Featured Artist of the Month: Paul Garrett, Resident Blacksmith Artist

 

Featured Artist of the Month: Paul Garrett, Resident Blacksmith Artist 

TE: As we welcome students back to campus this week, we’d like to share an interview by Cory Marie Podielski originally published on the Folk School Blog highlighting the work of our Blacksmithing Resident Artist, Paul Garrett. Paul’s optimism and determination to “stand tall and keep our chins up until we can all meet again” is a testament to the Folk School’s resiliency and commitment to stewarding the traditions and spirit of the Folk School through difficult times and into the future. Enjoy!

 

Our Craft Shop is currently featuring his collection of hand-forged culinary tools, so I thought I would check-in with Paul to find out more about his work and also how he’s doing during the current pandemic. Paul is a full-time artist-blacksmith who has been working with metal since 1978. He is owner/operator of Ironwood Forge and Smoky Mountain Ironware and has experience in projects ranging from architectural to functional to artistic. Enjoy our conversation!

Paul at the Instructor’s Forge in the Clay Spencer Blacksmith Shop

 

CP: Are you able to work in your shop on campus right now?

PG: I am able to work in the shop, it’s pretty isolated there and not many folks are on campus. It feels good to swing a hammer and I am catching up on things.

 

CP: What are you making in your shop these days?

PG: I’ve been working on some custom fire place door sets and screens. I’ve also been doing repair work and new product development.

 

CP: Your collection of culinary tools includes a bottle opener, a cheese knife, and herb knife, and skewers. How did you come up with the idea for the collection?

PG: Most of my ideas come from people. Customers always have good suggestions.

Every blacksmith has their version of the bottle opener. I developed my own shape over the years and the form was definitely inspired by Matt Jenkins. The cheese knife came to me in a moment of creativity when sketching. The herb cutter is an old design. I developed it for my collection when the folks at the Craft Shop requested it. People appreciate high quality handmade ironware.

 

Herb Cutter by Paul Garrett. Photo Courtesy of Smoky Mountain Ironware.

 

CP: Is there one tool that is most popular?

PG: Probably the cheese knife. It’s an original shape, but based off an old design.

 

CP: What is your favorite cheese?

PG: Smoked gouda!

 

CP: Do folks need to do anything in particular to care for the ironware pieces in the kitchen?

PG: It’s easy to take care of. You treat it like cast iron, but a little soap is also fine. If you see a rust spot on it, just take one of those green Scotch-Brite pads and knock the rust off. Then you can give it a light coat of oil. I use mineral oil

 

CP: Any closing words? Or words of encouragement for our folk school audience?

PG: I am trying to be an optimist during the weird times we are going through. I limit my exposure to the news, but I am still trying to be informed. It’s important to be willing to listen and stay in touch with one another. We’ll eventually get back together again at the Folk School. We have to get through this. There’s no other way. So, let’s stand tall and keep our chins up until we can all meet again.

 

 TE: Paul has continued to create artistic and functional items in his forge on campus throughout our temporary closure and will be teaching a weekend class “Developing Good Habits” June 11-13th. Call our Registration office at 828-837-2775 for more information about classes or to sign up.

 

About Cory Marie Podielski

Cory Marie Podielski is a freelance graphic designer, photographer, and writer for the John C. Campbell Folk School. She has been writing for the Folk School Blog since 2012 and enjoys interviewing artists, musicians, and craftspeople. In her spare time, she enjoys playing the banjo, dancing, printmaking, playing in clay, and assisting in Folk School bread baking classes. podielski.com

About Tammy Elwell

Tammy Elwell, a Sales Associate in our Craft Shop, is from Oak Park, Minnesota. She has also been a Work/Study student and a Host at the Folk School. She enjoys knitting, basketry, bead making, book arts, and broom making. She also participated in our Thursday night woodcarving class. Tammy’s passion and joy on the dance floor are also infectious!