Fairless Works began as a steel plant outside Philadelphia on the banks of the Delaware river. Designed and built by my great grandfather Benjamin Fairless for US Steel, the furnaces were lit in 1952.
My grandfather named 4 of the 9 furnaces in the Fairless factory after the women in the family: his wife Hazel and their granddaughters Caroline, Pat, and my mother Nancy. The furnaces have since been cooled and parts of the factory have been repurposed, but I still have one of the commemorative lighters they used in the ceremony when those furnaces were first lit.
I never did get to meet the legendary figure known in my family as Grand Pappy, but I did get to visit the plant and library before it was dismantled in 1991. What remains of the plant is now a US Steel finishing facility, and the surrounding town that once housed the steel workers still bears the family name: Fairless Hills.
Our industrial age has shifted in this country but Fairless Works lives on in Austin Texas, at a small backyard studio of Ben Fairless' great granddaughter, making handmade heritage.
I ventured into this work because I found myself wishing for some small, utilitarian items for my home that had more of a homemade feel, more of a unique design. So I started by taking a metal smithing class at Austin Community College, loving it, I dove into the Art Metals program, learning first metal smithing and then later welding.
School lead to work at a design build architect firm where I learned more aspects of building, structural steel, and cabinetry. As time went on, I decided to take the welding and building knowledge that I have gained and go back to what initially inspired me to learn this work. I put it towards creating and making more unique pieces for the home and garden and working with clients to make their aesthetic desires a reality.