blacksmith in Wilmington. “Shane was a lifelong learner whose stated purpose from a young age was to ‘make beautiful things,’” says Barclift. Urquhart was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012, and after a couple of years of treatment, he reached a period of remission. During this time, he found the forge at TACS and discovered a new passion for bladesmithing, working under the guidance of master craftsman Gerry Drew and Walt Myers, a lead engineer of both the forge and the memorial Urquhart Studio. (Urquhart passed away in April 2017.)

Attached to the existing forge that was built in 2008 as an Eagle Scout project by Michael Bell, the studio, opening during an outdoor event this month, is stocked with oxygen/fuel gas torches, multifunctional arc welding machines, a plasma cutter, and other air-powered and electrical equipment. The space is set up to have individual workstations for a safe, easy workflow. “Local and visiting artists will teach projects small and large, like [making] freestanding metal sculptures, light fixtures, chairs, glass jewelry, glass beads, and glass ornaments,” adds Barclift. 

Tryon Arts & Crafts School, 373 Harmon Field Road, Tryon. The ribbon-cutting celebration for Shane Urquhart Metal Studio will take place Friday, April 9, from 6-8pm, with demonstrations and displays of Shane Urquhart’s work. For details, see or call 828-859-8323.

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