It started as a hobby 32 years ago.
Working around his old house, Nick Vincent wanted to make some hardware. He took a weekend workshop on Early American wrought iron and, by the next weekend, he had bought his own anvil and forge.
In 1991, Vincent left his job with a telephone company and made his hobby his full-time occupation — Nathan's Forge Inc.
Now, he keeps a fairly regimented schedule, he said, working almost daily in his converted barn workshop in Westminster. There he pounds out metal and shapes it into hooks, nails and hinges for wholesale markets as well as creating artistic pieces, such as candlesticks, tables and metal wreaths.
"I'm somewhat world famous for making wreaths," Vincent, 62, said smiling.
He made his first wreath for the Carroll Arts Center's Festival of Wreathes 15 years ago .
He now proudly hangs it on his wall at home. "I had to buy it," Vincent said, adding with a laugh, of the $500 purchase, "It was the only one I was able to afford."
He has donated a wreath to the show every year since.
Vincent creates "functional" and "ornamental" iron work, he said. Much of his business is wholesale, creating hooks and hinges for stores such as Pottery Barn and Land's End.
He also does numerous craft shows, including the annual Sugarloaf Craft Festival that this year takes place April 25, 26 and 27 in Timonium at the Maryland State Fairgrounds.
Vincent is among 250 artisans from around the country jury-selected to participate in the festival.
The Timonium show is always fun, he said, since he is a Reisterstown native.
"It is the closest show to home," Vincent said. "A lot of people come by that I know from home."
He travels at least once a month to shows. Most of his destinations are in the mid-Atlantic region, from New England to Virginia, though he has traveled as far as Chicago.
The weak economy has been rough on craft shows, he said.
"Craft shows are ... fueled by people with second mortgages with beach houses or houses in the mountains," Vincent said. "People became frugal."
Things are slowly getting better, he added, as people tire of not spending.
His wholesale work is still not as large as it has been. But his pieces of art now sell for between $10 for a simple hook to more than $1,000 for a more elaborate piece.
While Vincent began his career creating Colonial reproductions, his current work focuses on local images — herons, crabs and cattails — that he includes in features such as paper towel holders and coffee tables.
"Crabs are a big thing," Vincent said. "I do a show each summer in Nantucket where everything has whales."
He is always exploring new ideas, pounding out new forms and tossing failures into a scrap bucket..
"I've got pages and pages of drawings I would love to work on," Vincent said.
He has no plans to retire, though it isn't an easy job. He gets burned almost daily, he said.
Just over five years ago, his sweat shirt caught fire and he suffered third-degree burns on his back.
He went right back to his workshop to finish an order after returning from the emergency room.
He also suffered from tendinitis before switching to a different hammer.
"I try not to make it too bad," Vincent said, of his injuries. "It's hard work."