The Buffalo Bill Center of the West hosts a free blacksmith demonstration Friday-Sunday, Aug. 16-18.
The Center will step back to the time of the blacksmith with four professional blacksmiths who will forge a horse sculpture using only tools of old-time settlers: iron, fire, hammers and anvils.
The demonstrators are Steve Fontanini of Jackson, Frank Annighofer and Annette Lavalette of Roscoe, Mont., and Duane Bomar of Sheridan.
They will heat iron to a glowing orange and shape it on the anvil with hammers of different shapes and sizes. As the iron bends and twists, the blacksmiths will chisel it into pieces and reattach them with rivets and collars, all without modern electric tools. During the three days, the artists will reheat the 4-by-4-foot horse sculpture until it satisfies their artistic vision.
The blacksmith trade dates to before the discovery of the Americas by Europeans and remained critical well into the 1900s, when machinery began to replace much of the blacksmiths’ work. Even Lewis and Clark brought their own blacksmiths along their famous expedition to take care of horses and to shoe them.
On the Lewis and Clark Expedition blacksmiths also made tools, repaired ships and carriages, and forged tomahawks for Indians in exchange for food. Blacksmithing went through various stages of development but is now most popular and common with sculpture and art. The demonstration at the Center reveals that the same old techniques of blacksmithing can be used to create contemporary art.
The demonstration is sponsored by the Northern Rockies Blacksmiths Association (NRBA), a nonprofit organization that preserves the old art of blacksmithing.
The four smiths have many years of experience in forging metals from steel, copper and bronze. They all create metal art and sculptures that can be found in private homes and galleries across the country. They also produce architectural-forged iron like railings, gates, fireplace accessories, light fixtures and furniture.