Local Taneytown blacksmith Jacob Selmer and his wife Red, a lampworker or glass beadmaker, are two of the incredible artists featured at the Taneytown Heritage and Museum Association, which is staging an exhibition of local arts and authors — past and present — titled “Creative Talent of Our Community” through Nov. 20. The museum is at 340 E. Baltimore St., and the exhibition is open Fridays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays, 1-4 p.m.
“We try to reach different groups of people in the community,” Nancy Ensor, exhibit coordinator said. “Each year we have one room we use for a changing exhibit. It was time to recognize the creative talent in Taneytown. There are 45 artists in this exhibit from a wide range of media including oil painting, blacksmithing, bead making, watercolor and sculpture. Authors are also featured.”
“Our criteria for designing an exhibition is based on what the community is willing to loan us. Then we have to make it cohesive. We are trying to promote the history of Taneytown,” Ensor said.
Jacob Selmer started with metal work when he was 16. “I wanted to make a suit of armor. It was the sort of thing we were learning about in school that included medieval times.” Selmer said.
“That’s how I got started doing metal working. I made a few suits of armor. The first suit was chain mail. Chain mail is made from wire links woven together to make a suit of armor. The suit has to be tailored to fit,” Selmer said. He used electrical fence wire made of steel. He did research online and learned how to make jigs and his own tooling to bend the wire. A jig helps to guide tools to make them more accurate.
Selmer wore his armor to school and to Renaissance and Celtic festivals. Lots of people wanted him to make them suits, he said, but it took too many hours. The first suit took him the entire summer to make.
Selmer wanted to make plate armor, but it took more specialized tools. That brought him into blacksmithing so he could make how own tools. He set up a small forge in his parents’ backyard. His parents were very supportive. Selmer lived in Fairfax County, Virginia, and when he was only 17, he did demonstrations at Colvin Run Mill. When there was no viewing public there, he taught himself and was constantly learning and practicing.
Much of Selmer’s early learning was from the internet and books. He made a lot of his own tools. He has a suit of plate armor he made. “Since I need fewer suits of armor than tools, I make more tools than armor now,” he said.
Selmer attended Virginia Tech and studied mechanical engineering with a minor in history. In 2006 he got a job at General Dynamics Robotic Systems in Westminster and moved to Keymar with his wife. He is now the product engineering manager at Knorr Brake Company.
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Selmer is active with the Blacksmith Guild of Central Maryland and is a forge master with the guild. “I work with the new people to make sure no one burns the building down,” he joked. He gives advice, shows them different techniques, explains how to use the tools safely and also teaches classes.
Selmer is starting a small business to teach classes in the studio on his property in Taneytown and was selected as a finalist in this year’s Carroll Biz Challenge presented by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce. His business is called Selmer Ironworks.
Selmer recently participated in the annual Blacksmith Days at the Carroll County Farm Museum. One of the competitions was to make a candlestand. He made a medieval-style candelabra and won. Its design was influenced by his love of history and the Middle Ages along with his love of ironwork.
“I really like the history of technology and manufacturing,” Selmer said. “As an engineer, I like to study how things are made. With blacksmithing and hand working you can add a lot more detail and personality that you do not get with standardized machines. I would like to make more suits of armor and study the different time periods and how they work.”
Selmer and his wife Red are going to be on the Carroll County Artists’ Studio Tour this year. Selmers’ studios are at 5823 Conover Road in Taneytown.
Selmer also sells his blacksmith artwork at Offtrack Art in Westminster and in the gift shop at the Carroll County Farm Museum. His work can also be seen online at Selmerironworks.etsy.com. He can be reached at Selmerironworks@gmail.com.
Lyndi McNulty is the owner of Gizmo’s Art in Westminster. Her column, An Eye for Art, appears regularly in Life & Times.