While some locals lament the passing of small-town Charlottesville, tucked away in the Belmont neighborhood is a blacksmith shop called Blanc Creatives, where local artisans forge hand-crafted culinary tools they call “modern heirlooms made for daily use.”
Corry Blanc–blacksmith, designer, and founder of Blanc Creatives–is a north Georgia native who learned pottery in high school, metal-working from his uncle, and cooking from his grandparents. In 2007, Blanc began working for Stokes of England Blacksmithing Company in Keswick, making ornamental ironwork like railings, gates, and lighting (“I knew how to cut and weld,” notes Blanc, “so now I wanted to learn how to heat and bend.”). But his interest in design inspired him to strike out on his own. Shopping at farmers’ markets started him thinking about small items he could design, make, and sell there–like frying pans. Chef friends like Tomas Rahal of Mas (now at Quality Pie) were willing to kitchen-test his evolving designs.
In 2015, Blanc rolled the dice. He submitted his frying pans to Garden & Gun magazine’s Made in the South awards, and won the grand prize in home products. “November 15, 2015, the announcement goes live on the internet,” he remembers. “By December, we had a nine-month waiting list for product orders.” The next year, Blanc Creatives was featured in The New York Times’ gift guide, and the business took off.
The idea began with function. Carbon steel is the workhorse of restaurant chefs, says Blanc; it cooks on all heat sources and builds up a seasoning like cast iron, but is lighter, smoother, and more malleable, so it can be shaped with a sloping side for more versatility.
And shape is what makes Blanc Creatives’ products unique. Each piece is crafted by hand in the blacksmith shop and, as the product line has expanded, the woodworking shop next door. Blanc now spends his time designing products and streamlining the production process, with 17 full- and part-time blacksmiths and wood artisans; “these are really their pans now,” says Blanc.
Blanc Creatives products come with a lifetime guarantee, and they aren’t cheap (pans start at $210 for the 9-inch skillet). Buyers can be dedicated home cooks (some purchase an entire set) or professional chefs like Rahal and Harrison Keevil at Keevil & Keevil. But Blanc also knows customers who save up to buy just one pan–an everyday tool that fuses function and beauty.
What’s driving the appeal? “People have grown tired of the single-use mindset,” says Blanc. “And they are buying our story.” With each piece, customers get a thank-you postcard with a duotone photo of the Blanc Creatives crew gathered around the anvils: sweaty, grimy, and proud of it.