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Southern Ohio Forge and Anvil

#TraditionsTuesday: Southern Ohio Forge and Anvil

Southern Ohio Forge and Anvil Quadstate FestivalIf you’re feeling the chill from the winter weather, warm up by the forge! This #TraditionsTuesday, we’re getting to know Southern Ohio Forge & Anvil (SOFA) and exploring the blacksmithing and metalwork community in our state. Entirely run by volunteers, SOFA was founded in 1977 with the goal of “preserving and promoting the art of blacksmithing,” which they do through a series of classes, workshops, demonstrations, and more.

One of the first things a visitor to the SOFA website will notice is their catchphrase: “Creative and Friendly.” This ties into both their historical and present-day approach to artmaking. With the rise of rapid production methods in the early 1900s, blacksmiths began to guard their skills and keep many trade secrets, refusing to take on apprentices as willingly as before. Today, the blacksmithing community has a decidedly “open source” mentality, and SOFA members share how-to videos, instructions, and patterns in an effort to spark creativity, build community, and preserve their knowledge. Each year, the group hosts Quadstate, a metalworking festival which attracts demonstrators and visitors from around the world. Attendees can see artists complete forge work (heating and shaping metal at the anvil) or foundry work (pouring melted metal into molds). SOFA even counts jewelry makers, who specialize in working with fine metals, among their members. 

For SOFA President Brian Thompson, creativity is a big part of the reason to preserve blacksmithing and metalworking in a time of 3D printers and laser cutters. “Hand-working metal provides a sense of gratification and spawns creativity,” he says.

“Blacksmithing used to be known as the King of Crafts,” says Michael Evanso, a blacksmith from Xenia, who serves as SOFA’s secretary/treasurer. This is because, unlike most crafts, blacksmiths often use their skills to make their own tools – particularly the hammer and tongs which are essential to their kit.  Today, most “backyard blacksmiths” buy many of their tools and start out with a bit of railroad rail for a small anvil.

Those who are curious about metalworking but aren’t ready to invest can visit the SOFA website at sofablacksmiths.org to learn about classes offered, view their library of resources, and more.

And finally, don’t let the fire scare you! The SOFA blacksmithing community works hard to earn their “creative and friendly” motto!

Take up the #TraditionTuesday:

EXPAND: SOFA President Brian Thompson suggests YouTube as a great place to view blacksmithing tutorials and learn more about the craft.    

EXPERIENCE: Quadstate 2022 is slated to be at the Miami County Fairgrounds, Sept. 24-25, 2022. Visit SOFA’s website for updates and details: sofablacksmiths.org.

EXPLORE: Find a blacksmithing club near you and see what they have to offer. The Artist-Blacksmith's Association of North America, or ABANA, has a listing of many clubs throughout the country, including four in Ohio! Visit abana.org to learn more.
 

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.

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Article by Amy Ruggaber, Ohio Arts Council Folk and Traditional Arts Contractor
Photos courtesy of Southern Ohio Forge and Anvil



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