There are moments in architecture that force someone to pause and marvel when they walk into a room. Seaside vistas, grand staircases and, sometimes, a metal feature wall that acts as one part fireplace surround, one part sculpture.
This dramatic custom surround is forged in steel plate by Jake James, an artist and blacksmith located in Metchosin. He is rising as one of the Island’s — and Canada’s — premiere metal workers. James has created an industry out of forging unique and custom works and sculptures.
“Visually, this piece is quite aggressive looking, but, when you touch it, all the edges are hammered and sanded and finished with wax, so it’s softened,” says James. “You’re not going to walk by this in the middle of the night and tear holes in your clothes.”
From large architectural commissions like this feature wall to small and personal sculptural works, James has a vision to create an experience with forged metal that holds true to the rich heritage of the craft, while exploring concepts and themes that add personal flavours and a sense of connection to a project that, as he says, “goes beyond surface adornment.”
The fireplace surround was completed as a collaboration with NZ Builders, and the oversized metal is separated into two panels, both on hinges so they can easily swing out if the fireplace should ever need maintenance. It also connects to other forged steel in the house as well, like a nearby aligned stair railing.
“Many people underestimate how visually dominant steel is — it sucks light in. In a house that feels sterile, it actually brings in humanity and movement, or else there is no break in the space, which feels relentless on the eye,” says James. “With this fireplace, you experience visual motion wherever you stand.”