Charlie Ellis

The Story

I’ve always had an interest in how things work and how they’re made. Growing up my creativity was fueled by legos, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings. As I came into my teen years I would fill sketchbooks with worlds inspired by Tolkien’s, designing weapons and armor for fantastical races. But pencils were not enough. I wanted to learn to make it real, make it in steel. At the age of fourteen, while vacationing in Maine, my mom found a blacksmith in the newspaper who was teaching at a festival at the historic Scribner’s Mill in Harrison. There I made a fire poker, a couple of nails, and a hook, and I was hooked. That day I learned about the New England School of Metalwork and spent the next year doing yard work and odd jobs to pay for a class. The next summer we made it back up to Maine and I took a 40hr course on historical hinges with Jonathan Nedbor. 

Haywood Community College

The following year we moved to the Asheville, NC area. The first chance I got I went on my friend’s computer and searched for blacksmithing and archery in the area. I found an archery club 4 miles away and the world’s largest blacksmithing tool supplier, the Blacksmith’s Depot, a couple of towns over. I went to a monthly meeting there where David Burnette was giving a demonstration. I found out that he taught classes at Haywood Community College and the next semester I signed up for classes. 

ABS Hammer-in

Attending Haywood was truly a pivotal role in my pursuit of blacksmithing and bladesmithing. For seven years I took classes there. In that time the school formed a relationship with the American Bladesmith Society, hosting hammer in’s and ABS sanctioned classes. There I met some truly great makers and became friends with many of them; Jason Knight, Burt Foster, and Adam and Haley DesRosiers were among the most consequential.

From time to time a couple of my fellow students and friends, Bob Brandl and Shelby Mihalevich, and I would take a trip down to Harleyville, SC to spend time with Jason Knight. Getting a close look at his work, how he worked, and working with him was profound

Fell and Fair

Around this time was also the start of mainstream iPhones and social media’s big rise. I discovered FellandFair and came to be friends with Zan Campbell through Instagram. We both enjoyed making armor and costumes and found out that we lived pretty close to each other; just a couple hrs south of me. So we made a trade: I made a knife and he made some arrows. When I made the trip down to meet him and his family and friends, he had his sister lure me into an ambush of rangers in the woods. We did a photo shoot and then went to see The Hobbit. It was quite a day. At the time he was training to be a helicopter pilot for the navy and I was working as a bookkeeper at a local grocery store. Now he runs FellandFair productions creating fantastic videos and photos, costuming, and immersive events. It’s been an honor to be a part of it all and to watch it grow. I’ve made quite a few aluminum stunt swords for him along with the odd piece of equipment that he needed forged.

Velleca Metal Design

In the fall of 2013, I had a table set up selling my work at the NC Mountain State Fair, and a guy came by with a post leg vise tattooed on his arm. Naturally, I had to comment on that. We got to talking and he showed me his other tattoo of a Beaudry power hammer and invited me to come visit him in his shop sometime. His name was Eric Velleca of Velleca Metal Design. When I did finally make it out to his shop, they were casting aluminum feet to raise some 60s jet air chairs that were too short for their client's table. Eric put me to work right away grinding and cleaning up the castings. I ended up working there for 5 years doing architectural blacksmithing. I learned to weld and machine and I became the precision guy. I did a lot of tooling work making jigs and fixtures that were needed to get the jobs done. 

Adam and Haley DesRosiers

In the summer of 2017, my wife, child, and I had a chance to visit the master bladesmith power couple Adam and Haley DesRosiers in Petersburg, Alaska. It was a truly wonderful week spent on the inner passage seeing the Le Conte glacier, a muskeg (peat bog), icebergs, seals, sea lions, bald eagles, harvesting crabs, learning the intricacies of integral knives, feeding dragons, and cooking pizzas over a campfire.

At The Moment

In August of 2019, it was time for a shift. We now had 2 kids and while I had been taking fewer hours at Velleca Metal Design to work on my own it wasn’t enough time to make up the difference in our finances. Something had to give. So with my wife’s blessing, I took a leap and went full-time self-employed. It was not easy and we definitely had some close scrapes, but I am grateful for where I am now; making a living and providing for my family while being creative and doing what I love.