Metal sculptor Grace Cathey publishes book

Jun 28, 2013
Photo by: donated photo

Local metal sculptor Grace Cathey just released a new publication, “Fire & Steel: The Sculpture of Grace Cathey.”

Dahlia Books will publish the bookan exploration of the life and work of Cathey on July 1 and Cathey will be holding book signings throughout the weekend.

“Fire & Steel” is a collaboration between Cathey and the distinguished historian Sara Evans (author, Carolina native and seasonal resident). It introduces Cathey, tells the story of how she came to metal art after years as a professional weaver and painter and how her work has grown and changed.

It also describes some of the techniques, especially finishes and use of color, that draw on Cathey’s experience as a weaver, watercolorist and print artist.

“I’m not worried,” she said about giving away her secrets, “I’ll come up with new ones.”

Cathey and Evans have been friends for a while and she asked Evans to write her book during a canoe trip. Evans agreed to do it and they’ve spent the last two and a half years putting it together. The way Evans molded her stories into a book reminds Cathey of how a pile of scrap metal can be made into a beautiful sculpture.

“She’s a brilliantly talented writer — she just took notes while I told her all these crazy stories of things that have happened to me,” she said. “It’s a very inspirational to release creative juices and that’s what I intend to do — to help artists get started in this field.”

Printed in full color with more than 100 photographs throughout the book, “Fire & Steel” is primarily an art book that introduces readers to the full range of Grace Cathey’s work, from major pieces of public art installed on the main streets of Waynesville, Hendersonville and the North Carolina Arboretum, to a variety of custom pieces for homes and gardens - even wearable pendants.

There are very few women sculptors who work with fabricated metal: cutting steel, welding, hammering, grinding and shaping to create beautiful pieces both large and small. Cathey’s career developed in Western North Carolina and her subject matter draws heavily on the fauna and flora of the Southern Appalachians. Rand-McNally’s “Best of the Road” lists her gallery on Depot Street in Waynesville as a landmark.

Professor William Hood at the New York University Institute of Fine Arts says of her work, “Grace Cathey shares a gift rare among artists. Her exacting craftsmanship coaxes metal into works of art that are alive with the likeness of graceful, vibrant, playful creatures.

They delight the eye and light up the heart.” Lawrence J. Wheeler, director of the North Carolina Museum of Art, declares that Cathey’s sculptures are “beautifully conceived, and brilliantly executed. Her integration of the natural world into her large formats is lyrical and lovely, not easy to achieve in such an unyielding material.”

Trained first as a fiber artist, Grace spent 15 years as a weaver, but once she tried MIG welding in a welding class, she never looked back. She started making garden stakes and then worked her way up to flora and fauna: animals such as frogs, roosters; twisting vines and flowers in bloom. Her functional garden pieces such as gates and trellises often feature an unexpected extra – like a butterfly on a bloom or a lizard slinking up the side.

Cathey’s work is part of the permanent collection at the North Carolina Arboretum and Chimney Rock State Park and has been exhibited at the United States Botanical Garden in Washington, D.C., and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.

Her large-scale public art has been included in both Hendersonville and Waynesville, North Carolina’s Art on Main series. You can also see her work at her gallery, housed in historic Walker Service, an auto service center her husband’s grandfather opened in the Frog Level area of Waynesville in 1928.

In the celebration of this milestone Cathey will be signing copies of her book during the following events: Grace Cathey Sculpture Garden and Gallery at 136 Depot Street from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. July 5 (the same day as Art After Dark which runs from 6 to 9 p.m. on Main Street) and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 6 at the studio. She will hold another signing event from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 2 and 3.

For more information on Cathey or the new book, visit or the Grace Cathey Sculpture Garden.

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