Take your blacksmithing abilities to the next level in a month of forging with master smiths. Spend two weeks honing your skills as you craft traditional Appalachian tools. Build on rekindled knowledge and new practices to create a project that reflects your individual ability and style. Finish with a week spent making a piece that showcases technique and serves a practical purpose. Apprentices should have foundational blacksmithing skills and physical stamina for lifting and long periods of standing.
This session is part of our Traditional Craft Mentorship Program, a grant-funded opportunity for early to mid-career artists to spend a month at the Folk School this fall, learning from master artisans. To learn more, visit our About page. To apply for a spot in our Session 2 Blacksmithing mentorship, visit our Slideroom application.
Weeks 1 and 2: October 25 – November 7
Traditional Ironwork and Tools of Appalachia
Experience the flames of a coal-fired forge and learn to confidently craft handmade ironwork and tools based on traditional Appalachian life. Start with a review of blacksmithing tools, selection and use of metals, and fundamentals of forging techniques. From there, work on a series of projects including a hammer (and the tools used to craft a hammer), cooking utensils, fireplace tools, hook, trivets, and farm and mining equipment. Special projects can be discussed with instructor in advance.
Week 3: November 8 – 14
Incorporating Tradition – Old Processes/New Projects
Turn the skills from your first two weeks into a formal project: a small grill or similar piece. Discuss how to develop a design that meets personal esthetic goals, ability level, function, and time/expense constraints. Explore planning drawings, working layout, and adding decorative elements with cultural relevance to the Appalachian region. Learn more about the community role of smiths in pre-industrial rural areas. Additional techniques will be presented as needed, and independent research will be encouraged.
Week 4: November 15 – 21
Forge an Axe or Tomahawk
In your final week of blacksmithing, make a tool you can put to immediate use for chopping wood. Learn how to forge an axe, tomahawk, or hatchet using traditional techniques. Working under the guidance of a smith who specializes in reproduction and early restoration, explore several methods to create a fine, functional tool.
Jim Kennady has been forging metal for over 20 years, specializing in making decorative metalwork for the home and garden. He fell in love with the Folk School as a blacksmith student over 15 years ago. Jim has studied with Jimmy Alexander, Doug Merkel, Paul Garrett, Peter Ross, and Robert Trout. Jim enjoys sharing his knowledge and passion for the craft.
Susan Hutchinson began her art career as a core student at Penland School of Crafts and has studied at the Folk School and at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. She is a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild and has been a blacksmith in Weaverville, North Carolina, for many years.
John Scroggin has been blacksmithing for over 15 years. He specializes in reproduction and early restoration, as well as functional art. His shop is based out of Roswell, Georgia, but John does a lot of traveling around the country to blacksmithing conferences and living-history events.
During these mentorships, our instructors will also be presenting a series of Virtual Demonstrations. These programs are open to the public and will cost $10 to attend via Zoom. Lean more: Traditional Craft Mentorships: Virtual Demonstrations.
All Photos Courtesy of the Artists, or from the Folk School Archives.
The Folk School transforms lives, bringing people together in a nurturing environment for experiences in learning and community life that spark self-discovery. Located in scenic Brasstown, North Carolina, the Folk School offers year-round weeklong and weekend classes for adults in craft, art, music, dance, cooking, gardening, nature studies, photography and writing.