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Interview at Alloy Foundry/Village Metalsmiths

On one of the many sunny afternoons this past week we set out from the FAB office for Merrickville, where we would take a tour of Canada`s oldest operational foundry. When we walked into the Village Metalsmiths shop an assortment of unique metal pieces met our gaze. One of the most prominent features in the shop is the number of distinctive cast aluminum signs. Owner Linda Feige explained that when she and her husband Karl bought the foundry approximately 23 years ago, their story began with a desire to make these custom cast aluminum pieces. These signs, which are the hallmark of Alloy foundry, feature Linda`s artistic carving designs and are cast on site in the historic foundry by Karl and a small, dedicated group of staff. Long time employee Denise Thompson, is one of the people who hand paints the metal- works. During our visit she showed us an almost finished Canadian Coat of Arms that she had already spent 110 hours painting!

 Nearly a quarter of a decade ago, Linda and Karl approached Art Heroux, the previous owner of what was then Merrickville`s iron foundry, about casting the artistic signs they hoped to create. Heroux`s response was that he was ready to retire and suggested the couple take over the business and evolve it to suit their vision. “When we bought the business, we knew nothing” Linda commented. However, the artistic and dedicated husband and wife team have made Alloy a distinguished modern day business and a beautiful preservation of a historic past. The history of the foundry is evident from first glance. The old stone building, situated right beside the old Merrickville Mill, overlooks the Rideau Canal, which tumbles through the quaint little village.  “We are standing in the old industrial section of the village” explains Linda. Iron foundries were an important part of a village like Merrickville during the 1800`s and Alloy is Canada`s oldest operational foundry dating back to 1840. Originally the foundry would have made industrial products out of cast iron, such as stoves and cook-ware; a foundry was an vital part of every town back in the 1800`s. Over the years this continuously operational foundry has changed as the needs of people shifted with time. When Linda and Karl bought Alloy, the foundry still produced John Deer tractor parts. However, the couple soon shifted their focus to more customized work focussing on their aluminum casted signs. In order to convert the foundry to cast not only iron, but also bronze and aluminum, they needed to add new furnaces. The couple got into the bronze casting business when government officials asked them if they would be interested in making Coats of Arms and historical plaques. Linda notes that when people come into their shop they find it extremely interesting to see a gift shop/tourist attraction that is simultaneously a significant industrial operation.

 Karl and Linda`s custom signs can be found downtown Merrickville, at Fort Henry in Kingston, downtown Brockville and on numerous private properties in the region. “These signs last forever” Linda emphasizes. While touring the portion of the foundry where casting is done, Linda pointed out a large coast guard crest displayed above the iron furnace. “The metal crests we make to break through arctic ice are made in the same way each of our custom signs is created” the owner pointed out proudly.

 Some of the foundry`s most distinguished work is the many coat of arms they have created. These have been sent out to embassies all over the world and – one was even presented to Queen Elizabeth II. The creation of a symbolic ring with intricate carvings to be displayed in every Canadian town that had a residential school, is another significant project that Alloy has recently undertaken. The Assembly of First Nations chose this historic foundry to make a cast ring as a special remembrance piece. “This is very distinguished work” Linda remarked while sharing with us how much she and her husband enjoy the work they do. Whether it be a small personal project or work that will be displayed on parliament hill, the passion the Feiges have for their craft is evident in their intricate creations.  In visiting Canada`s oldest foundry, we experiences the richly historic past of Alloy in fusion with its dynamic present. A trip to Merrickville makes for a lovely small town experience in the Frontenac Arch Biosphere, and we highly recommend adding Alloy Foundry and Metalshop to your downtown explorations!

-Frontenac Arch Biosphere Information Centre Team

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