11 Jan Illuminations: Glenn Gilmore
After creating a variety of metalsmith work, Glenn Gilmore is returning to his first love: fireplace doors. The hearth, historically a central place to gather, cook, and share stories, can also convey a homeowner’s passions. Gilmore enjoys the gratification he gives to clients when he forges images onto fireplace doors that feature such elements as pheasants and hunting dogs.
“I create a wide variety of designs that are specific to my clients,” Gilmore says. “I did a copper repose, or bas relief, of a pheasant head. Recently, I made a set of doors with forged iron pine cones and pine needles. Another client wanted oak leaves and acorns, because it reminded him of his childhood.”
Sometimes he sketches, and sometimes he’ll lay the parts out and take photos to begin a collaboration with his clients. He then emails back and forth to get a clear idea of what they have in mind. After the fireplace is constructed, Gilmore visits the home to customize the grill and doors, so they fit perfectly into their settings.
“In a rock fireplace, I transfer the line of the rock edge onto the metal and custom fit it. I’m known for my attention to detail,” he says.
With many of his tools in his truck, Gilmore travels around the country designing and installing fireplace doors with his unique system: He builds a frame that’s snug to the stonework, precisely designed, and measured. Then he takes that frame back to his shop where he can finish the details. This method enables him to create custom doors which, when finished, fit seamlessly on the front of the fireplace. He spends a lot of time making certain everything relates correctly, even building his own hinges with bronze bushings so they operate flawlessly. “For things like tree branches and acorns, I’ve made a tool that works to create the shape of the acorn,” Gilmore says. “The oak leaves, I make out of flat material and then add texture, using different tools to make impressions in the material. And it’s all done hot, hammering it.”
Gilmore is fluent in every conceivable type of metal, including mild and stainless steel, silicone bronze, monel, copper, and brass. All the hinges, levers, and handles are hand-forged specifically for individual clients, and all of the steel used in his work comes from recycled materials.
“I have a philosophy on fireplace doors: The bottom is the widest in order to ground the doors,” Gilmore says, “the tops are a bit narrower, the outside edges are narrower than the top, and the center is the narrowest of all, so you see the fire and it’s not blocked by the doors. It’s a subtle effect, but it creates balance so it’s