Meet the Maker: Hans Duus, Blacksmith
Custom fixtures by local blacksmith Hans Duus shine at The Piccolo
Quite literally hammering away over the forge and fire, Santa Maria-based blacksmith Hans Duus has spent the past 51 years of his life carrying his Old World craft into the new age. Now, his work will shine at downtown Paso Robles’ newest boutique hotel, The Piccolo.
Inspired by the legacy and originality of the historic Paso Robles Inn, The Piccolo has a deep respect for tradition—so when it came to choosing the craftsmen behind our custom pieces at the hotel, we were naturally drawn to those who honor the heritage of their passions, like Hans. Without compromising on his commitment to the handcrafted manufacturing processes, Hans Duus Blacksmith incorporates traditional metalsmithing with modern technology to create unique collections of lighting fixtures on California’s Central Coast—and the results are dazzling.
Bringing His Light to The Piccolo
Inside each of The Piccolo’s 24 guestrooms, a romantic, custom chandelier glistens above the bed, dripping with clusters of almond-shape leaded Austrian crystals that sparkle with color as the sunlight streaming in from floor-to-ceiling windows shines upon them. While outside, iron-framed box-style wall sconces illuminate the brick exterior of The Piccolo. The face of the sconces are decorated with hand-cut iron silhouettes of twisting tree branches, which pay tribute to the centuries-old Oak Trees that gave El Paso del Robles its name.
The stunning beauty of each of these pieces is obvious to the naked eye, but once you consider the handcrafted care taken to each fixture, they become all the more impressive.
Irons in the Fire
Hans and his six-person Blacksmith team specialize in traditionally forged ornamental iron and focus exclusively on producing lighting fixtures, which requires skills in welding, metalworking, drafting, layout, and design. Due to this handcrafted manufacturing process, slight variations can occur from one fixture to another, which speaks to the uniqueness of the product and further highlights how one-of-a-kind each piece truly is.
The production process for The Piccolo’s custom chandeliers began over a year and a half ago. However, the initial design and prototype took Hans a mere five days to create—by hand. When asked about his favorite part of the production process, Hans replied: “All these years later and I’m still fascinated by ironwork. We think of iron as something hard, but once you get it hot, there’s so much you can do with it.”
This fascination with hot iron goes back to when Hans was just a 10-year old boy after his father gifted him a small anvil. From that point on, Hans could be found collecting nails and whatever small pieces of iron he could get his hands on to heat up in barbecue pits and fireplaces, just so he could pound them into various shapes and forms.
Eventually, this childhood obsession became Hans’ craft and career as he continued to pursue formal training in welding and metalworking. In fact, at just 16 years old, Hans began work as an apprentice at Old World Metal Craft, an iron shop in Solvang, California. In 1982, Hans started his own self-titled company concentrated on ornamental iron, lighting fixtures, and other forms of “jewelry for your house,” as he likes to put it.
Today, Hans leads the company as President, Founder, Head Designer, and Master Blacksmith with his wife Carla by his side, who has faithfully served as Secretary, Treasurer, Accounting, Human Resources, and Sales since 1989. When he’s not working on the forge, Hans is an advocate for vocational education and works hard to secure a place for blacksmithing in the next generation. He has worked with Alan Hancock College in developing curriculum for ornamental iron and even initiated a Blacksmithing course there where he currently teaches as an associate faculty member.
It is his devotion to his craft, his unwavering authenticity, and his commitment to quality that makes Hans as one-of-a-kind as his creations. As The Piccolo prepares to open this Fall in downtown Paso Robles, we’re taking a page from Hans Duus and staying true to our roots.