George Cramer has been working with metal since he was 14, when he began welding, cutting and metal fabrication at his father’s New Jersey refuse company.
As he worked and learned welding, fabrication, heavy diesel mechanics and machinery repair he got to thinking.
“I was welding one day and wondered where it all began,” Cramer said. “How did we get to this point in industry and who thinks of fusing metals together with an electric arc?”
His journey since then included studying under internationally recognized blacksmiths and blade smiths, blacksmithing for 12 years and creating a wide range of hand-crafted items. He also completed a stint in the Navy, where he honed his skills of welding, fabrication and metallurgy.
With his experience and passion for making hand-forged knives and crafting ornamental iron work and blacksmithing, Cramer has plans to open a shop in the Gloucester Village called “The Village Blacksmith.” His goal is to provide custom metal work, blacksmithing, bladesmithing, reproduction, restoration, repair, welding, fabrication training and consulting on low- to high-end custom metal work.
Cramer is vying to be one of three prospective business owners selected from a pool of local entrepreneurs to share a combined value of $95,000 in goods, services and start-up capital to launch a business on Main Street. The Launch Gloucester program is part of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s Virginia Community Business Launch initiative and is locally overseen by Gloucester Main Street Preservation Trust and Gloucester Main Street Association.
“I enjoy taking something seemingly unmovable and strong and bending and forming it to my will as if it were soft clay,” Cramer says. “The process of blacksmithing has not changed much for thousands of years and is a dying art. It is a durable art form and craft that lasts through the ages; not only ornamental it serves a mechanical function that is only limited by one’s necessity creativity and skill.”
Cramer’s creations take on many forms. These include hand-forged bottle openers and knives, to decorative metal cutouts — crabs, cartoon characters and even a society coat rack — to rose-shaped metal candle holders, to signs and repurposed nautical tables made out of portholes or a cabin door.
For Cramer, bringing The Village Blacksmith to Main Street would allow him to show a wider audience of residents and visitors his hand-crafted wares. It also would help him show how metal has a wide variety of uses and applications, from the practical to the decorative.