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Photography Exhibit Features Evolution of Charlottesville's Linen Building

It’s been said that Americans no longer make anything, but one group of people begs to differ.  A new generation of craftsmen has taken over an old industrial building in Charlottesville, and they’re featured in an exhibit of photography opening tonight. 

Credit metalisgood.com
Lauren Danley at work.

Lauren Danley is a surprising woman in a surprising place.  She’s got tattoos on her arms, a bandana on her head and a big smile on her face as she turns up the music and gets down to work at her company  – Metal, Inc. 

“When I started fabricating steel, it was at the original Campbell’s Soup Company In Camden, New Jersey.”

Today, she makes custom stairways, fire places, railings and windows in a shop like no other.  Pieces of old bikes hang from the ceiling.  There’s a vintage motorcycle parked in the shop, the bumper of Lauren’s first car on the wall, along with silk flowers and a 70-year-old drill press wrapped in a snakeskin scarf.  She loves the space.

“But I think mostly it’s the energy of the building and the people here.”

Once, this massive brick building at the corner of Meade Avenue and Market Street, was home to a laundry that served the University of Virginia and countless other customers.

Today, it’s occupied by dozens of artisans -- Funk Brothers Furniture and the Glass Palette, where a mother-daughter team teaches people to make decorative objects from glass, Jeff Barrett Woodworking, an upholsterer, several jewelers, a painter, a company that makes custom tents for camping and a restaurant, club and bar called the Wooly Mammoth.

“It’s a community.  And is it nice to be surrounded by fellow craftsmen?  It is.  There’s also an efficiency in it, because we can borrow tools and exchange ideas and problem solve.  Everybody makes stuff here.  Our kids play together while we’re here, so it’s a nice community in that way too.   I’d rather do this for 16 hours a day than work in a cube for eight.”

The evolution of the Linen Building fascinated photographer June Collmer, who’s mounted her pictures on the walls of Metal, Inc. for a show that opens tonight at 5:30 with live music and free refreshments.  Visitors are also invited to see her photos this weekend between the hours of 11 and 3.  

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief