Crafting a presence in Louisiana through metals

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Nancy Perilloux displayed her jewelry at the Hammond Regional Arts Center’s “Fine and Functional Show” last year.

Jacob Summerville, Staff Reporter

Beauty is within the eye of its beholder. For some, it lies within the craftsmanship of conventional metals as opposed to silver and gold.

John Perilloux, owner of John Perilloux Metal Art, and Nancy Perilloux, owner of Nancy Fe Designs, are a couple from Robert, Louisiana who create their products from forging metals such as copper, iron and bronze. Nancy Perilloux creates jewelry while John Perilloux makes furniture and artwork with the three metals mentioned and the addition of alloy steel.

John Perilloux’s first project was re-engineering his mountain bike to make it go faster back in the 1980s. Ever since then, he has joined the Louisiana Metalsmiths Association, the Artist-Blacksmiths Association of North America, and he influenced his wife, Nancy Perilloux, to find her area of interest within forging.

Nancy Perilloux shared the type of jewelry she creates.

“I typically make necklaces and earrings,” said Nancy Perilloux. “I work with customers on commissions a good bit and have made a variety of things as a result such as belt buckles, rings, hair accessories and bracelets in addition to necklaces and earrings.”

Nancy Perilloux uses either a rod or sheet of metal at her anvil to start her forging process. She explained the steps to follow after heating the metal.

 

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“I heat the metal and hammer it on the anvil using blacksmithing tools and techniques,” said Nancy Perilloux. “After the metal element is forged, I buff and clean the metal and then dip it in a clear protective finish. Occasionally, I will put a blackening patina prior to the finish.”

Nancy Perilloux usually looks through her husband’s scrap metal when looking for material, but she also has alternative methods of gaining her metal.

“I have cut up old steel washing machines with plasma torches when I need sheet metal,” said Nancy Perilloux. “I have found old steel washers and parts from electrical elements useful. I will find a small scrap of metal and try and create, forge something interesting and useful out of it. Occasionally, I will purchase steel rods from retail vendors.”

Nancy Perilloux explained the appeal of working with conventional metals.

“You can forge silver and gold, but it is very costly,” said Nancy Perilloux. “It’s the process of forging metal that I love more than the end result, and these metals allow me to work on a small scale that I enjoy, jewelry rather than large sculpture. I love the end result as well, but I really enjoy the process.”

John Perilloux has exhibited his craft at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival since 1998. Because he had a commission for the city of Hammond, he spent his time working on his project rather than attending the jazz festival this year.

“I forged two large scale arches that span the pedestrian crosswalks on both sides of the railroad tracks in downtown Hammond,” said John Perilloux. “The sheer number of hours spent completing this large scale commission prevented me from participating in Jazz Fest this year.”

The two have also displayed their artworks at the Hammond Regional Arts Center in their series “Heavy Metal,” which is on display until Friday, Sept. 28.

John Perilloux explained how someone with an interest in forging can become involved in Louisiana.

“Here in Louisiana, we have the Louisiana Metalsmiths Association and the Gulf Coast Blacksmiths Association,” said John Perilloux. “These groups are made up of beginner and seasoned veteran blacksmiths eager to pass on their knowledge. They meet on a regular basis and encourage newcomers to the trade through mentoring. From there, individuals can further their knowledge through classes and workshops.”

 

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