Yesterday, I attended Fitchburg’s annual Autumn Festival and Forge-in
at Riverfront Park
. I planned to stop by briefly to catch a glimpse of the blacksmiths at work, but I was quickly mesmerized by their skill and ended up spending most of the day and evening down at the park!
The Forge-In component of the festival featured instructive demonstrations by Peter Happny, a well-known master blacksmith from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, who has been commissioned for a wide variety of projects ranging from the primarily functional (such as fencing) to the purely artistic (such as a firefighter statue). A recent article
in the Portsmouth Herald chronicles some highlights of Happny’s career. I was blown away by Happny’s talent at the forge, but perhaps the more impressive aspect of the demonstration was his ability to keep a running dialogue with the crowd while never once pausing in his work. I have no idea how he didn't burn himself in the process.
The central focus of the day was a competition among more than a dozen blacksmiths. Each category of participants (novice, intermediate, and professional) was assigned a variety of items to make within a specific time limit. The photo above shows Carl West of Prospect Hill Forge
in Waltham creating an outdoor Suffolk thumb latch (an old-fashioned multi-piece door/gate latch). West won the day’s professional competition and indicated to me that he had really enjoyed the opportunity to showcase his craft and receive recognition for the work that he does. He was one of a number of blacksmiths present who are involved with teaching courses. I'd like to someday take a class with West - I can only hope that his talent is as contagious as his enthusiasm!
In the meantime, however, I plan to start by taking a full-day beginner class at the Classical Blacksmithing School of Boston, located in Concord at Hammersmith Studios
(don’t try to open the link in Firefox, as it for some reason causes the browser to crash - you’ll have to use IE instead). I’ll be taking the class because I was lucky enough to win it at the festival’s “chance auction.” Blacksmithing seems like an incredibly challenging craft, but I was inspired to give it a try after watching a number of Assabet Valley Vocational School students competing in the novice category…those teens were producing some amazing items!
Although the festival has
been limited to the Forge-In events in past years, organizers this year decided to add some additional activities. A pumpkin carving contest offered children and adults the opportunity to either bring pre-carved pumpkins down to the park or carve them on the spot. The lit pumpkins lining the riverside were a great way to end the evening. The day also featured food vendors, art and antique kiosks, and live music from a 60s cover band. Many thanks to the participants and organizers for a fabulous fall event!
Labels: Things to do