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Cricket Forge Makes Metal Artwork That's Beautiful and Functional

By Pamela Sosnowski

Located at the edge of Durham Central Park in the downtown area, Cricket Forge produces whimsical and unique home and garden accessories and furniture made from metal. The company's product line ranges from smaller home accessories such as tabletop sculptures and wall hangings to more elaborate outdoor patio tables and benches. The Butterfly Bench - a curved, soft green piece in the shape of a butterfly - remains its best selling item to this day.

Says Neal Carlton, Owner of parent company Vega Metals, "Most of our inspiration comes from nature. The natural form is a thread that runs through the work of Vega Metals as well as Cricket Forge. Cricket Forge designs are just a bit more whimsical. I went to school for horticulture and I have always had a love for the Art Nouveau period in history. We can learn so much from the natural world, and whether we are aware or not, we need it."

Cricket Forge was the dream of Carlton and the late Francis Vega, two high school friends with a passion for creating artwork from iron. In 1981 they teamed up, acquired blacksmith tools, and turned an old tobacco barn into their metalworking studio. Six years later Vega Metals Inc. was formed and the duo was designing site-specific architectural metal pieces for private clients. "Vega Metals owes its success to the hundreds of people who have come to us specifically because they wanted custom metal work for their homes, gardens and businesses," says Carlton. "We've also enjoyed designing and producing quite a few public artwork projects."

When Carlton and Vega realized there was a market for homeowners who wanted to own unique metal pieces, they launched Cricket Forge in 1999. Don Drumm, an Ohio-based metal sculptor, works closely with the company creating cast pewter and aluminum pieces. The company is now run by Carlton and Francis' wife Cindy Vega.

Vega Metals may also be commissioned to create custom, site-specific architectural metalwork. The company can also add a commemorative plaque to their benches to honor a loved one. Many of these personalized benches have been placed in gardens, cemeteries, schools, hospices, and other locations.

Metalworking is an art that dates back many centuries and takes years of practice to master, according to Carlton. "One can literally spend a lifetime in a specific discipline of metalworking to master the techniques and processes," he explains. "The art of metalworking requires a specific passion and devotion to the study and practice of the art. There is a vast amount of knowledge to be learned. An old and seasoned blacksmith told me several years ago that after 20 years of working daily, you could consider yourself proficient as a blacksmith."

Both Vega Metals and Cricket Forge give people a chance to appreciate that creativity and work up close and on a personal basis. "We are so blessed to have done thousands of amazing projects over the years," says Carlton. "I believe we owe our great reputation and success to our belief in the importance of creativity and quality. We listen and work closely with our clients and have always delivered precisely what they wanted."

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