Continuing along the education theme on the show this year I have a unique interview for you. I’m interviewing two people at once and they are involved with the Eureka Springs School of the Arts in Arkansas. The Eureka Springs School of Art in Eureka Springs, Arkansas offers classes and workshops for all of the arts but is now building a bigger focus on metal arts with a new Iron Studio. Peggy Kjelgaard is the Executive Director of the school and Bob Patrick a nationally known blacksmith with professional experience since 1967. He has taught and demonstrated at regional and national conferences all over North America and is currently teaching at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. Since he’s been in the blacksmithing craft since the late 60’s he’s got some great stories about the early days of ABANA, Francis Whitaker, George Dixon (who was once the head blacksmith at Yellin’s shop).
- When asked about book recommendations, Bob offered the following:
- ESSA recently hosted a smelting event for the Blacksmiths of Arkansas organization and they used local iron ore. The 3-day event included building an outdoor furnace and then doing the smelting.
- Bob says most of the classes at ESSA are beginner level, with a few intermediate. He’s also taught a gate building workshop.
- Patty says that there’s a definite movement building in the Ozarks toward blacksmithing and even young people are showing interest. They recently worked with a local school providing art classes for kids for a week. With the new studio, they were able to offer an iron studio class with 1:1 supervision. She describes it as “amazing”. “I think there’s a young group coming up that really wants to understand this craft. They’re in their backyards with charcoal grills making metal hot and pounding it on a rock,” Peggy says.
- About blacksmithing as an art, Bob says, “Many times I feel I’m luckier than my customers because a lot of the things I’ll make on a piece look better when they are red hot than they do when they are installed and cleaned up and painted. We get to see it when it’s growing and alive.”
- About winning the Bealer Award in 2002, Bob says, “A tremendous number of people who deserve this award will never get it. There’s no fairness to that. The award is a tremendous honor, but the best thing is getting to do the metalwork.”
- Bob Patrick designed the coal forges for the studio from scratch. He’s been blacksmithing since the late 1960s and is largely self-taught. His background is in horseshoeing, sleigh building and restoration. He also founded an ABANA chapter and has participated in four of their conferences.
- The new Iron Studio houses four propane forges, two coal forges inside, one outside and stations for metal fabrication. Those stations include three welders, plasma cutters, a large air hammer and treadle hammer and more items being added each year.
- Originally the school’s blacksmithing program was held outdoors and at satellite locations with classes taught by Bob Patrick. Because of high demand for blacksmithing, the school sought grant funding for a new studio. The studio opened its doors in 2014.
- Peggy says the Eureka Springs School of Art (ESSA) opened in 2001 and was originally called the School Without Walls because they didnât have their own facility. Over time, however, they grew into a 40-acre campus that attracts students from all over the country. She says that 60% of their students come from out of state.
- Bob Patrick recommended these books for enhancing your skills:
- The Backyard Blacksmith by Lorelei Sims, because everything is within a beginner’s grasp;
- The Smithy’s Craft and Tools by Otto Schmirler, because he shows all the basic techniques and the drawings are magnificent.
- ESSA is offering several 5-day workshops this summer including:
Beginning Metal Sculpture
Basics of Knife Making
Fire Tools for the Coal Forge and Fireplace
Forging Edged Tools
- Peggy says that while ESSA offers all of the arts and every medium, “Iron is our newest and hottest because we’ve got that brand new studio out there. Everybody’s fired up.”
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EurekaSpringsSchoolOfTheArts/photos
- Eureka Springs School of Art â www.essa-art.org
- YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/EurekaSpringsArts