Conference in Salt Lake City shows blacksmithing isn’t a lost art

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SALT LAKE CITY -- When you hear the word blacksmith, you may think of medieval times and making swords, but after this week's blacksmith conference in Utah, many have a different take on the trade.

“People say blacksmithing is dead, and you’ve only got to come here to see it’s really a long way from dead,” said Jake James, a professional blacksmith.

James was one of many artists and professional blacksmiths at this year’s conference put on by the Artist-Blacksmith’s Association of North America.

“You walk around this conference, we’re making crazy, heavily-sculpted sculptures, we’ve got a guy making a traditional railing, we've got knife makers, horse shoers,” James said.

He is showing off his talent and helping show prospective blacksmiths how it’s done.

“I’m sure everyone here you talk to is going to tell you, if they’re doing it for a living, none of us are really making a killing money wise, but you can’t not: Iron is in your blood," James said.

Joh Mclellan, the conference co-chair, said the conference highlights the handiwork of skilled craftsmen.

“And now it’s kind of come back around and people got tired of some of the mass-produced stuff, and the quality of mass-produced stuff has gone downhill,” he said.

This conference was held in Salt Lake City and ended Saturday night with an auction of one-of-a-kind pieces.

But the conference is about much more than auctioning art, it’s about sharing a passion.

“I think we're all a bunch of total weirdos, but in a good kind of way,” James said. “I think creative people are drawn to creative jobs, blacksmithing, it’s going to attract a real specific kind of person."

Mclellan agreed.

“It’s hot, it’s sweaty, dirty—but it’s the way to play with fire and not get in trouble,” he said.