Thursday, June 7, 2012

Blacksmithing Demonstration at the Warwick Farmers' Market, Sunday, June 9, 9AM-2PM

At the end of April, 2012 the Warwick Historical Society had its first blacksmithing class behind Francis Baird's Tavern. The fact that blacksmithing hasn't occurred on this spot since the time of Francis Baird himself did not escape us. With the realization of this class we are motivated to continue this and other traditional arts programming to connect with new people in our community and to offer these types of hands-on learning experiences more frequently.

This Sunday there will be a free demonstration at the Farmers' Market in Warwick. The impetus for this is not only to call attention to specifically our blacksmithing programming but to offer living history experiences on a regular basis to our community. Other scenarios will be orchestrated in the weeks and months to come. The opportunity for a spectator to pick up a hammer and to pound hot metal for the first time has immeasurable power to not only inspire the individual particpating but those standing nearby; participation is our goal.

We hope to offer such experiences regularly at the Farmers' Market also contributing to the further development of the local market as not merely a place to shop but a place to learn about good food choices, local agriculture, and the area's rich heritage. When talking about traditional art programming like blacksmithing the discussion is often relegated to using tools from another age to recreate products anachronistic to our own time.

Strap hinges, J-Hooks, and S-Hooks made by a contemporary blacksmith are ubiquitous, as often there is a percieved necessity to do as was done. What isn't often considered is that living history programming is not realized to its fullest potential as a teaching tool or a skill in the repertoire of the creative individual/artist. The skills imparted by the traditional artist to a group of eager students of blacksmithing, loom weaving, woodworking, or a host of other scenarios appropriate to recreating life in the past should begin with the task of recreating material culture of the past and soon evolve into using these traditional art skills as a medium for contemporary creative expression.

In a recent discussion about the use of traditional blacksmithing as a medium for contemporary artistic expression with a working blacksmith we happened upon the idea of using our skills to create tools and objects representative of an mythological extraterrestial culture of our own design. The backstory would be that these "beings" visited Earth at some point in the distant past leaving behind, under the surface, "remains" to be recovered and studied. The created tools would be contributive to the creation of a mythopoetic world with instances of phenomena that was, or could have been. It is the tangible that has often proven what was or is.

Creating a fictional world and tangible evidence of it through a traditional art medium is a logical creative expression for working with a material that is among a few appearing in nature that can weather time exposed to the elements. Creating objects and then using them as props and in a faux archaeological dig of unexpected occurrence seems as good as it gets when applying the old artist skills to new artistic expression as well as the lessons of history to our lives in the present.

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