Things were never the same for the blacksmith trade once the age of the horse came to an end.
But there was a time when every town and village had a blacksmith. These craftsmen took pride in making things that lasted a lifetime.
It was a different world to today – the age of built-in obsolescence.
But is the ancient art of blacksmithing making a comeback? Maybe.
A “blacksmith repair day” will be held on Saturday at Branxton.
The blacksmiths themselves aren’t getting repaired. Instead, a bunch of blacksmiths (yep, they still exist) will repair people’s stuff.
It’ll be hosted by Hunter blacksmith, artist and sculptor Will Maguire with the support of University of Newcastle’s Centre for 21st Century Humanities.
For a small donation, people can bring a range of stuff for repair. This means steel and metal items like hand tools, saucepan handles, farming equipment and decorative objects like candle holders and plate racks.
It all seems like a blast from the past in a plastic-fantastic age.
But Will says he’s trying to make blacksmithing relevant to today’s world.
“In my mind, I’m not moving towards the old way of working. I’m moving away from the idea of ‘ye olde blacksmith’ and the way it was known in romantic minds.”
He personally uses blacksmithing as a sculptural medium, but says the repair day is about reducing waste.
“There’s so much waste and so much of it is nonsensical and not necessary,” he said.
“We can combat some of the excesses of consumer culture by reducing waste and breathing life back into items of worth.
“I’m also keen to build a sense of community by helping out our neighbours.”
Volunteer blacksmiths will accept jobs as they arrive. Punters can drop off their repairs and, if they like, grab a bite from the Slow Food Hunter Valley movement, while they wait for their item to be fixed.
Centre for 21st Century Humanities director, Professor Hugh Craig, said blacksmithing was “an ancient art that is worth preserving” along with the culture of salvaging old items.
The event will be held from 9am to 4pm on Saturday at Will’s workshop at Branxton. More details at willblacksmith.com.au.
School of Hard Knocks
Has Nick Mitzevich been cloned? Alas, no. This photo was staff’s way of saying goodbye to Nick, when he left his role as Art Gallery of South Australia director.
His new job is director of the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. Nick, a former Newcastle Region Art Gallery director, grew up on a farm in the Hunter Valley.
He had a bit to say about his youth in a feature article in the SMH’s Good Weekend.
“School wasn’t easy. Growing up with a foreign-sounding surname at Kurri Kurri High, being creative and being gay, I had three strikes against me,” he said.
We sympathise Nick, but look at you now!