History is full of things that have faded away as time has moved forward. It’s a little sad to see many of those things go. People don’t write like Tolkien anymore, nor are there as many stained glass artisans that put together the sumptuous pieces that grace cathedrals.
The same is true of blacksmiths, hammering crude metal into useful shape. One young lady named Catherine Shook had her interest piqued as a child, and now she’s a trained blacksmith at age 21.
You might not be interested in the chemical composition of tungsten, nor how it’s combined with steel to make it harder, but this girl is. When she was 17 she took a blacksmithing class and fell in love all things metal as soon as her hammer struck anvil.
The interest, however, had been growing in her mind long before then. As a girl, she received an unconventional gift from her father: a little pocketknife.
Most young people who get a gift like that end up losing it, as well as the next several (we’re guilty, too), but not Catherine. Instead, she thought it was neat and that she wanted to learn how to make them.
In the dwindling world of blacksmithing, we’re still swift to picture our preconceptions: a male-dominated industry populated by gruff sweaty men violently hammering metal into form; you wouldn’t be wrong in picturing this, too. Catherine is excited about the prospect of being a minority in the industry as a young woman, encouraging other women to join her.
At 21 years old, she’s facing a fair bit of skepticism from adults who’ve long since had their own creativity stifled. She’s fielding questions left-and-right about the modern legitimacy of the blacksmithing trade and whether or not it’ll make a “proper” career (whatever that means).
A creative talent can make a means of any art form, dying or not. The point is having a passion, and she holds a passion for blacksmithing that is exceptionally rare for a young woman. Her mission is to keep at it, building the craft and her love for it along the way.
If she can share that with others, she’s doing what she thinks is right. When facing the criticism and skepticism of others, she answers their doubts saying, “It can be a dying art if we let it. But, nothing should die.” With an attitude like that, we’re sure it won’t. Get out there and learn something different, it might change your perspective on creativity and unearth a passion you had no idea was waiting to be discovered.
In my high school years, my now husband and I spend a few years apprenticing with his uncle who is a blacksmith. The art is truly amazing and the ring of the steal can be some amazing therapy. If you are interested in the craft check out The DIY Blacksmithing Book to learn how to get started at home.
Smith on, craftswoman. Drown out the doubters with the merry clang of hammer and anvil.
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