Profile picture of Chris Shea

Growing up in a historic town on the coast of Massachusetts, I received an early education in the eloquence of even simple things. Objects were saturated with history. Colonial-era homes and household things -- a chair, a cooking spoon, an artisan's tool -- held traces of the people who had made them and used them. Some objects were spare and utilitarian, others were grand and beautifully crafted. All of them had the capacity to evoke a sense of wonder and connectedness. To those objects I can trace my beginnings as a blacksmith and a furniture maker, though it took me 30 years and a detour through literary aspirations to find my path.
From the woods and shorelines of my childhood I developed an admiration for insects, crustaceans, and other creatures that has never left me. And since I first began to explore my chosen materials of iron, bronze, and copper an affinity between the weird exoskeletal beauties that I wondered at as a child and the languages of forged metalwork has been inescapable. The material and technical vocabulary that metalsmiths have developed over time to address challenges of form and function seem to me to have intriguing echoes in the ways that evolution has, for certain creatures, worked to solve the practical problems of living on Earth. In both cases, strange and elegant solutions have arisen.
The visceral sense of wonder I feel in contemplating the long workings of evolution and its spectacular, varied results is echoed in my own work with fire, hammer and anvil. In my studio, traditional forms of furniture and functional metalwork evolve into new anatomies, drawn from the world around me, both natural and man-made, and expressed in the language of the blacksmith.

Chris Shea designs and creates furniture and architectural metalwork at his studio in southern Maryland, outside Washington, DC. His work is included in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery and in numerous private collections around the country. Shea's work has been shown at Fuller Craft Museum, Woodson Art Museum, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, the National Ornamental Metals Museum, The Society of Arts and Crafts in Boston, Wexler Gallery in Philadelphia, and at SOFA Chicago with Maurine Littleton Gallery. A native of Marblehead, MA, Shea studied metalsmithing at the Appalachian Center for Craft in Tennessee and at Penland School. He holds a BA in English Literature from Cornell University and, before embarking on his current path, worked for five years in Educational Programs at The Shakespeare Theatre inWashington, DC. Chris Shea's glasswork is created in association with the talented artists of the Washington Glass Studio.

Chris Shea Resume
Cornell University, Bachelor of Arts,1987
Appalachian Center for Crafts / Tennessee Technological University, Smithville, TN
Certificate in Metals, 1997
Selected Collections/Commissions
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery,Permanent Collection, Cafe Chairs and Arthropod Side Table.
Bresler Collection, North Bethesda, MD. Commissioned suite of furniture for private collection.
Powell House, Embassy Row, Washington, DC. Commissioned exterior and interior ironwork for renovated former embassy.
Glen Hurst,Washington DC. Commissioned railings, gates, fence for historic home.
Numerous private collections
Selected Exhibitions
NüIron Age, Juried pop-up exhibition at SNAG conference, New Orleans, LA, 2017
Interiors, Strathmore Arts Center, North Bethesda, MD, 2017
Iron 2010,Touring exhibition: Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, MA; National Ornamental Metal Museum, Memphis, TN; Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, Wisconsin; Southern Illinois University Museum, Carbondale, IL, 2010
Iron: Forged, Tempered, Quenched, Houston Contemporary Craft Center, 2010
James Renwick Alliance Gala Auction, Washington, DC, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2016
Wild Things, Montpelier Arts Center, Laurel, MD, 2007
Selected Exhibitions
Artist-Made Furniture,Eleven Eleven Sculpture Space, Washington DC, 2005
Illuminating 20 Years of American Craft, Sansar Gallery, Bethesda, MD, 2002
Crafts National 33, Zoller Gallery, Penn State University, 1999
Contemporary Metalsmiths 1999, Young & Constantin Gallery, Shelburne Falls, MA, 1999
American Mokume Invitational, NationalOrnamental Metal Museum, Memphis TN, 1998
Emerging Artists - Metals, TheSociety of Arts and Crafts, Boston, MA 1997
Selected Publications
Washington Post Magazine, September 25, 2016
Architecture DC Magazine, Fall 2016
Ironwork Today: Inside and Out, Schiffer Publishing, 2011
DC Magazine, October 2011
500 Tables, Lark Books, 2009
Chairs, Lark Books, 2009
500 Chairs, Lark Books, 2008
Chesapeake Home Magazine, November 2007
The Washington Post, November 24, 2005
MetalsmithMagazine,Exhibition in Print, 1998
Anvil's RingMagazine, Winter 2010, Winter 2009, Winter 1997
WETAMagazine, April 1998

Where to Buy

Work is not available for sale through the SNAG website. Please contact the artist directly to inquire about making a purchase.