Barbarian Enterprises

I became acquainted with Cat Bates when he moved into my old house in Philadelphia from Maine. He came to the city in order to set up his metalworking studio in our house and spend a few jobless months creating some new work.

Under the name “Barbarian Enterprises”, Cat creates handmade items of metal, bone, leather, and other materials that evoke the primitive craftsmanship of ancient ornaments, but also display a sophisticated technical acumen and attention to detail.

Cat’s work displays a strong connection to his father, who first used the Barbarian Enterprises name  for his goat farming business.

One piece that shows this connection is the necklace pictured above, which utilizes the horn and leather taken from a goat slaughtered by his father on their family goat farm. “I feel my aesthetics came from my father… he’s definitely my biggest inspiration,” says Cat. “We had lots of bones around when I was a kid, knives and stuff like that, and big boxes of leather.” Animal materials figure heavily in much of his work, including a number of pieces that replicate the form of bones in other materials.

Bone Collage, 2009

This is a bracelet constructed of plaster casts of real bones whose original form was manipulated in an interesting way. From the Barbarian Enterprises site:

This piece began as a collection of five bones. A soft mold was made of each bone. These molds were used to produce wax replicas of each bone. The waxes were then manipulated and combined to create master models of the two bones in the final piece. Molds were made of these models, and then the final pieces were poured in a high-strength plaster. Working in wax allowed us to maintain the appearance of real bone.

Poise, 2009

I enjoy the way that this bracelet blends smooth, streamlined curves with the ends modeled after bones.

Another interesting use of bone  is this copper tea set, which features bone and teeth.

Tea Set, 2006

Cat also produces commissioned work of all kinds. We recently arranged a work trade in which I fixed his bicycle in exchange for a brass belt buckle. I’m really happy with the result. It’s very unique and understated, and sure to last a lifetime.

Check out the Barbarian Enterprises website for more examples of Cat Bates’ work. He’s got some very interesting things happening in the studio right now. If you’re in the Philadelphia area, I highly recommend arranging to see some of his creations in person.

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