Former corporate executive finds success, autonomy as blacksmith

NEIGHBORS

January 12, 1995|By JUDY REILLY

C Anyone who has dreamed of leaving life in the fast lane for self-employment and independence can take inspiration from Nick Vincent of Uniontown.

Four years ago, Nick was an economic forecaster for the telephone company, with a commute to Baltimore and all the pressures of life in the corporate world.

Today he's an independent businessman, the blacksmith of Nathan's Forge.

He sets his own hours, works from home, plays music in his spare time, and, incidentally, is very successful.

Prospective customers for his crafted ironwork include actress Mel Harris of "thirtysomething" fame and Disneyworld's engineering department.

He also has been named one of America's top 200 craft makers by Early American Magazine.

How did he get from there to here?

Always a hobbyist -- "I've never sat around much, watching TV," he says -- Nick became curious about blacksmithing about 13 years ago and took a weekend seminar introducing him to the craft.

He began creating historical reproduction items out of iron and soon the hobby began to crowd out his day job.

"Without thinking a whole lot about it, I gave up 20 years at the phone company," Nick said. "Looking back on it, it was rather a bold step. But I was so busy at the time, I didn't think about it."

After additional blacksmithing classes at Williamsburg, Va., and schools in North Carolina plus thousands of hours with anvil and hammer in the work shed, Nick has a successful and satisfying career.

Nick doesn't do as much historical reproduction work as he used He's discovered the booming home decoration market and spends his blacksmithing hours (from sunup to sunset, at least) creating ironwork for the home and garden.

During the recent holiday season, he sold thousands of Christmas stocking holders to the Pottery Barn retail stores.

As I talked with him recently, he was packaging curtain tie-backs and swag hooks to deliver to the Quilt Patch in Littlestown, Pa. You can also find his products offered locally at the Hickory Stick in Westminster.

Another major effort for Nick Vincent is preparing for and attending major juried craft and gift shows along the East Coast. Last year he participated in 17 shows, including one in Wilton, Conn., where Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary fame was a customer.

If you enjoy going to these shows and want to see some of Nick's one-of-a-kind pieces, an event is the First Cabin Fever Show Feb. 18 and 19 at the Frederick Fairgrounds.

From start to finish, creation to delivery, Nathan's Forge is a one-person operation that absorbs Nick's days. Does he miss anything about his former work life? Maybe the fellowship.

"I didn't hear my first O.J. [Simpson] joke until about two months ago," he says.

Would he do it again?

"It beats working for a living!" he quips.

How about some advice for others who may want to break away from office and boss and go out on their own?

"Like anything else," he says, "It takes commitment."

*

Cynda Bertier is looking for a few good photographs. The president of the Elmer Wolfe PTO is working on a commemorative yearbook for the school and community that will recognize the school's past and present. The book will be issued this spring.

Elmer Wolfe has played a continuous role in the community since 1931, educating thousands of students, first as a high school, next as an elementary and junior high and in the most recent years as an elementary school.

Cynda is trying to locate old photographs of graduating classes, old yearbooks and any other memorabilia that would make the commemorative yearbook -- a first-time endeavor for the school -- a meaningful remembrance and local history book.

Principal Mary Stong wanted to launch the yearbook project for the children and for the community, so there will be two components to the book -- a school-wide photo and captions section to capture the current school year, and an historical section.

"It's close to the end of this building as we know it," said Mary. "Whether it gets renovated or torn down, the school will never be the same again."

The historical section is for the community and the children -- a "piece of history they can latch onto," she says.

If you have any old Elmer Wolfe/Union Bridge photos to loan and be copied for the yearbook or want to help in any way, please call Cynda Bertier, 775-7892.

*

Nearly 3,000 children in the Carroll County schools need special services because of handicaps or learning disabilities. Their advocacy group, the Learning Disabilities Association of Carroll County, meets tonight at the Taneytown branch library at 7:30 pm.

A 40-minute video, "F.A.T. City: How Difficult Can This Be?" will be shown. The film puts the viewer in the seat of someone who has trouble learning, someone who doesn't always hear or see information as it is presented. It's a must-see for anyone who knows a child or adult with learning problems.

You'll learn about the Learning Disabilities Association, too, and the role it plays in advocacy, education and support.

For parents who face the frustrations and challenges of navigating a learning disabled child through the school system, president Stephanie Tighe says, "You'll learn you're not alone. There's someone else out there who can sympathize and relate to you."

Information: 795-8621.

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