The blacksmith is one of the oldest professions known to man. When ancient man discovered how the shape and use metals, the nature of civilization was changed forever. And the person at the center of this change was the blacksmith. In America, the blacksmith is an integral part of our history. From the beginnings of the exploration and settlement of the continent, the blacksmith had to be around to create or repair the metal equipment, from the simple horse shoe to the plough, without which no exploration or colonization would have been possible.
But blacksmiths are not just metal workers. From their beginnings they did not just create functional items. They embellished them with increasingly intricate shapes and other forms of decoration and created blacksmith metal art. Archaeological sites all over the world have found metalwork with intricate inlay work or which have be forged into complex shapes that were not necessary for their function but added to their aesthetic appeal.
The blacksmith, as an essential manufacturer of industrial goods prospered until the time of the Civil War. After that, the advent of the railroad and the coming of large factories that produced iron work in bulk started pushing him into the background. With the advent of the automobile and then mechanized farming in the early part of the 20th century, there was little need for his services. By the end of World War I, the blacksmith, as a producer of goods, was extinct.
But the blacksmith as an artist has survived. The economic boom that lasted until the great depression of 1929 saw massive amounts of construction all over the country, both in the form of public and private buildings. In consonance with the taste of the times, there was a huge demand for intricate metal window grills, elaborate forged staircase railings and balustrades, wrought iron fences and railing and, of course, impressive metal gates. Unique and commissioned designs could only be created by hand, and so the blacksmith became a metal artist.
The boom did not last long and the depression and World War II almost sounded the death knell to blacksmith metal art. The post war years were all about modernism and sleek designs using new alloys with an industrial finish. However, in the last 25 years the blacksmith has once again emerged as an artist. A growing appreciation of the beauty of handcrafted iron and steel work has created a boom in blacksmith metal art.
Blacksmith metal art is unique in that since it is made by hand, no two pieces, even if they are of the same deign, are identical. Besides a large variety of ready made artwork available in furnishing shops and on the internet, there are today a large number of blacksmith who combine the skill of their trade with modern technology and materials to produce unique commissioned works of art.
Blacksmith metal art ranges from the smallest and most delicate of decorative pieces to wall hangings to wrought iron furniture with elaborate designs. And of course, the old stock blacksmith art in the form of railings, gates railings and grills continue to be popular.