Metal artist Ryan Calloway melds technique with artistry
There’s something about knowing how to manage a good fire,” metal artist and blacksmith Ryan Calloway says. “You can have a smoky fire or one that burns too quickly. You must understand the balance of oxygen; you must understand the properties of the flame.”
Calloway creates one-of-a-kind metal art (think custom sculpture, fire screens, gate work, chandeliers, furniture, garden décor, and balusters) the old fashioned way: with hands, heart, and fire.
One step into his industrial-sized facility The Artistry, on Andrews Street in the Sterling Community, tells a tale of the past connecting with the future. The metal shop was once the machining shop for a textile mill; its gallery lobby, the mill’s offices. Now, the space houses a sprawling art gallery featuring local and regional artists, seven working art studios, and Calloway’s metal shop Creative Ironworks, complete with tools and machinery that harken to both the past and the future.
Calloway began his career at Greenville Technical College, where he studied welding and industrial technology. His path to artistry was forged quite by chance when he landed his first position at a local ornamental iron shop. “I was lucky,” claims Calloway. “With welding, I could have ended up anywhere. Rocky Browning taught me the bending and welding of metal furnishings. The artistry pretty much found me.”
New Orleans also found Calloway. It was during his six years there that he learned traditional blacksmithing before moving back to the Upstate. “I’ve been lucky enough to meet two or three figures in my past who have expressed and ‘exclamation pointed’ the artistic side of metal. I didn’t go to school for art; I went for welding. The art came later as a necessary expression,” he says.
These days, Calloway divides his time between The Artistry and working with Heirloom Hand Forged Designs of Campobello, where he designs and executes fabricated and forged design work for private and commercial spaces. The split-time arrangement has allowed him to find balance, all the while being community-based—pulling in new artists for the gallery, apprenticing a student or two, and also focusing on his art.
Additionally, Calloway takes on commissioned projects, teaches workshops in welding and blacksmithing, participates in Greenville’s First Fridays, and still finds time to put on two annual festivals at The Artistry: Freakcycle (which just took place in February and featured live music, demonstrations, side-show acts, theatre, and, of course, art) and Vulcanalia in the fall (think fire and fashion merging).
So how does Calloway take all the heat?
“Coming in with a cup of coffee and lighting everything up, I become the pharmacist in the pharmacy, the alchemist, having several things going on at one time. The rhythm is very comfortable now, and that is very inspiring.”