A life-long friendship began while attending high school in eastern North Carolina between Francis Vega and Neal Carlton. They went their separate ways after graduating, but reconnected in 1981 to discover a shared passion to create and make art with iron. Many weekends were spent scouring flea markets for traditional blacksmith tools, converting an old tobacco barn into a work space and building a coal fired forge. That’s when their studies, explorations and experimentation with forging metal really got serious.
Six years later, in 1987, Vega Metals Inc. was formed and a working studio set up in Durham, North Carolina. Over the years, the company has conceptualized and produced thousands of site-specific architectural metalwork. Vega Metals has been the recipient of seven international awards, published in numerous metalworking trade publications, and featured in books referencing the art of blacksmithing. Our work, as well as that of many other artist blacksmiths, can be found in one of our favorite books “The Contemporary Blacksmith” by Dona Meilach.
We wanted to expand, reach a wider audience, and have some creative fun; so in 1999, Cricket Forge was established. The first bench designed under the Cricket Forge name was the Butterfly, now our signature piece. To this day, the Butterfly Bench continues to be our best seller. Our metal art furnishings, garden benches and sculpture can be found primarily in art galleries and upscale garden centers throughout the United States.
Cricket Forge partners with sculptor Don Drumm of Akron, Ohio, a prolific designer who works primarily in cast aluminum and pewter. But when he creates art to be constructed in aluminum or steel, Drumm puts his designs in the hands of Cricket Forge who takes his work to final form, bringing life to his spirited and whimsical art.
In April 2013, Francis Vega died; however, the tradition of both Vega Metals and Cricket Forge will continue to remain with Neal, and Francis’ wife, Cindy.