Emerging Design: A maker of something real

jleonard@newsobserver.comJune 25, 2014 

Duncan Stephenson of Horn & Heel wouldn’t call himself an artist; instead, prefers the term “maker.”

Stephenson makes jewelry and metal goods at his Raleigh home. His adornments range from necklaces and rings to bolo ties and boot pieces.

Stephenson started out as a business major at East Carolina University, but was drawn to art. He tried working in different mediums, but metal captured his focus from the beginning.

“I like fabricating,” he said. “I like creating something that is real and tangible. That’s why I like jewelry, because you can wear it and it is a real thing that you can interact with.” Stephenson went on to graduate from ECU with a bachelor of fine arts, with a concentration in metal design focusing on jewelry work.

Although Stephenson cites sci-fi movies, comic books and Batman as early influences, his aesthetic has grown more sophisticated. His pieces reflect his interest in the “juxtaposition between blatantly hand-drawn pieces with human error that are put on a pedestal rather than hidden but on a very clean crisp surface that is well-constructed and well-fabricated.”

His adornment pieces represent layers of work and are created in a multi-step process that includes hand-drawn patterns, saltwater etching bath, copper plating, blackening and sanding. Prices for his works range from $15 to $350. He also forges knives.

“I’m a huge fan of African and South American tinsmiths and goldsmiths that were only using one hammer that’s been passed down through four generations and a rock and some sand,” Stephenson said. “And they make amazingly crafted pieces, but they are still rough and raw and dirty because they were working with only the tools they had.

“I like bouncing between those two (elements) because I went to a fine art school and I know how to be nice and clean and crisp in my craftsmanship, but also have the ‘hand-done-I’ve-touched-every-piece’ feeling to everything.”

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