Blythe Living was started in 2012 by Barbara Blythe Gentry, an artist with 25 years of experience in welding and metal work. Having discovered metal purely by chance, her first step in learning the craft was by apprenticing in an Atlanta metal shop for a year. After realizing this had grown into a passion and wasn't just a passing fancy, she enrolled in a two-year course in "welding and joining" at the local tech school and graduated with honors.
The next ten years were spent honing her skills. In addition to creating custom sculptures and furniture for clients (and herself!), the most exciting project was working as part of a team on a large public art piece commissioned for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta.
2002 brought the life-changing move to Jackson Hole, and the eventual birth of Blythe Living in 2012. Looking to create something that was both beautiful as well as functional, she wanted to come up with something that could be used on a daily basis that would be as attractive as it was useful. And being in awe of the beauty of the surrounding Grand Tetons, the idea was hatched to use the most iconic group of mountains (The Cathedral Group) as the impetus for her design. By channeling her inner Martha Stewart, she came up with the idea of these napkin rings. (After all, when you grow up in the South, you use cloth napkins every day!)
The process from start to finish involves several steps: once the blanks are laser-cut from a sheet of metal, the edges as well as the front and back sides are ground down to remove the imperfections and cut-tabs from the rough pieces.
Next comes the sledge hammering to achieve just the right radius for the curve, so the flat pieces are placed in a "swedge" and then hammered by hand 3-4 times each with a curved form to get the perfect shape. At this point, the stainless pieces are rebuffed and the leather ties are attached and knotted.
The rusted pieces, however, have a few more steps: after the hammering process, they are heated to "just the right temperature" with a torch, and then a chemical patina is applied to give them that rustic yet elegant look. After they've cooled and dried, they're hand washed and scrubbed, then left to dry before having two applications per side of a clear-coat applied. Finally the leather ties are put on, and they're finished. But whether you choose the polished stainless steel pieces or the rusted ones, the "rancher lifestyle" of Jackson Hole is fused with the elegant and classic simplicity of the Teton design that works as well here in the West as it does in a Manhattan, Chicago or Atlanta.
(But if using these at each meal isn't enough, you can also use them as a scarf ring to make a ho-hum outfit pop, or as a ponytail holder (!), or even as a cuff bracelet. Now that's what I call being multi-functional!)