Based out of Nashville, Tennessee, Ben & Lael brings beauty and function to the kitchen through gorgeously handcrafted cold forged copper utensils. Want them?
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- [Ben] I like to bring functional, beautiful items into people's homes because I believe that beauty enhances a person's life. I feel it's very important to preserve the art of handcrafted metal. Very little of that is done today. Most things are made by machine if they're metalwork. There was a time when everything was made by hand. I like to say that my laptop is a 1910, 175 pound anvil. That's what I stand in front of every day and work. And that what I love about it is that it's all done by hand and I don't use machines or things like that. I'm Ben Caldwell and this is Ben & Lael. Ben & Lael is based out of Nashville, Tennessee. I was born and raised in Tennessee. I moved away and studied in New York and Boston and Los Angeles and I studied art. But I decided to move back to Nashville and I really thought this would be a great place to found my business. I had never thought about doing metalwork, so I feel like copper chose me. I like the way it moves, to me, it's almost like a suspended liquid. And though it involves hammers and other things like that, it still feels almost like a liquid to me when I'm working with it. The pieces that I make are heirloom pieces. They can be handed down for generations. And I like to think that my pieces are going on a journey through time. And that they are going to be handed down, not only to the person that I sell it to, but then to their children and to their children after that. These things will last hundreds of years. When I make a piece, I start with raw sheet copper, trace the design out with a permanent marker, cut it out with hand sheers or with table sheers, sand the edges, then I will deburr the edges, then I will begin to hammer the design in. I have 60 different hammers that I choose from. I will pick the particular hammer for the exact effect and technique and texture that I'm looking for. All of the metal is worked cold, meaning that you don't heat it to red hot and then hammer on it like a blacksmith. Cold forging is done on copper because the copper is fundamentally a soft metal. And if you hit it while it's red hot the metal will shatter. Once I've got the correct shape, I will then do what's called planishing, where you hammer it over a stake. And that's what produces the textured, hammered look. After that, there is buffing and polishing and this is a process of just really getting the metal shined up and polished. Each one is slightly different from the next, they're not identical. Each handle that's twisted is hand-twisted by me. Each antler handle is different because no two antlers are the same. And that's what makes each piece unique. I like to think that a little bit of me, a little bit of my soul, goes into each piece. And I think that, whether a person is aware of it or not, they know that it's special and I like to think that they see just a little bit of me in that piece.
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