Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local News

July 10, 2010

Hammer time

Blacksmith demonstrates craft at Boyhood Farm

PLAINS — The Jimmy Carter National Historic Site invited the public to its first “Hammer-In” Day Saturday at the Jimmy Carter Boyhood Farm. Trenton Tye, a local blacksmith, demonstrated his craftsmanship for several visitors throughout the morning and afternoon beneath a canopy of pecan trees. Between presentations Tye shared his story of his foray into blacksmithing.

A native of Calhoun County, Tye devotes his love for the craft and the skills he has honed over the past 15 years to the late Jay Reakirt of Andersonville. Tye recalls bearing witness to Reakirt’s artistry at age 7 at the Andersonville Historic Fair. “Jay reaches into the fire and pulls out a piece of white-hot steel and said ‘Superman, eat your heart out,’ and he bent that hot piece of steel. We were amazed.”

When Tye came to Georgia Southwestern State University in 1996, he began apprenticing under Reakirt. “He couldn’t get rid of me,” Tye said. Tye says that he was preoccupied with blacksmithing and was more focused on doing what he loved to do as his enchantment with metal works grew. Tye says that Reakirt’s death in 2003 was a big blow to him. The two were in business together by then, traveling, doing shows and trying to turn their craft into a legitimate business. Since then, Tye has stuck with his chosen trade as a blacksmith and has become enraptured in the history of the ancient craft. “If you are going to be a blacksmith, you have to become a preservationist,” Tye said.

By coupling the trade of blacksmithing with the more recent technology of the Internet and digital video, Tye has become a dedicated preservationist. He began making and editing instructional videos and linking them to his personal website: www. purgatoryironworks.com. Tye already knew the power of video as he and Reakirt filmed two seasons worth of shows called “The Andersonville Smithy” that aired on Channel 55 out of Cordele. Now with the aid of the Internet, Tye has over 24 hours of video instruction available to anyone one with Internet access. He has students as far away as Tazmania and Norway and holds online forums with the members via Skype. “It’s a hell of a dichotomy. I have a foot in each world — using the newest technology to save the old.” He contends that it is the only video blacksmith web site in existence.

Tye encapsulates his love for metal works by saying that it is part of our heritage, but he contends that it does not have a thing to do with horseshoes. The necessity of the blacksmith is at the heart of Tye’s obsession with the craft. “If you were going off to start a colony, you would have to put a blacksmith on the boat,” he said.

Fashioning tools that were necessary to other crafts and such as cooking, sewing and building. “Blacksmiths did their job too well,” Tye said. “They made machines that eventually put them out of business.” But he contends that the blacksmith’s job is one that must live on and he is invested in making sure that it does just that.

 After 10 years of doing demonstrations he has become good at what he does, and quite well at conveying his message. He has been as far west as Louisiana and as far north as Virginia doing shows and worked for a short time in Stone Mountain and North Carolina.

Recently Tye was invited to what can only be considered the big leagues for a craftsperson. He will be going to the L.A. County Fair in September to put on his show for his largest audience to date. The 800-acre site has 1.3 million visitors throughout its month-long duration.

“Jay would have never imagined this.” Tye says that his dedication and hard work have finally paid off. He said that all during college he felt like he needed to be doing what he loved to do. “I’ve succeeded because I have failed so many times,” Tye said.

“I picked this up from Jay and I’ve found my own niche. The torch has been passed. Now it’s my turn.”

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