A blacksmith forages for metal and builds custom furniture

Part of the on-going project Back To The Land

Blacksmiths has been around for hundreds of years, but have you ever seen anyone forge, bend, and form metal by hand with your own eyes? Neither have I until I met Patrick McIvor. I found this man through other locals while I was staying in the town of Ymir. I was asking around trying to find people who are devoted to a craft and creating a living from what they do. When I found out where Patrick's shop was, coincidently, I had a beer at a local pub in Salmo no more than a hundred feet from his studio two days prior. Also turns out we both share the same birth city of Calgary, Alberta.

I stopped by Patrick's studio sometime between eight and nine in the morning on no particular day, pulling up to a small building that looked like an abandoned mechanics garage. The exterior was weathered with paint peeling from the exterior stucco, small growth peaking through the concrete slabs out front, and various random small debris outside its open bay doors. As I approached, I saw a man meticulously working on a sheet of copper with a flat ended hammer. The man pulled back his safety glasses and asked "Jeremy?" I replied, "Patrick?". We both smiled and shook hands. Patrick's firm hand shake alone was enough to wake you from a night of heavy drinking, gripping my hand like a boa constrictor; sucking the life out of it, only for a brief second before casually letting go. Inside the shop there were pieces of steel and metal strewed throughout on various bench surfaces, which can only be described as organized chaos. The machines Patrick was using were almost a 100 years old along with various other hand tools that have been collected and never discarded; it was though I had stepped back in time.

I explained to Patrick about the project Back To The Land and how I was going to take his photo. I only asked for an hour or so of his time, so while I was setting up my gear, Patrick could continue to work on a copper hood fan he was making for a client of his. As I set up my photography gear I watched him meticulously heat the sheet of copper while gently hammering out small defects and dents in the metal so it all formed into one seamless piece. Growing frustrated on a particular section no larger than a square foot, he pulled it apart and started again from scratch cursing “If I can’t get it perfect the first time, what's the fucking point”. As the day went on, I asked Patrick more about his life and it turns out by the time he was eight, he already knew blacksmithing was what he wanted to pursue. His first experience working with metal although started in shop class during high school. The school had a forge and anvil which then led to the creation of his first set of knives and axes; this is all it took and he was hooked.

Patrick is a self-taught blacksmith and now resides in Salmo, BC., however before committing to the hammer and anvil life, he dabbled into other areas of work and trade that required some sort of technique, especially the attention blacksmithing required. These other trades included farming, fire fighting, and rock climbing instructor. When he was 29 years of age that's when the conscious decision was made to commit to the craft full-time. When I asked him if blacksmithing was a dying trade he responded with this. “Blacksmithing is having a resurgence with those who know, are interested and know where to look, but for the most part a large portion of society neither knows we exist or what we are capable of. As the population becomes more educated to whats possible and that we exist, the demand and interest grows daily”.

To see more of Patrick's work you can visit his website by clicking HERE.

~

If you're in Banff between now and March 27th, you can see Patrick's portrait hanging on the walls at the Whyte Museum all in part of the Exposure Photography Festival.

Patrick_McIvor_Salmo_01
Patrick_McIvor_Salmo_01
Patrick_McIvor_Salmo
Patrick_McIvor_Salmo