Hands, Head and Heart

A local metalsmith makes her passion into reality. 

By Moe Godat 

Photography by Colin Miller/Strauss Peyton


    Francis of Assisi once said, “He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”  Peg Fetter, a metalsmith and artist based out of St. Louis, displays this quote on her website for a good reason; it perfectly describes her work, mindset and everyday life. “My love for art began as far back as I can remember,” Peg explains. “I always knew I was going to be an artist. Everyone around me knew I was going to be an artist because I said it every day. I don’t even know if love is the right word for what I feel toward it. Art is a need, a necessity.” 

    Metalsmiths are artisans who create pieces out of various metals including (but not limited to) gold, copper and silver. Peg is most well-known in St. Louis for her jewelry, her style defined by a combination of gritty steel and delicate gold accents. These materials come together to create the bare-necessities aesthetic that makes her work stand out from the rest. 

    Though Peg always knew art was her future, she didn’t find her love for metalsmithing until college. She began her career path at Winthrop College in South Carolina where she majored in art with an emphasis in drawing, painting and metalsmithing. While at Winthrop, she developed a connection with the form and hands-on approach one had to take when working with metal. One of her instructors advised her to continue her college career at Washington University in St. Louis to work under Heikki Seppa, a famed Finnish-American master metalsmith. 

    “It was the only graduate school I applied to, and I was living on a sailboat in the Caribbean at the time,” she says. “I figured I’d apply to the school I wanted to go to, and if I made it in that’d be great. If not, well, I was still living on a sailboat in the Caribbean!”

    Her focused and loving approach to metalsmithing is what makes her work so signature and timeless. Each piece is designed to fit her voice, which she has worked her entire life to create. “My style is always changing because it is a process, but I hope there is a common thread throughout the process that identifies me. It is important to evolve, to not stagnate,” she explains. 

    Peg’s upbringing inspires her work along with her travels. She grew up on a small barrier island off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, called Sullivan’s Island. “The ocean, beach and nature in general are very important to me. Also, I’ve been fortunate with my travels. There’s so much in the world to see and absorb, and I know that comes out in my work.”

    Her studio is in her home, and she does most of her small work at a main bench and other work at another side bench. Most of her large works are done at her anvil, and she also has an area for raising and forming. While there are many different ways of metalsmithing, Peg explains that the word “smith” comes from the root word “smite,” which means to strike. Peg fabricates mostly, which involves creating a design and then producing it out of raw materials while utilizing skills such as sawing, soldering, forming, and raising: “When creating a piece, I must deconstruct to construct,” she says. 

    Peg Fetter is locally represented by Craft Alliance, and her website provides a list of stockists from which you can buy her jewelry. Visit www.pegfetter.com to learn more about her and to view or purchase her creations.