Last week, I shared with you about Philip Simmons…today, I’m excited to share with you about his nephew, Carlton Simmons.
Carlton was busy working when we arrived at the Philip Simmons Museum and Shop. There was only one other car in the parking lot when we arrived and since the house is tucked away, we decided to stop by the museum to make sure that it was OK to continue around to the back of the house.
Carlton greeted us as we entered the small shop which was covered in black soot, but didn’t miss a beat as he worked his way between the blazing fire and the two anvils in the middle of the shop. We all said our hellos and then watched in awe as he hammered and pounded the piece of iron.
After a few minutes of watching, Carlton offered to answer any questions we had…what he didn’t realize is that I am the queen of questions.
First, of course, what was he making? Carlton’s reply: “A plant hanger.”
Next, the anvils…there were two, what was the difference? He explained that one was older (used by Mr. Philip Simmons himself) and a better quality. However, because of the many years of use, it wasn’t square and he had to use the newer anvil if he needed a flat edge.
As he pounded the piece of iron on the older of the two anvils, I couldn’t resist but ask…have you ever pounded your finger? (By this point, I think he was catching on that I was pretty good at asking questions) To my amazement, he hadn’t. He said he was more concerned about the iron getting too hot and catching first than hitting his thumb/finger. As he reminded me, he could control the hammer, he couldn’t control the flame.
Then, the hammer/tools…what was the difference and how did he choose which one? Carlton explained that it all depended on what he was trying to do with the iron as to what tool he was going to use. He also shared that a lot of the tools were handed down to Philip Simmons by his mentor Peter Simmons (no relation), so some of them were over 100 years old! He continued by explaining that if Philip Simmons couldn’t find a tool for what he needed to do, he would make the tool himself.He then pulled a pulled a large piece off the wall and explained that Mr. Simmons would use patterns for some of the larger pieces. This was only after he would create a very tight circle at the end of the iron (you could say that this was his “signature move.”)
But, how did the patterns “work”? I asked…So he walked over to another area of the shop, leaving the piece he had been working on in the fire, to show how you can literally pull the iron around the pattern to create the look you want.
As he made his way back to the fire, I found myself with a host of questions about the fire! But I thought better of it and decided to visit the museum instead. But, before leaving I had one more question….would it be if we stopped back by after visiting the museum to see what he had gotten done. He politely agreed.
So we went inside to take a look around and learn more about the life of Mr. Simmons. And after just a short period of time, Carlton came into the house to let us know that he was about to do something we were “going to want to see.” And then he hurried back to the shop…..you know I was close behind!
As we came in to the shop Carlton was just pulling the iron out of the blazing fire and began putting it into a clamp. After the iron was secure he began twisting it with what looked like a huge pair of pliers.
After finishing this step, he chiseled a P, S, C, and another S (for Philip Simmons and Carlton Simmons) into the piece and was it was complete!
The entire experience was amazing. I love talking with people about their passions. The opportunity to ask questions and learn first hand from others is simply inspiring! And the best part of it all?? We are now the proud owners of a Simmons piece that I got to see be created first hand!
If you haven’t done so already, I’d highly recommend you visit the Philip Simmons museum (30 1/2 Blake Street – Between America and Drake, and between Columbus and Cooper Streets – Charleston, SC 29403). I’d suggest you give a quick call before heading over to make sure they are open. The curator is amazingly nice and will let you know, too, if the demonstration will take place (usually at 2:00 pm on Saturdays).