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Pursuing a Passion: Blacksmith Roy Adams Receives an Ohio Arts Council Heritage Fellowship Award for Material Culture

Pursuing a Passion: Blacksmith Roy Adams Receives an Ohio Arts Council Heritage Fellowship Award for Material Culture

It took a trip to the metro park for Roy Adams to find his passion.

“I was maybe 5 or 6 years old, and I went to Carriage Hill Metro Park with my grandma,” said Adams, an Ohio artist and owner of Christ Centered Ironworks. “There was a historical blacksmith doing a reenactment, and I was that annoying kid who stood there and asked questions for, like, four and a half hours while my grandparents walked around.” 

Adams immediately wanted a coal forge of his own.

 

“I wanted to start right then,” he said. “But parents don’t want their kids, especially 5-year-old boys, playing with fire.”

It took several decades of waiting, but Adams finally got his wish. About nine years ago, a couple of surprise purchases by his wife, Jessica, rekindled his fascination with forging.

“I came home to find that she had bought me a coal forge at a garage sale,” Adams said. “That started my forging addiction.”

With a growing collection of tools and an insatiable desire to learn more about the craft, Adams said he began experimenting with anything he could find.

“The very first thing I forged was a coat hanger. I bent the wire into a heart and flattened it out and gave that to Jessica for her putting up with me,” he said. “I would stick the hanger into the stove and I was blacksmithing right in the center of our living room. I left a few scorch marks on the linoleum and on a couple of other things … We decided real quick that I needed to move it outside."

Adams now forges in his workshop, which he said can get up to a toasty 130 degrees in the summer while still becoming a bit chilly in the winter. There, he works on developing his craft and experimenting with techniques and designs, including hand-forged furniture and other special commissioned projects.

“‘There’s nothing new under the sun.’ That’s a statement that gets stated quite a bit in the traditional blacksmithing sense,” Adams said, explaining that there are only seven basic techniques and five basic hammer blows. “That’s the whole craft, and everything that

I have made has only encompassed those five different hammer blows, seven different techniques, or a combination of those.”

From bouquets of metal flowers to an intricate copper baptismal basin, Adams’ portfolio of work is diverse. Before opening New Lebanon-based Christ Centered Ironworks in 2012, Adams studied at the John C. Campbell Folk School and Touchstone Center for Crafts. He further refined his skills under several master smiths, including Peter Ross and Thomas Latane.

Adams was recently presented with an Ohio Arts Council Heritage Fellowship Award for Material Culture at Southern Ohio Forge and Anvil’s (SOFA) QuadState Roundup event.

Adams’ dedication to blacksmithing is a quality that stands out to his peers, said Mike Brennan, workshop coordinator for SOFA.

“He is always striving to increase his knowledge along with his skills, and his passion is reflected in the quality of his work,” Brennan said. “When you hold any object, especially like one of Roy’s, that someone put a lot more into besides just physical labor, it’s a reflection of their commitment to a deeper value, quality, and artistic sense.”

Wayne Apgar, a blacksmith from Durham, Pennsylvania, said he immediately recognized Adams’ passion and genuine interest in the history of forging when Adams enrolled in his organic blacksmithing class at Touchstone Center for Crafts. 

“I’ve been teaching for almost nine years now, and students like Roy are very few and far between,” Apgar said. “He told me that he wanted to learn and he wanted to do this as a craft for himself and his family and he just enjoyed it that much. There are few that have the love for it and the passion. It is not an easy, clean job to begin with. So, if you don’t mind getting burnt and getting dirty and being in the smoke … You have to really love it to excel at it.” 

Adams said this is a message he tries to share by telling his story.

“Anytime I have a chance to tell people this, I do: You can never fail at what you’re passionate about,” he said. “You may not make a whole lot of money, people may not see your vision or your dream about it, but you can never fail at it.”

It’s a life lesson Adams is hoping to instill in his three children, Abigail, 7, Annabel, 5, and Ivan, 3. Like any parent, Adams said he is excited to see where his kids’ interests lead them, but he added that he wouldn’t be surprised if his youngest eventually found his passion in front of the forge. 

“My son, Ivan, he already likes to come into my shop. He has a little plastic carpentry hammer that they sell in kids’ 

toolsets, and he goes around the yard whacking on things with that,” Adams said. “I asked him one day … I said, ‘Son, are you going to come work for daddy when you get older?’ And he said, ‘No … I work for myself!’ And I’m like, ‘Atta boy.’”

For more information about Adams and Christ Centered Ironworks, visit christcenteredironworks.com.

To learn more about the Ohio Heritage Fellowship program, visit oac.ohio.gov/heritagefellowships.

 

ABOUT THE OHIO ARTS COUNCIL
The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at oac.ohio.gov.

 Photo credit: Photos courtesy of Roy and Jessica Adams

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