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46: The Passionate Pursuit of Blacksmithing | Jed Curtis | Heart and Spade Forge

Be Inspired | Do Good

Interview with Jed Curtis, Heart and Spade Forge:

Not many six-year-olds nowadays want an anvil for a present. Then again, not many people grow up to be blacksmiths these days either. Jed Curtis was always playing with metal growing up. With a science mind, he has always liked figuring out how things work, and what makes things stronger, faster, or more appealing to the eye. After studying chemistry and pursuing a path towards metallurgy, Jed spent three years teaching high school chemistry before becoming the proud owner of Heart and Spade Forge, an architectural blacksmith shop here in Roanoke.

Good old-fashioned quality is at the heart of Heart and Spade Forge. Jed loves the flexibility he has in working with the materials and the capacity to do great work that can’t be done any other way. With forging, although it’s the most laborious and time-consuming option from the craftsman standpoint, every piece in his shop is unique. He makes custom architectural pieces such as gates as well as a new range of cookware, which is taking the local restaurants by storm. In fact, the skillets are gaining popularity with chefs not just in Roanoke, but also North Carolina, Richmond, and Louisville.

The cookware is what has Jed the most fired up at the moment. He knows design and architecture and how to move metal, but making cookware was new to him. It wasn’t until he was in a store shopping for a new skillet that he had the idea to make it himself. The cookware that he’s ended up with is a result of asking local chefs what their problems were and examining other surfaces such as Teflon and cast iron. The Heart and Spade Forge skillets are a dream to cook on because the carbon steel is a better cooking surface. They’re so popular that there is now a waitlist, so put your order in if you’d like to get one.

Other than cookware, if you’d like to check out his work, Jed has just finished a big job building the bar for Star Hill in partnership with Aaron Dykstra of The Making Foundation. Jed does a lot of work with the non-profit The Making Foundation, teaching middle school-aged kids basic industrial arts. Those skills have gone by the wayside so much in our computerized society, but the children enjoy it so much that some evenings it’s hard to get them to leave!

Jed loves talking about the work and you can tell by his Cheshire cat grin that he’s passionate about forging. He values quality, not just of design but also durability, using good materials and good craftsmanship. In setting up Heart and Spade, he worked with Tom Tanner and the local Small Business Development Center. They helped with doing research and business plans because while Jed knows forging, he wanted to set up a sustainable business. It’s a laborious process that a machine can’t do, but more than that, the investments Jed makes in the work at a personal level mean it’s more than just a business transaction. He wants to be the best there is and he wants lifetime customer satisfaction.

Having been blacksmithing for 12 years before becoming professional, Jed has some confidence about his product, but he’s always striving to make sure it’s top quality. His advice to other business owners is to make sure whatever products or services they have are top notch. He also recommends using social media, not just as a form of advertising and exposure but also as a portfolio of work. There again quality is important: it’s not just enough to have a quality product, but you have to make sure you use quality images too.

Jed tries to be very professional, interesting and consistent in his social media use. He knows developing a rapport with the audience is important, so he tries to share interesting tidbits and little trade secrets to keep people engaged. Sharing his passion for producing architectural ironwork and talking about metal, Jed regularly comes across people who are surprised that blacksmithing still exists as a profession. His love for more people to know about it, so he invites you to like, comment and share to help him share his passion. And if you have any questions about metal, you know Jed would love to answer them!

 

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