14 Aug Illuminati!
Written by: Laura Nell Burton
Photography by: Christin Gish
I am slightly obsessed with illumination. Truly, spotting a diamond-in-the-rough chandelier for sale hanging from the rafters covered in cobwebs and dust makes my heart race as fast as a double cappuccino. Good afternoon, pretty little thing up there, all you need is love…!
Starting with the 19th century pair of American Federal carriage lanterns flanking the front door, purchased from The Lion & Eagle Antiques, it took three years to collect the 16 copper and brass lanterns from various dealers across the globe that adorn the exterior of our home.
Several are crowned with eagles, for us symbolizing man’s connection to the divine: “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not be faint” Isaiah 40:31.
Some were once oil-fired, and although electrified in the past, in need of rewiring. All were missing parts, with most in serious disrepair.
The star of the collection was salvaged from the Fontainebleau Palace during the restoration of the left wing. The lantern, which was sourced from Antiquites du Poul Benn in Crach, France, arrived in pieces begging resurrection, along with a small container of Breton butter cookies made by Biscuiterie de La Pointe du Raz, which this dealer tucks inside every package as delightful gesture of gratitude. The lantern is from the first half of the 19th century, exactly during the reign (1830-1848) of King Louis Philippe. Enter Ted Voss, owner of Ted Voss Metals, founded in 1923, who transformed it into the showstopper that now illuminates our garage.
Over a period of several months Voss treated each lantern with importance, stripping finishes, wiring to meet electric code, hand-forging brass brackets, hand-casting bronze pieces, and making all other necessary repairs. He also forged our patio gates out of ironwork salvaged from our original screen doors, which were sentimental to me, and deserving of a second chance at life, and the doorbell, which is faithfully tucked inside the mouth of an antique lion knocker.
Voss, a third-generation ornamental ironwork artisan, creates unique masterpieces by from hand-wrought iron, copper, brass and aluminum, in an era when most products are mass-produced. His gifted father, who taught him everything, died earlier this year at the age of 93, leaving behind a beautiful legacy of metal artwork found in many of the finer homes and buildings all over the U.S. He will be greatly missed, yet I stopped by a few days ago, and his spirit seems to linger…his desk does not feel empty, and there is a certain new magic in the dust rising from metal shavings suspended in sunbeams dancing around the cavernous warehouse where he worked, alongside his father, and then his son, and then his grandson, for all of his special life.
Ted Voss Metals stands for extraordinary craftsmanship including the design and fabrication of the iron gates between the north and south crypt aisles of the Washington National Cathedral (which were, by stroke of Voss genius, fabricated from repurposed airplanes during an aluminum shortage), the bronze doors at Texas A&M University’s Scoates Hall, James Avery’s Mother’s Love Sculpture in downtown Kerrville, and a great joy for Ted was restoring a chandelier his grandfather built (at the time the grandest in the country, and still the largest in Texas) in the 1920s for San Antonio’s own historic Aztec Theater.
My family has known the Voss family for generations, although Ted and I were months into working together before we realized it. Indeed, it’s a small world, with real blessings waiting for enlightenment at every turn, if we just pay attention. A world that is a better place because of the Voss family legacy. What a gift and a privilege for me, personally, to be illuminated every twilight by that legacy in my very own home.