Free, wearable art: Vega Metals creates another Art Walk ornament

Apr. 10, 2014 @ 09:54 AM

By the time the Durham Art Walk and Spring Market opens Saturday, Cindy Vega and Neal Carlton, co-owners of Vega Metals on Hunt Street, will have cut out and hand prepared 800 metal ornaments to give away to visitors who stop by the shop during the two-day event.

Since the first Art Walk, Vega Metals has created a new ornament to commemorate each event (held in the fall and spring every year). The ornaments are free. “We say wear them,” Vega said of the popular metal works of art.
They have proven a popular item. Vega remembers visitors who have had “pouty” looks when they run out of ornaments. At last fall’s Art Walk, “we were swamped,” Carlton said. “We finally had to hold back to have some for Sunday,” he said.
The free ornaments are “a way to give something to the community,” Carlton said. “They’ve been so supportive of us through the years.”
Vega and Carlton have created a wall display of the last 13 ornaments. They are shaped like leaves, a moon, doves, and open hands. Each one has the year of the walk.
For the spring 2014 walk, they have made a butterfly-shaped ornament, which commemorates the many butterfly benches Vega Metals has made, like the one that sites at Orange High School, and in many gardens.
Each ornament starts with a sketch, usually worked out on computer, with a lot of brainstorming, Carlton said. Once the design is completed, the ornaments are cut out using a “water jet” process. Water, with a little garnet added as an abrasive, shot at high pressure, is used to cut the design. After the design is cut, volunteers will help hand fold it into three dimensions, after which they add a ribbon to allow visitors to hang the ornament around their necks.
Carlton points to an owl ornament from a previous walk that had multiple folds, representing “quite a folding party.”
Vega Metals is currently working on a large sculpture commission Don Drumm is doing for the University of Akron. Drumm is designing the sculpture, and Vega Metals is fabricating the work, Vega said.
While Vega Metals designs and creates individual commissions, Cricket Forge, a related business, does more manufactured designs. Some of the previous ornament designs have become larger wall pieces. The first of many butterfly benches was made in 1999, from steel taken from an old Liggett & Myers warehouse, Vega said.
Vega Metals is one of 31 sites on this weekend’s walk and market. In addition to ornaments and metal sculptures (for sale), Vega will have work from visual artists Andrea Linn, Alison Miranda, Sarah Shaw, Jamie Hagenberger, Courtney Taylor and Veronica Duncan.
Lenny Green, who plays at Vega many weekends, will perform, as well as Squier Red & The Blues Band and Kings of the Highway.
“And we always have homemade goodies,” Vega said. Her sister will have cookies, ham biscuits and other items for feasting.

Go and Do

WHAT: Durham Art Walk and Spring Market
WHEN: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
WHERE: Durham Arts Council Building, 120 Morris St., and other downtown venues
ADMISSION: Free. For information, visit