Chase Allen says his artistic abilities are in his genes.
“My mother’s side of the family is very artistic,” said the 37-year-old Charlotte, N.C., native.
Allen owns and operates The Iron Fish Gallery on Daufuskie Island, S.C. From fish to mermaids, the gallery, which opened in 2001, houses dozens of Allen’s handcrafted iron aquatic themed sculptures.
“When I started out, I welded together a large iron fish sculpture for the entrance to my gallery. At the time, the name of the gallery was called ‘The Rusted Lava Art Shop,’ which really never stuck,” said Allen, “I started to specialize in hand crafted fish sculptures around the time that people started referencing the large iron fish sculpture out by the entrance as ‘The Iron Fish.’
The gallery is currently nominated in the 2014 Martha Stewart American Made Awards competition. A collector of Allen’s work nominated the gallery in the crafts: Recycled, Upcycled, Vintage Crafts category. The gallery has made if through the first round and is currently competing against hundreds other businesses from around the country.
“I’m no motivational speaker, but I strongly believe that you can do 99 percent of what you put your mind to doing. I had a strong desire to become an artist/artisan, and luckily I am usually fearless about going after things I want,” Allen said.
“The brain can figure out all things… I was inspired by a few artisans I had met between 1999-2001 and just knew I could figure out how to do what they were doing.”
Allen, a self-taught welder and artist, has been making his sculptures for 14 years, and it can take him any where from an hour to a month to complete a single piece of work.
In 2007 Allen’s work was featured nationally in “Coastal Living” magazine and “Southern Living” magazine, but he said his skill level and creativity have increased quite a bit since then and he hopes that the contest will help grow his audience by increasing traffic to his gallery.
“It was great to be nominated but it feels even better to be a finalist!” said Allen.
“Choosing to become an artist is almost certainly choosing to have a life of living paycheck to paycheck unless you somehow expand your audience. I was fortunate to gain national exposure in 2007… But since that time, my skill level and creativity has increased greatly and it would be invaluable to communicate that not only am I still making sculptures but I am growing as an artist and a business.”
If the gallery is selected as one of the top 10 finalists – nine are chosen by Stewart and her panel of judges and the remaining winner will be selected as a wildcard finalist by online voters- Allen will get the chance to travel to New York City for the American Made event, have a video produced by Martha Stewart’s in-house team, be featured in numerous national publications, including, “Martha Stewart Living” magazine and be awarded a $10,000 prize.
And as for that $10,000 prize, Allen has a plan for that, too.
“(The prize) makes every one of the votes a little sweeter…,” said Allen, “What will I do with the $10,000 cash prize you ask? Well, my first thoughts are to spend the money as if I had found it in the pocket of a pair of jeans packed away from last winter. But, here’s the real the plan,”
• $7,000 will go towards Holmes Desmelik’s doctor bills via ‘Team Holmes.’ Holmes is the six-year-old son of Allen’s friend and is currently battling a brain tumor.
• $3,000 will be distributed to Doctors Without Borders, Alzheimer’s Foundation, Ankylosing Spondylitis Association, and toward a scholarship for an aspiring teen blacksmith to attend a course at John C. Campbell Folk School.
Location: 168 Benjies Point Road, Daufuskie Island, S.C. 29915