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Portraits of Canton: Shelby York Barnhart – Blacksmith, Welder, Business Owner

March 24, 2016 Arts and Entertainment, Business, Community, Photos No Comments

By John Fitts 

Shelby York Barnhart is a fine artist but don’t expect a priceless piece to hang on the wall.

But if you need a fireplace screen, handrail, boot butter or a badass way to hold and display your wine vessels, she can deliver.

“I’ve always been more into functional art,” said Barnhart, who runs Arc and Hammer and Fat Maverick from her Canton home. “I just loved that you can make something pretty that didn’t just have to be something you stare at – that actually had a purpose.”

Shelby credits her father Stephen York for not only naming her after the world’s most famous roadster, but also with getting here started with metal work. He taught her welding at a young age and Barnhart’s 8th-grade school project involved Metal Inert Gas Welding (MIG) welding on a Volkswagen beetle.

“I feel it’s partially just in my genes,” she said. “Ever since then, I’ve gotten really into it.”

She’d go on to attend a weekend welding camp at the Brookfield Craft Center, hang around the auto shop at Canton High, where she learned from Daryl Zordan, and work on cars at home. During her senior year in 2009-2010, she studied study tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding and obtained certifications at Bristol Tech.

Later, she studied took art and design classes and participated Central Connecticut State University’s vocation/tech education program so she could teach at tech ed system. For a time, she taught night school at Prince Tech.

Along the way – at age 14 or 15 – Barnhart volunteered at Mystic Seaport, where someone brought her to the blacksmith shop. She ended up taking an apprentice for two full summers and worked some weekends during school. She also found an anvil on eBay and built a forge at home.

Later, she studied with artist Susan Madacsi and learned invaluable business and installation advice courtesy of Canton’s own Joe Recupero, long-time owner of Santos Wrought Iron Works.

Right out of high school, she also put her skills to use fabricating pieces for LogRite Tools in Vernon. She also does welding and metal repair for UConn Health.

There’s no doubt, however, that Barnhart is making a name for herself on her own. Since 2012, she’s run Arc and Hammer, creating iron railings, fireplace screens, décor and furniture.

The name, a suggestion of her mother Carol, perfectly conveys the work, which involves welding and blacksmithing.

In addition to her own products, she also works with area businesses and artisans, including Getty Granite in Salem and A&L Auto parts.

Publicly her work can be seen via the Shepherd’s hooks on Canton’s Flower Bridge and the railing in the balcony of the Canton Town Hall auditorium.

“Everyone kind of thinks of metal as just a cold ugly thing,” she said. “You can turn it into something beautiful. I’ve always found that kind of fascinating especially with the blacksmithing. Once I realized you can heat metal up and really do whatever you want with it, I found it really intriguing.”

More recently, with her husband Jesse, she’s started Fatmaverick.com, named after her 6-year-old lab/shepherd mix.

A signature product is Fat Maverick’s boot butter, an all natural blend of Almond oil, shea butter, coca butter, essential oils and beeswax. Fat Maverick and his brother and fellow lab rescue Mr. BooBear are also credited with helping that venture and were certainly inspirations.

“I’m always looking for quality USA made products especially if it’s dog or outdoor oriented,” Barnhart said. “It’s hard to find and I figured there are people just like me that would enjoy the same type of products.”

“We wear our work boots daily, working, hiking, in the yard, and wherever we go. Being able to have our own “boot butter” just seemed really cool especially since it’s not full of chemicals like other products,” she added. “I personally have just gotten fed up with products manufactured overseas. Nothing else seemed to say USA Made to us more than a handmade boot water proofer/ conditioner with our family’s loving black lab as the mascot.”

Barnhart said running her own businesses can be stressful but is certainly rewarding. More important, she added, is the support of her loved ones.

“My husband’s really big on it and he supports me,” she said. “My whole family’s into it, so it’s nice I have a good group behind me.”

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Shelby York Barnhart


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