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An open shop, spoons, and transformative forging

SIBs governance committee member Rachel David shares about her casual forging events for folks who are and have historically been underrepresented in blacksmithing.

By Rachel David

In the winter of 2018 Sachi Nasatir was visiting New Orleans. They were slogging through school in Austin and we met up for a drink. We were talking about making stuff, visions, the overwhelming possibilities of the future in a world on fire. Both of us had always wanted to have/ host/ organize a free event for people like us; people we don’t see often representing blacksmithing or even practicing the craft. People who are queer, AFAB, trans, Black, Brown, Asian, Indigenous, differently abled and all other historically marginalized and overlooked identities are consistently implicitly excluded from blacksmithing events and written out of their important place in craft history. We talked about SIBs and we talked about working together, doing something. Instead of doing anything momentous, important, or extravagant we wanted to do something fun and easy. We decided to see if any friends or friends of friends wanted to come to my shop and learn how to make a spoon. The spoon has several important basic skills and also leaves room for personal decisions and sculptural considerations. Spooning is cute too. So we did. The first event was an invite only and we learned a bunch of stuff and each subsequent shindig got easier and easier.

In walked COVID 19 and clearly we stopped. It was sad for me and Sachi alike.

Then I moved and following a virtual talk I did, Allie Larkin reached out to ask if I was going to be doing another event in my new spot because they would like to participate. I said something like, “well, more than participate, do you want to collaborate to make these things happen?” I have the space and tools and help promote sign ups, and Allie now takes care of communicating and organizing. They have developed some forms so people understand some safety stuff, to bring snacks, and that it's a casual event. The event is free, Allie helps organize some carpooling to help if someone has transportation hang ups, if a participant wants to they can donate but it's up to them, though I do appreciate their generosity.

Now, we try to do the events monthly though it's too cold in my shop in the winter and sometimes it's hard to coordinate schedules but Allie and I both try to have a Friday afternoon open for the event. We like to do them on Fridays at 5:30 and they typically run till 9:30. It is really fun for me even when I’m totally overwhelmed with work or obligations, it is a break from the hustle and I get to meet wonderful new people sharing skills and fun. I give a very short and fast demonstration and let people at it, to feel what it feels to move metal with a hammer. It is transformative for some participants, and each time it is transformative for me.

These events are an easy way to create a space to give people a taste of smithing. They aren’t a class, there’s no follow through, and there’s no pressure or expectations, they are outside of any organization or specific precedent though of course, they follow a long history. For me, to share a space, outside of the “male gaze” outside of capital B Blacksmithing, is what I wanted when I started and I’m thrilled I can help someone avoid a few of the experiences I had when I was first starting. Overall, these events are casual, hard to call them a class, though there is teaching involved. They are a space to share skills and enjoy each other with dirty hands and snacks.

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New York Times reporter Amelia Nierenberg interviewed Governance Committee members Elizabeth Belz and Joy Fire for an article about blacksmithing that came out last year. Here is a free link if you di


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