Audio files: (there may be a brief pause after pushing the play button)
Bill Metz is a lifelong resident of the Middle Amana community, who began doing metal work after school while in high school. Bill Metz worked for many years as a sheet metal worker for Quaker Foods in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He and his wife, Audrey, raised a family in the Church of the True Inspiration, the branch of Lutheranism practiced by the founders of the Amana Colonies. Metz took up tinsmithing in 1981 and worked with the Amana Arts Guild to revive this nearly lost art in a project funded by the Iowa Arts Council.
A fixture in most 19th-century American communities, the tinsmith, like the blacksmith and the cooper, played a critical role in his community. In the Amana Colonies, tinsmithing shops provided most of the utensils used in the community kitchens, as well as those items essential for winemaking, butchering, and other industries. In addition, the tinsmiths worked alongside carpenters, fabricating gutters and downspouts. Because the tinsmiths primarily produced and repaired tinware for the community kitchens in each village, however, the end of communal living and cooking heralded the end of the craft. Family kitchens required smaller wares, and modernism preferred store-bought utensils.
The two smiths that existed before the Change in 1932 closed their shops in 1932 and 1941. In the years since, much of the community tin ware has disappeared, but the traditional star-shaped wedding cake pans and animal-shaped cookie cutters have survived in large quantities in private homes.
These days, Bill Metz continues to fashion wedding cake pans, pails, cookie cutters, and lamps out of tin, items carried by the Amana Arts Guild. A huge personal collection of old Amana tinware and tools dominate his house. A featured traditional artist at the Smithsonian’s 1996 Festival of American Folklife, the Iowa Sesquicentennial’s Festival of Iowa Folklife, the 2002 tri-state Midwest Folklife Festival at the Folklore Village in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, Bill Metz’s fine craftsmanship has also been featured in exhibits at the Des Moines Art Center and the Brunier Gallery in Ames.
Contact Information: Amana Arts Guild, http://www.jeonet.com/ag/, 319.622.3678.