Year-round and seasonal residents of the Lakes Region have found that David Little of Winnipesaukee Forge is a good source of unique, hand-crafted items for the home and garden. A Meredith resident for more than 30 years, with a family that has been here for 100, the blacksmith is known not only throughout New Hampshire but well beyond the state for his uniquely crafted metalwork and collaborative furniture. In fact, one of his pieces is on display at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
Many of those who have seen his booth at craft fairs or who came across his artistry at one of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen shops now have one or more of his creations in their homes. Some of those pieces are collaborations with artist Steven Hayden, with whom Little hooked up during a craft fair at Sunapee State Park. Hayden was a ceramics artist from California but his interests also run to woodworking and other media. Their collaboration has produced items ranging from tables and desks to bedroom furnishings and TV lift cabinets — pieces that hide the television in a traditional-looking cabinet when not in use.
Little describes his work as an evolving mix of furniture, home furnishings, architectural installations (railings, gates, and window grills), and items such as fireplace screens and floor lamps. He also describes it as a “reinterpretation of nature” in which he incorporates such natural elements as cattails, pine cones, tulips, and leaves into his designs.
Now that “evolving mix” has extended to the Arts Collaborative in which Heyden and Little, along with Little’s wife, Heidi Lea, and Moultonborough artist Cynthia Robinson, operate a gallery and hold classes for children and adults to spread the joy of arts and crafts.
Little and Heydon purchased a former industrial compound at 5 Winona Road, Meredith, last year and they converted the former office space into a gallery that would showcase their work in a home-like setting where patrons could see how the cabinets, lamps, shelves, and paintings would look in a realistic setting. The basement became the workshop and teaching studio where Heidi and Cynthia could lead sessions for art teachers, children, and adults, as well as offering demonstrations by visiting artists and holding creative gatherings where people could exchange ideas and talents.
Each Tuesday, from 7 to 9 p.m., there is an open studio in which anyone with an interest in art can come to learn, share a skill, discuss an idea for a project, and receive support or advice. It provides the perfect venue for those contemplating design changes for their homes or gardens.
“We can put together a class for someone with a specific project in mind,” Robinson said. “Or just come and get a variety of perspectives from the others who show up.”
The gallery showcases works by regional artists, as well, most of them from New Hampshire. In addition to the wrought iron and wood pieces, the gallery features sculpture, pottery, prints, paintings, blown glass, and fiber art, making it a perfect place to shop for the home.
Additionally, they offer custom pieces to match a home’s architectural style or to fit into a specific space. David Little takes pride in being able to take accurate field measurements to create pieces that fit the physical space as well as the homeowner’s vision of what he or she wants.
He gives the example of a couple living in Cambridge, Mass., who owned a Greek revival-style home near Harvard Square. Little worked with them to design an 80-foot fence with hand-forged archway and gates, incorporating elements of the facade into the design. The project also involved creating a large, electrified lantern that had to fit between two granite posts.
“To survive in this economy, you have to be nimble and find a niche, and sometimes to create your niche, and then educate your clientele so they understand why they need your work,” he said philosophically.
Attending craft fairs is one way to make a name, he said, noting that, in addition to selling the pieces one brings to a fair, it provides exposure and establishes relationships that may become long-term. Many people seeing the exhibits will pick up a business card but not contact him for years, until they are ready to purchase a piece. And once someone has bought one piece, more orders are likely to follow.
In addition to works for the home, Little designs and creates donor recognition art for nonprofit organizations, including a donor tree with 400 leaves which he custom-built for a hospice in Kingston, N.Y. The tree was eight feet tall and 12 feet wide, designed to fit a curved wall at the facility.
In addition the gallery and studio space, there are other buildings where Little does his metalwork and Hayden does his woodworking and other crafts.
Heidi Lea Little is a multimedia artist currently working in acrylics, collage, and mixed media. With a bachelor’s degree in Art and Psychology, with a concentration in Ceramic Arts, she also studied Art Therapy and has taught at community centers, retreats, school programs, and at her ArtsEnlight Studio where she encourages playful experimentation, risk-taking, trusting intuition, and appreciating individuality.
Cynthia Robinson’s background is in arranging visiting artist visits to schools in New Hampshire and she operates Eco Art a la carte. Working with Heidi Little, they have held after-school and vacation art programs for youths, as well as adults and professional art teachers, and they are looking to offer an art film series, a mural workshop, and other creative endeavors.
“It’s for artists and hobbyists,” Robinson says of their workshops. “You don’t need to know anything about it to come and learn. Here we’re able to make it happen all in one spot.”
For more information on the Arts Collaborative and the individual artists, see TheArtsCollaborative.net, www.irontable.com, www.haydenarts.com, www.ArtsEnlight.com, and ecoartalacarte.com, or call 279-5492.