In Baltimore’s Woodberry neighborhood, once-forgotten factories have been restored to life. Gone with the winds of time are the pounding of heavy equipment and clouds of smoke from casting iron and steel. From the mid-19th into the 20th century, this area thrived as one of the biggest centers of large-machine manufacturing in the country.
Today, these now-revitalized buildings form the core of Clipper Mill. Wrapped in a romantic patina of age, Clipper Mill is a quiet community of residences and offices surrounding a different type of industry—working artists and artisans.
Vibrant studios occupy the central Foundry building. As doors are flung open or through glass panels in the masonry walls, craftsmen can be found working at the forge, blowing glass or painting at an easel. Finished work is scattered around the grounds, an unofficial outdoor gallery.
Railroad tracks that once transported raw materials and finished products for the industrial park now carry passengers on Baltimore’s Light Rail. Take the train to Woodberry, and here’s a sampling of what you’ll find behind the walls at Clipper Mill.
John Gutierrez stands on the mezzanine of his design and production studio, surveying the 20,000-square-foot space extending the full length of the historic Foundry building. He looks up at the soot-blackened wood trusses, and below, where in the distance two artisans fabricate stair rail components for a grand staircase. Farther along the open expanse, storage shelves are stacked with a variety of steel, aluminum and brass. A complete woodworking shop also operates within the imposing heavy-timber structure.
Gutierrez relishes this mix of old and new, and the raw beauty of materials. It is the hallmark of his large-scale, custom work for architects and commercial and residential clients. It also characterizes his line of smaller tables, lamps and cabinet pieces sold in the showroom below.
“I like living with art and leaving materials in a natural state,” says the artist, who also has a preference for combining wood and metal components in a single piece. “I like when a bar of steel is cut, cleaned and attached, without over processing. We try to use wood to derive the best character out of a given piece—like using an old walnut board instead of staining one dark brown, or using reclaimed, re-sawn timber.”
Gutierrez’s work, which he calls “light industrial modern,” enhances the Clipper Mill site and Woodberry Kitchen, a restaurant next door; he designed and fabricated its wood staircase and glass-and-steel storefront. His studio also created benches in Fells Point and Harbor Place in Baltimore.
Gutierrez designed the rails at clipper Mill.
Gutierrez’s affinity for the large-scale and dramatic may be traced to his background in set design. He has also worked in carpentry and construction, and earned a degree in furniture design from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
The studio’s 15 employees include designers, engineers, project installers and graduate art students trained at the shop in fabrication and finishing skills. “We’re trying to bring back the glory of trade unions and guilds,” says Gutierrez, “when there was huge pride if you were a skilled craftsman. Our goal is to render a project at the highest level.”
Gutierrez Studios is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and by appointment. Phone 410-889-5341 or visit the Web site www.gutierrezstudios.com.
Anthony Corradetti’s glass-blowing studio and gallery are modeled on shops along the streets of Venice and in towns long ago. “What excites me as a craftsperson is having a functioning studio that’s also part of the community—as it was back when work was hand made, and you could find a local blacksmith or glass maker, watch how the work was done, and take it away,” he says.
On the upper level of his light-filled studio, hand-blown glass stands ready to take away. One-of-a-kind pieces reflect the spectrum of styles created below: small cobalt-blue vases rimmed in fiery red, a circular serving platter awash with watery hues and jewel-toned bowls with gritty textures, the result of rolling a blown-glass form in chunks of clear glass, then fusing them together.
Corradetti’s signature vessels, placed on pedestals, are lyrically hand-painted in abstract designs. Multicolored lusters, built up in layers that are each fired on separately, give richness to the surface. A large piece may require up to 12 kiln firings.
Corradetti's blown glass is painted with abstract designs.
Corradetti’s pieces are in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Corning Museum of Glass. Examples of his large steel-and-blown-glass sculptural commissions are installed across from his studio in a building courtyard and at the edge of the pool. During most of the year, visitors can watch Corradetti and his assistants blow glass beside the glowing furnace at the studio’s heart. They also teach classes and workshops on weekends.
Each piece bears a “Made in Baltimore” label, inspired by the renowned Venetian glassworks’ identification “Made in Murano.” “They’re proud of that, and I’m proud to be working right here,” says the glassblower of 30 years, happily settled into his three-year-old studio and gallery.
Corradetti Glass has limited summer gallery hours. Call for an appointment. Regular hours begin again in the fall. Phone 410-243-2010 or visit www.corradetti.com.
“We take a bar of steel, heat it up in the fire, hammer it and give it life and character,” says Chris Gavin, blacksmith and owner of Mandala Creations. In the showroom, hand-forged metal works with presence extend the long heritage and individual expression of blacksmithing. Decorative wall sconces and an ecclesiastical bench patinated to resemble wood revive the Gothic spirit. Traditional fireplace tools and turned railings rest against a wall.
Paul Daniel Sculptures
Paul Daniel’s abstract kinetic sculptures blow in the wind throughout downtown Baltimore. His lanky assemblages of moving arms and shapes, spinning propellers and mirrors can also be spotted outside of his studio and around the grounds at Clipper Mill.
These playful metal constructions have cosmic dimensions, according to Daniel. Environmentally driven by the wind, they are tuned to the atmosphere and planets. He views the mirrors as tracking devices for the sun’s changing position throughout the day as the earth pivots.
Painting bold stripes and primary colors on the metal also has a purpose, he says. They “stand out from all the accumulated visual information in our minds, all the objects in our environment that we glaze over and don’t see, like lampposts.”
Patrick O’Brien Studio
Artist Patrick O’Brien swivels his tall frame around on an upholstered chair in his studio. Surrounded by his meticulous paintings of the high seas, book-lined shelves, artist’s palette and oils beside a canvas washed in northern light, O’Brien might have dropped in from a past century; he writes and illustrates children’s adventure stories set in remote, heroic times. His tales of swashbuckling pirates, chivalrous knights and ships at sea line his bookshelves.
O’Brien also steps back in time to research details for his maritime oil paintings. These depict historic ships and decisive battle moments in what he calls “the classic age of fighting sail.”
O’Brien recently completed a series of maritime paintings for a solo exhibition, “New York in the Age of Sail,” opening in September at The Union League Club in New York. He pointed to one new painting showing a ship in New York’s harbor exactly as it would have appeared in 1605, when the city was called New Amsterdam.