Matt Jenkins has blacksmithing in his blood. In fact, his connection to metalworking stretches back to before he was born.
Matt’s father, Tom, would never have become involved in the craft were it not for the birth of his son.
'The process of pulling metal out of the fire and beating on it… it’s very visceral.'- Matt Jenkins, Blacksmith
“Dad was selling farm equipment, and he realized he had a second kid on the way,” laughs Jenkins, “so when he saw a blacksmithing job he applied for it.”
The trouble was, Tom had little experience working with metal. But after lying his way into getting the job, it quickly became a lifelong passion.
History repeated itself twenty years later. Because of his Dad's reputation as a talented metal worker, Matt was offered the job of an interpretive blacksmith at Lower Fort Garry.
Like his father, Matt had spent little time with the forge and had no idea what he was doing - but immediately fell in love.
“The process of pulling metal out of the fire and beating on it… it’s very visceral,” says Jenkins, “we can use the fire to do things that other types of metalworkers just can’t.”
Jenkins has been seriously practising blacksmithing for the past three years, and says there is an increasing demand in Manitoba for handmade items created by skilled craftsmen. His projects include everything from small-scale household hardware to custom-built metal embellishments for building owners.
On top of this, he regularly teaches classes at his Selkirk studio, Cloverdale Forge, and says that his students come away with an appreciation for the patience and intricacy involved in the process of metalworking.
“At any point you can fly off the handle, you can hit it wrong - it’s pretty exciting,” says Jenkins.
Winnipeggers will be able to check out Jenkins and his blacksmithing crew in action on Saturday, September 27th. As part of Nuit Blanche, they’ll be taking over Old Market Square and forging a bookshelf, which will then find a home at the Millennium Library for the week.
At 37, Jenkins’ love of blacksmithing shows no sign of losing heat. After his night-long forging session at Nuit Blanche, he’ll be jumping on a flight to North Carolina to teach a class at the esteemed John C. Campbell Folk School.
As Jenkins says, “have hammer, will travel, right?”.