Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes

This Is the New “Iron Age”

KATHERINE M. CALDWELL November 1 1924

Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes

This Is the New “Iron Age”

KATHERINE M. CALDWELL November 1 1924

Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes

This Is the New “Iron Age”

KATHERINE M. CALDWELL

[RON, ever a responsive medium for the craftsman’s labor of love, as risen to great avor at various imes in its long hisory. Its earliest uses vere undoubtedly tilitarian rather han artistic. Most m port ant implements of peace and of var were fashioned of iron. The humble ron cooking pots, the iron hooks and chains jy which they were hung at the open îearth fire, provided the greater part of he mediaeval cook’s equipment. The chains were heavy linked affairs which ¡dipped over a swinging iron bar and from i;hem hung hooks of twisted iron; it was ¡die variety in the length of chain and 100k that established the “heat control” that we hear so much about in the modern cook stove; instead of turning up the gas or switching the electricity to “high,” the cook of those days hung her pot at the height at which the heat from the fire was greatest.

Even the accoutrements of the warrior, which in a period of strife would keep blacksmiths working day and night, forgot their glorious destinies when a peaceful era fell upon the land; shields and armour, visors and helmets, were not allowed to lie idle; the thrifty housewife, with the precedent of the swords long before beaten into ploughshares to absolve her, as often as not turned her good man’s belongings into needed furnishings for her home. In that way perished many of the finest examples of early iron work.

To-day, we have turned to iron with almost as much enthusiasm as was evidenced during the Italian Renaissance,’ when the workers in metal, carried along on that same wave of beauty which swept all Europe, fashioned articles of rare loveliness. We have the advantage of having before us much of the best that they accomplished. We have, too, artists in iron who are worthy of its best traditions; some of the work that is coming from their hands must bring joy to the spirits of the old time artists, when they see that their art did not die with them.

It is interesting to see what little change there is in the articles which are made by the craftsmen to-day and those of several centuries ago. The fighting man of to-day is no longer outfitted by the smith; but there is as great a demand as ever for hearth fittings, lighting fixtures and even for hinges and locks and odd decorative bits.

The lantern may be wired instead of filled with oil, but it need be no less beautiful; the old cime “cresset,” the big lantern filled with wood or other fuel that flamed its signals from tower and hilltop or threw its occasional light into the adventure-filled streets of the ancient cities of Europe, has been followed by the efficient street lamp that is still pleasing, (although usually in a more austere way) when it is installed by townsmen with a sense of beauty.

We still lo\e an open fire place and so we have with us the andirons and fire dogs of an older time; even our tongs and shovels and pokers seem to be closely modelled after their far-back ancestors. Beautiful hardware, too, has become an essential; we are beginning to see fine hinges, often of heroic size, on doors such as the one we illustrate; the old-time latch has also sounded its challenge to the worker and has responded nobly.

Wrought Iron Lights

WE WERE discussing lighting, from .a rWmker of angles, in our last issue. Nothing is working into modern lighting schemes better than wrought iron. The living room which has so generally supplanted the drawing room, invites the use of wrought iron. The bracket fixture, holding one or more lights, is delightfully produced from this friendly metal. We see two pleasing types of fixtures, the simple but indubitably hand-made one and the

more delicate and finely-wrought bracket with perhaps a trail of vine or a flower spray that speaks of the most delicate workmanship. Such brackets, many of them holding lights of candle type, can be used in generous numbers in a room without being obtrusive. Satisfying, too, are candlesticks that will often echo the fixtures on the wall. We have awakened to a new appreciation of candle light and in the greater attention thus won for the candlestick, the one which is made of wrought iron stands out as a favorite. It

settles comfortably into the atmosphere and life of almost any room. In it, we use unshaded candles of the plainer sort—short or tall, and in any color.

Then there is the floor lamp—the one which raises its head uncompromisingly toward the ceiling, and its somewhat more companionable relative which is adjustable to various heights and will throw its light at any desired angle; it is usually called a bridge lamp or a reading lamp and of all our modern lighting fixtures, it probably affords the most comfort; it is a nice height to stand at the arm of chair or chesterfield or to cast its light over a table; it creates a delightful area of light just where that light is required, adding to the effectiveness

of a room as well as” to its comfort.

These lamps, like so many of the other articles in present day use, boast a distinguished ancestry. The torchère of olden days, with its candle standard of intricate and exquisite design, served much the same purpose. It stood about the same height with usually a three-footed base, ornamented to match the candle standard; some very lovely examples have been preserved and are doubtless a source of inspiration to many an appreciative artist. Very frequently, the torchère remains a torchère to-day, holding to its candles, anywhere from three to a dozen in number, rather than bend its proud head before the almost universal new power of electricity. Nothing is handsomer than these stately candle holders, whether they follow the vepr simple sort of design typified in our illustration of a flower stand, or take on a more delicate air imparted by the use of flowers and leaves and fine scroll work.

Iron is probably endeared to the craftsman who uses it and to the people who come into possession of his finished product, by this dual personality it possesses as much as by its workability and its pleasant decorative quality. There is something fascinating in the mere fact that this same metal may be used in the stern design that gives an impression of weight and durability and dependability or to fashion an article that is almost fairly-like in its delicacy and refinement

of treatment, that it will make a great pair of fire dogs, on which a huge pine knot will burn very comfortably or a bracket that is chiefly tendrils of ivy leaves or a candle stick that rivals a living flower in its perfection.

Everyone knows the delightful little balconies that graced the beautiful palaces of the older Italy; those that are still unspoiled are so beloved by the painter and the etcher that they are reproduced again and again by our modern artists. The architect of today is by no means unaware of the beauty of these iron grills and railings and we see them here and there on very charming houses.

We see, too, an occasional very fine gateway of iron; there are a few such at the entrances of some of the fine old homes in various Canadian cities. The lantern is usually an adjunct to them and a very effective one—so effective that the builder of the small home also claims its charms and we see the smaller lanterns delightfully used on eitner side of the doorway, with sometimes a small accompanying grill and usually hinges and so forth such as those already referred to.

Another delightful way in which iron is making its appearance on our modern house fronts, is in the supports for painted wooden window boxes. A couple of competent-looking brackets of good design are not only handsome in their own right but tney take away that feeling every one knows—that the suspended article is perhaps not so secure as it might be! This addition to our almost subconscious peace of mind is really valuable, for anything that creates a feeling of instability is, to say the least, unsatisfying.

The iron spindle which appears in the balcony or porch railing or in the always attractive iron fence, does not confine its usefulness to the outside of the house. It is a treat to see a staircase occasionally in which the spindles are of iron. Sometimes they are plain, straight and slender, two being used to a step» Again, they will take the familiar twisted form. Still again, the more elaborate workmanship will appear; each step or alternate steps, will have an effective scroll design instead of the more severe spindles. The rail is sometimes of iron, in which case it is kept narrow and sufficiently light in effect; perhaps more usually. it is of polished wood.

A lamp such as the one we show on a newel post, would be very happily placed at the foot of such a staircase.

It is an interesting example of metalwork, originally an oil lamp and lately wired for electricity. The calyx of the flower, which has been made to hold an electric bulb, formerly supported a big metal blossom which held an oil lamp. A shade was used on it—a wide, shallow shade of silk placed over the lamp chimney, but this has been done away with and an amber bulb is used to form the flower, the stem of which is held in the heron’s bill. ■

English Workmanship

THE Italians, whilst their work, especially during the Renaissance period, has been perhaps the most beautiful, have had no monopoly of interesting iron work through these several centuries. The English smiths have produced very fine work. The grate fittings in our illustration are English and were brought to this country a couple of generations ago. The fender is a good example of the heavy piece that is at the same time fairly elaborate in design. The andirons have hooks on which are rested a huge, pointed poker and another with a spaculate end, designed for prying logs into position. These curved hooks were characteristic of many of the very old andirons; bars were laid . across them, on which clothes might be hung to dry— though one wonders just what their final color would be; one can also picture chilled mediaeval feet perched upon these bars, to their momentary comfort but ultimate danger from chilblains!

The old-time andiron performed an-

other useful office which is not required of its modern descendant. It_was often so made that its head, shaped in a flower or a scroll, could support a pot or kettle.

Flower containers of many kinds are popular in wrought iron. There is the stand for a fern or other growing plant (and similar stands to support the goldfish bowl), there is the wall bracket designed to hoM a pot of ivy or other trailing plant; there are pots and jars in interesting variety. . .

And not content with thus embellishing our houses on the outside and on the inside, with giving us grate fittings,

fixtures, and decorative oddments ? one kind or another such as the card av, with its beautifully made rose, the orker in iron goes farther still and enters íe ranks of the furniture maker. There -e, for the fortunate, tables of the greatest beauty, elaborated sometimes in the' most interesting and exquisite manner. Again, it is the combination of strength and durability, with the quality of delicate: beauty, that makes iron suitable for such, a purpose.

Thus it is that the smith, such an important figure in every community in the old days, is winning again some part of his old place. Sometimes you will hear

the maker of a fine piece described as “an excellent furniture blacksmith”; aganyhe is a craftsman who has studied design and then chosen the metals as his medium. And more rarely, an exquisite bit of modern wrought iron comes from the hand of a genius, an artist, who, very properly, gains recognition at home and abroad.

May the tribe of all three of these workers in iron increase!