Tuesday, June 12, 2012

From Houzz Magazine, written by Lawrence Karol

Expert Talk: Maynard Studios' Masterful Railings

These steel stair railings are hand forged, and no two are alike. See how they're made and how they take rooms from plain to breathtaking

After graduating from UC Berkeley, I found myself utterly unprepared for the real world and at a loss as to what I should do next. Luckily, one day I stumbled through the doors of Architectural Digest and was taken under the wing of legendary editor Paige Rense. She had the vision to look past my uninspiring sociology degree and my general lack of experience—an unlikely journalism career was born. After AD, with my magazine karma still intact, I was hired by yet another publishing legend, the food critic and writer Ruth Reichl. I currently ply my trade as a freelance writer and editor and live in stylish Mid-Century-Modern comfort with my dog, Mike. twitter.com/WriteEditDream

It's not easy to be discovered when you're a craftsperson working in a small city in Kentucky. But after being in business for over 12 years, Maynard Studios is finally ready for the spotlight. Matthew and Karine Maynard create hand-crafted metalwork, and their individually designed, hand-forged stair railings are true works of art.

The Maynards' work is always tailored to their clients' vision. "We told ourselves early on that we would never do the same design twice," Matthew says. "No one can point to a picture and say, 'I'll take that one.' Each railing has our handwriting, but it's the client's story."

The following photos highlight some of the couple's projects and outline their work process, which may just inspire you to add artistic elements in unexpected places to your own home.
To find a creative solution for this staircase in Nashville, Tennessee, where the tread width was greater than 5 feet and therefore required a handgrip on both sides, the Maynards approached the wall-mounted portion as an individual railing.

"The newel post was built up in layers and sized to have definite presence in the room, with a large bundle of tapered and twisted-round stock forming the upper portion of the post," explains Karine. "The ribbon drops were placed to allow a grasping point on the lowest tread." Over the years this sort of cascading detail at the start of a newel post has become a style trademark of the Maynards'.

Most of the couple's railings are made of steel, which is hand forged and welded, then wire brushed with a clear enamel finish.
This balcony is perched above a large family room in Nashville and is one section of over 160 feet of railings in the home.

"Sometimes each piece passes through our hands over a dozen times before it's complete," says Karine. "Whether in aluminum, steel, copper or bronze, everything arrives as raw stock. It is then cut to the necessary lengths and sorted."

She and Matthew work together to design and make all of the studio's custom pieces. "The heaviest work is done by Matthew," says Karine, "and we have an extra set of hands in the studio now: apprentice and metal sculptor Ben Beckett."
Here, Matthew flattens a component after it's been bent and formed. "Due to the internal stresses brought about by bending and stretching, the hot metal bends close to what you're trying for but must then be finessed into the final shape," says Karine. The layout lines, drawn with pieces of soapstone, are visible on the steel table.

"I have messed around with metal in one form or another since I was 11 or 12 years old," Matthew says. "My grandfather owned a set of books calledThe Foxfire book series, which documented life in the Appalachian Mountains, and one of the chapters dealt with blacksmithing. I was intrigued, and my granddad let me set up a makeshift forge in his barn."
For this railing in Louisville, Kentucky, the client was looking for a design that closely followed traditional forms, yet contained unique elements that left no doubt that it was entirely handmade. "The S-scroll is a typical enough shape, but bundled with it are little flamed-tongue shapes," says Matthew.
This whimsical "treehouse" railing (also in Louisville) with a hand-worked cedar handgrip was inspired by the client’s memories of playing in the woods as a child.

"The steel was forged and formed to fit the cedar handgrip, which is an assembly of six individual pieces lap jointed, glued and doweled together by Matthew," says Karine.
Six components are being put together here to make one piece of a larger railing. Using a hammer, Matthew bends the red-hot metal into the desired shape.

Since they obviously can't touch the hot steel with gloves, they use tongs and clamps to hold the pieces. After a piece is made into its final shape, it's cooled and assembled with the other parts.
The inspiration for this basket-weave railing in Lexington, Kentucky, "started with a box of components found by the client in the 1960s at the back of an ironwork shop that was going out of business," says Karine.

"The stampings were very old, very thick, and not at all like what you can buy today," Matthew adds. "We inventoried each piece and made them work in a way that was harmonious."
This railing in Louisville was designed for the home of two avid glass collectors. "The concept was to have a piece that was strong enough to stand on its own merits, yet not be so overpowering that it would compete with the sculptural items placed throughout the home," says Karine.
Matthew forms the base of an acanthus leaf over the edge of his anvil. In the background and around the anvil you can see an assortment of other tongs, hammers and tools, which he can also use to manipulate a piece of metal into the desired shape.

"The process is really a balance between your will and the metal's, finding the middle ground between your vision and the capabilities of the metal to stretch, fold and form," says Karine.
"We were given a good bit of artistic liberty with this design, which the homeowner asked be complimentary to his Salvador Dalí collection," says Karine of this railing in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. "He wanted areas of melting, drippy details, but we had to make sure not to push the design as a whole into the realm of a cliché. Traditional lines were used and eased into subtle echos of some of Dalí's iconic images. And yes, somewhere hidden away in there is a small, melting clock."
This Louisville house "has little Craftsman-styletendencies here and there, and we used that as a starting point," says Matthew. "We then tried to evolve out of that, since the home is really more French country in style, and doing something strictly Craftsman would have looked out of place."
Created for a very formal great room in Louisville, this railing introduces "various weights of line, as well as slight and carefully placed angles, allowing the straight components of the railing to have visual interest and still act as a supporting cast to the repeating organic elements," says Karine.

"A multilayered paint technique was used to give the fern fronds the hint of gold leaf, while still staying within budget," she adds.
Karine and Matthew Maynard take a well-deserved break. The couple met in 2004 at the Burning Man festival in Nevada. After a bit of long-distance dating, Karine moved from Wisconsin to pursue her master of fine arts degree at the University of Kentucky. She worked with small metals and jewelry there and eventually joined Matthew full-time at the studio.

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