Frank Bushere had been a metalworker for 20 years before he ever worked at an anvil. He’d picked up welding skills in a high-school shop class. In 1975, he opened his own metal fabrication shop, specializing in residential fences and gates. All went well for many years . . . until, in 1991, the business went bust. In spite of his losses, Frank spent $200 to buy a gas forge, anvil, tongs, and a few hammers, and he started to play around with them after work. He’d noticed how hot the market was for vintage iron-and-tile tables in the Spanish Revival style.
Now the company sells to stores like Country Floors in New York, and through online retailers including eBay and Etsy. Although they’ve done custom installations for historic sites like the Culbertson House in Pasadena (and for a movie producer or two), their focus is on smaller pieces: framed tiles, address plaques, and tables—and a new line of drapery rods. “With smaller pieces, you can put a lot of detail into every one,” Charles explains. They sign and date any pieces made with new tile, saying “these are the antiques of a future generation.”
Smaller pieces can be shipped affordably, too. Although all work is handmade and therefore unique, individual wrought-iron tables and framed tiles have broad appeal. Unlike a custom commission, “if somebody doesn’t want it,” says Charles, “somebody else will buy it.”
Known for the subtle and beautiful textures they add to their metalwork, Frank and Charles Bushere have developed several signatures, among them the Moustache scroll. Beginning with a piece of metal that’s completely flattened, they roll it on the anvil into a tight curl on the inside, then continue working the metal until it “very gracefully unfolds into a scroll,” Charles says. a Another distinctive touch is the beeswax finish they apply to every piece. “When metal comes out of the forge, it’s naturally a blue color,” he says. “When the piece is completely cooled and finished, we put wax over the metal, and it becomes almost a charcoal color.” a Having studied Samuel Yellin and other master metalworkers, Charles says he and his father tend to use paint sparingly. “If something is coated with paint, it covers the natural beauty of the ironwork. [But] wax shows all the details you put on at the anvil.”
Finials & Bolts
In these days of mass-market hardware made in Asia, hand-forged drapery hardware is a lost art. So it may come as a surprise that Bushere & Son offers curtain rods with hand-forged finials and decorative bolts at competitive prices. They’ve even begun making their Spanish Revival drapery hardware in six finishes. Prices for a complete set begin at $286, which includes a pair of decorative finials, a drapery rod up to 48" long, support brackets, and bolts. Even the bolts are decorative, with heads shaped like flowers or crosses. “We try to make them of the period.”
Bushere & Son Iron Studio, Pomona, CA, (909) 469-0770, bushereandson.com