Sparks flew as we rounded the corner of Staunton’s Makerspace to see blacksmith and jewelry maker, Molly Schermer, outside her workshop, forging a piece of metal on her anvil. She wore glasses that resembled Professor Trelawney of Harry Potter, as she hammered at the hot metal. Seeing the large rustic anvil on a wooden stump, I felt I was back in the 1800s except that she was wearing skinny jeans. Immediately, I thought, “This girl is cool.”
Crucible Coffee’s Brandon Bishop called out her name. Molly looked up, greeted us, and showed us around, offering us Old Milwaukee beers. I took a can, cracked it open, and my suspicion that this is one cool person was confirmed. Before we sat down to have an official interview with our beers, she gave a demo on spoon making. As someone who barely knows how to operate a kitchen stove or an oven, the Blacksmith jargon went over my head but Molly was gracious in explaining the basics.
First, she took a propane tank that was used to warm up the forge. A forge is essentially a mini, well-insulated oven, where you heat up the metal you want to work with. That’s where you get the action forging from. It comes from the object forge. In learning that, my mind was blown. For the demo, Molly took a small piece of metal and popped into Hell’s Forge’s opening. When the metal went from a silver color to an iridescent orange, she took it out with tongs and began shaping, shouldering, and forging it with a hammer.
The process thereafter is rinse and repeat: heating, hammering, heating, and hammering. I then understood why cookware is so expensive. So much time, concentration, and craftsmanship go into each piece. Blacksmithing truly takes a keen eye, brute strength, and the attention span of a Zen master. Seeing Molly in action is impressive. For her though, metalworking is just an extension of who she is.
While pursuing a self-designed undergraduate degree in Identity and Expressive Form at Fairhaven College, she took a variety of courses but became particularly interested in metal. A few years out of college, she heard about the John Campbell Folk School in North Carolina, where they offer a variety of courses including blacksmithing and metalsmithing. For three months, she did their Work Study program, bartering work for classes. Then she attended Penland School of Craft also to focus on blacksmithing. Her time at both craft schools edged her closer to becoming a metalworker.
Always looking to diversify her skill set, and cross-pollinate between materials and disciplines, Molly is currently working at Modernboy Woodshop, a cabinet and furniture company in the heart of Staunton.
After Molly finished her spoon demonstration at Maker Space, we finished our beers, and she and Brandon cleaned up as I swatted away mosquitos. After that demo, I don’t think I will ever look at silverware the same way. I always thought of silverware as purely utilitarian but: Spoons = Art. (Maybe that could be on a t-shirt?) Molly told us how her creative practice isn’t just in blacksmithing but jewelry making too. In the past few years, she has been growing a business (see her work at @temperandtrue) out of her basement’s studio. “Want to go check it out?” she asked.
Molly’s studio is a quaint and cozy space. Tucked in the far left-hand corner was a desk with a dizzying array of silver and copper wires, pliers, markers, and boxes of earrings. She began selling jewelry almost by accident. Years ago, a neighbor heard the hammering one afternoon, swung by, loved the work, and proceeded to offer money for earrings. Molly’s first sale.
We then went up a staircase lined with drying laundry to sit, chat, and interrogate Molly on hard hitting questions. I asked how her and Brandon got connected, figuring it was at some hip maker’s convention or at Crucible Coffee. “He tried to take a picture of me while at a Crawfish Boil that Blanc Creative was hosting,” Molly explained. For two years, Molly worked for Charlottesville’s Blanc Creatives, a handcrafted cookware company. Each fall, Blanc Creatives hosts a Crawfish Boil, and Brandon was taking event photos. Camera shy, Molly tried to avoid his paparazzi, but they ultimately connected and became friends.
A few weeks later, Molly went to Crucible to get some brew. Brandon said, “What?! I didn’t know you lived in Staunton?” Realizing that Brandon’s coffee shop and Molly’s workshop were proximal to each other, they began talking about ways they could collaborate on creative projects. Molly stated, “We’re doing this cool wood acoustic panel for sound absorption. And I’m working on a prototype for a copper and soapstone pour over stand.”
I asked if she made pour over coffee at home. As of recently, AeroPress has been her to-go means of making coffee, since it brews a stronger but smaller cup of coffee. “Kind of like an espresso,” she noted. Formerly a dark roast lover, Molly has switched to starting her mornings with a cup of Crucible’s Mountain Music. “It has ruined me!” she laughed. Grab a bag at Cruciblecoffee.com
With all that talk of coffee, Molly made us a cup of the Mountain Music using her AeroPress. As it brewed, she offered Brandon and I sour dough bread that she made from scratch, reaffirming the ways she expresses creativity is boundless. From metal working to jewelry making to bread baking, I wondered how is she able to churn out so much quality work? Molly stated she has become strategic in setting aside hours for creative play, so that production isn’t solely on her mind. But when all else fails, coffee helps.