Public Blacksmithing

Most people recognize an anvil when they see it, and some may even know what it is used for. Few, however (especially twenty- and thirty-somethings) have ever used one. In the past, the town smith was an important figure in bourgeoning America because forged items were needed for existence. Now, however, that need has been replaced with nostalgia, but blacksmithing still has an important role in learning and personal development. 2011, artist/steel fabricator/blacksmith Dan Mackessy worked with faculty in the Miami University Sculpture Area to provide opportunities for the public to embrace this learning by hosting a two-day, public skill-sharing, blacksmithing workshop.

The Miami Sculpture area unleashed its smithy upon the fountain area adjacent to Shriver Hall Student Center. There were four anvils, three forges, multiple stumps and vises, and work tables. Over two days, anyone who wanted to take a crack at blacksmithing had the opportunity as long as they would sign a waiver, wear safety glasses, and had the right kind of shoes. Over 100 participants hammered, drew tapers, balled ends, bent volutes, and twisted stock. Dan Mackessy, Sean Yates, and I helped participants (almost all of whom had never worked hot steel over an anvil) understand heat, plastic deformation, and how the body can learn through an ancient art.

Dan Mackessy demonstrating bending techniques

Day one of the Workshop

Dan Mackessy demonstrating how to twist square stock

Alex Svarda with a tapered, twisted, hoop ended skewer (we think!)