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Fuel your fire

Celebrating its ten-year anniversary, the Rochester Arc + Flame Center is the only facility in upstate New York to offer it all—try your hand at welding, blacksmithing, and glass working through interactive workshops or training programs. Executive director and founder of Arc + Flame, Michael Krupnicki, has been involved in the business for more than twenty years and has worked diligently to evolve and expand the center to cater to different interests.

Krupnicki was originally the owner and president of Mahany Welding Supply, and, in 2001, he wanted to shift the business from solely distribution to offering workshops as well.

“We started with one-day Saturday work- shops that I modeled loosely after Home Depot seminars, and then we developed classes that were more like old-fashioned, high school continuing ed. I partnered with Rochester Institute of Technology, of which I’m an alum, to do classes for their sculpture department, industrial design department, and for the mechanical engineering technology department,” Krupnicki says.

In 2009, Krupnicki partnered with Monroe Community College and developed a certificate program in welding and fabrication to get people job-ready for Rochester employers. The program took off, and Krupnicki decided it was time to expand.

“I decided to add blacksmithing and blade smithing, which use forges, and the different glass arts, which use fire and heat, and make something that was going to be even more accessible and more desired by the public because it was going to go beyond just weld- ing. I built a brand-new addition on the building, and we opened up the Arc in January of 2012,” Krupnicki says.

The DNA of Arc + Flame is still in welding, which attracts the most people. Saturday classes and workshops, as well as evening classes and vocational college programs, are still available just as they were twenty years ago. Over the past ten years, the center has had around 800 graduates from its MCC program, which has tremendously benefited local employers. As for the other departments, blacksmithing continues to grow the most.

“We bring in nationally renowned smithing masters for week- long or two-week-long intensives for people who really want to elevate their skills and blacksmithing techniques or methodology of smithing,” Krupnicki says.

Arc + Flame offers a variety of classes ranging from three-hour samplers to daylong programs to date nights. These classes are available for each department, but one of the most popular date night options is making metal roses.

“We have some blanks precut, and you put the metal in the forge and heat it up and use hammers and tools to shape it. Both partners end up leaving with a rose that night. Another project we do is a wine bottle stopper that’s rose oriented as well. We also do pizza cutters and trivets, and we have different options for people if they’d like to come a second time,” Krupnicki says.

Jewelry is an offshoot of blacksmithing and has been growing in interest as well. Individuals can make projects such as cop- per bracelets and even wedding rings. Arc + Flame also offers different-level classes so visitors can advance when they come back.

As far as glass working goes, the center offers flameworking—which involves sitting down at a table and using torches—as well as fusing, an art perfect for any age.

“The two styles for flameworking are soft glass, which is glass for bead-making jewelry, and then there’s what we call borro, short for borosilicate glass. That’s where you can learn how to make more advanced jewelry or sculptural glass projects. We also do fusing, which allows us to bring students in as young as six because there’s no fire involved. We make a variety of things in those classes such as bowls, dishes, and Christmas ornaments, and we even have kids come in for birthday parties or with Scouts,” Krupnicki says.

With about 15,000 customers over the past ten years, the dedicated team at Arc + Flame offers something for everyone. Detailed information about available classes can be found on the website at rocafc. com, or feel free to visit the center in per- son at 125 FedEx Way in Rochester.


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