My Approach to Teaching

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I enjoy passing along the art and craft of blacksmithing through teaching and demonstrating.  I’ve worked with aspiring smiths of all ages, from absolute beginners to those seeking to broaden or deepen their skills.

Anyone with reasonable eye/hand coordination can learn to make useful and beautiful things through blacksmithing. For those who develop a passion for blacksmithing, it’s a thrill to help them start on the path, to follow them as they grow, and quite possibly to learn a new perspective informed by their journey. If I can enrich you as a student, I can enrich myself and other blacksmiths through your experience.

A family aphorism of mine is, ‘Anything worth doing is worth doing wrong.’ Strange sounding on the surface, but if you stop to think about it, no one starts out with mastery. If it’s worth trying to master, it’s worth the work it will take to reach mastery. I found my first blacksmithing book in 1988; The Modern Blacksmith, by Alex Weygers. I was hooked, right there in the bookstore. I knew right away, even though my work wasn’t very good yet, that metalworking was what I wanted to do.

One of my first blacksmithing mentors, Doug Hendrickson, told me before I ever set hammer to steel, “You’ll learn more in a week working with someone experienced than you will in a year dinking around with a hammer in one hand and a book in the other.” With 28 years of metalworking behind me, I can only agree.

Writer Ira Glass said it well when he wrote, “All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste…For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good…it has potential, but it’s not. A lot of people never get past this phase; they quit. And if you’re just starting out or are still in this phase, …the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.”  Having ‘good eyes’ on your work to identify aspects of your technique that need attention can somewhat shorten this learning curve.

For the beginning smith, the foundation to all your learning will be basic hammer control, and the basic processes of blacksmithing. All forged work stands on that foundation. If that foundation isn’t strong, neither will your work be.kole-springer-makes-a-frog-umrbc-03

For those with some mastery of foundation skills, we can explore avenues that challenge and expand that ability, encouraging you to branch out of your comfort zone to make work that is satisfying to you, and inspiring to others.

Chasing and repousse are techniques my past work has been focused on. I can teach some non-traditional ways to approach this work which can create stunning results.

My preference is to work with individuals or with small groups, so students receive focused attention.  I’ve taught large groups; it’s stressful for me, and students don’t learn as much.  I prefer to keep groups small so I have quality time with each student. Besides, there’s not enough room in my shop for a large group to work without bumping into each other.

Click here for information on upcoming classes.  Or CONTACT ME to discuss a private or group learning opportunity.