Virginia native Elmer Roush has been a blacksmith since 1975, and has devoted himself to the art full-time since 1985. Previous careers included fifteen years spent working in a coalmine in southwest Virginia (both above and below ground), but Roush concluded that he would “rather burn coal than mine it.” Roush learned his smithing skills in Virginia, and also spent time studying with master blacksmith Vaslav Jaros in the Czech Republic. Now a master himself, he has traveled around the world teaching, including to Ireland and Australia. Closer to home, he is a past artist-resident at the John C. Campbell Folk School.
Roush’s work is highly varied. He makes railings and old-fashioned sign brackets, architectural hardware (exact reproductions and creative variants of antique joints, brackets, nails, etc.), and deconstruction tools for use in taking apart old buildings without damaging the wood. He makes liturgical pieces, including altars and candleholders. He makes a wide variety of tools based on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century models, exact replicas as well as creative pieces drawn from the form of antique tools but modified to the user’s preferences. Roush makes his own tools for use in his forge. Finally, in a highly localized trade, Roush creates basketmakers’ tools, including froes, spoke weights, and rapping irons, which are used by local basketmakers.
Elmer Roush is married to Lynda Metcalfe, who is also an accomplished blacksmith. Metcalfe has taught at the John C. Campbell Folk School and has been an artist in residence at the Appalachian Center for Crafts in Smithville, Tennessee. In her native Britain, she did blacksmithing work for the Tower of London.
Elmer Roush’s work is available through Metcalfe-Roush Forge in Brasstown.