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Zookeeper-Turned-Blacksmith Creates for South Bay

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Almost four decades ago, former zookeeper Roger Chudzik embarked on a six-week leave of absence from his care of bears and timber wolves at Lincoln Park Zoo to enroll in a blacksmithing workshop. A chance opportunity to try his hand at metalwork, Roger discovered his true passion for the trade. As an apprentice, Roger honed his craft to eventually open his own shop, Iron Bear Forge, a name that pays homage to his time as a zookeeper.

As part of the “Made in Dorchester” initiative, EDENS engaged resident blacksmiths, mural artists, carpenters and metalworkers to create custom works throughout South Bay. EDENS Director – Planning Ryan Lorey helped lead this initiative. “Dorchester is one of, if not the oldest lasting communities in America. Founded in 1630, Dorchester has been inhabited by makers from its genesis, and to this day, still houses a huge contingent of Boston’s construction work force, blacksmiths, carpenters, pipefitters, glass blowers, electricians, and artists. It was only logical to tap into the tremendous creative abilities of this great neighborhood,” said Ryan.

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Roger was the first local artisan engaged by EDENS to design and craft several installations at South Bay. Partnering with neighboring craftsman, Frank Criscione of American Handcraft, the two makers blended metalwork and carpentry to create steel and mahogany lattice work that boldly crowns the Starbucks storefront, as well as powder-coated steel bicycle racks, signs, benches and planters. Roger’s metalwork experience guided the design and shaped various pieces that clearly convey the permanence of thoughtful, hand-worked assembly.

Beyond his work, Roger opened the doors for EDENS, introducing Ryan and team to several Dorchester artisans who became an integral part of the “Made in Dorchester” project. The close-knit ties of the artists speak to the respect for their fellow craftsmen and the support for South Bay’s handcrafted details, reflective of their hometown.

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