Blacksmithing is a trade which has historically been used to create tools and everyday necessities for a home. Today, Ryan Schmidt is using his trade to create large iron figures which give lawns an interesting, artistic twist.
Schmidt can be found hammering away in his shop in Cumberland Gap, creating new pieces including mailboxes, wine bottle holders, trellises, bottle openers, arbors and sculptures.
Pieces of iron are heated to a specific temperature using bellows, coal and fire. They are hammered or beaten on an anvil to the desired shape and length. They are then cooled and can then be painted.
“I make bonsai trees that are pretty fun. I’m working on a bigger one now for a show and it’s the biggest one I’ve done so far. It’s going to be pretty cool when it’s done,” said Schmidt.
Schmidt got his start when he moved to the area. He is a former machinist and could not find work, so he took to artistic blacksmithing and is now working full-time doing what he loves.
“I had always wanted to learn blacksmithing, but I was always in the mechanics side of things. I hurt my back and got into machining. We moved here and I picked this up and, even though it’s physical and demanding, it’s kind of become my passion,” said Schmidt.
In a few weeks, Schmidt will be opening a shop on Brooklyn Street in Cumberland Gap. There, he plans to have artwork for sale and give classes to those who wish to pick up a new hobby.
Recently, he has started working with a French variation on blacksmithing called “chasene de represet.” Using this technique, Schmidt has created a mountain laurel sculpture which was featured during the 2016 Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival.
“I got (a flower) off that tree and kind of dissected it and made what I saw out of metal. It ended up being probably one of my favorite things I’ve made,” said Schmidt.
Schmidt is also selling his artwork at The Palace in downtown Middlesboro.
Reach Kelsey Gerhardt at 606-302-9093 or on Twitter @kgerhardtmbdn.