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“The small man kept asking to see my hands.  Every time a new person walked by his work place, he made me show them my hands.  They had never seen a white man with calluses on his hands before.”

This is just one of the tales blacksmith Michael McCarthy recounts about his trips through West Africa where he has studied with numerous blacksmiths working in the most traditional methods.

Tools that Michael made while traveling through Africa.
Tools that Michael made while traveling through Africa.
We used the tools to plant garlic and onions.  It's highly likely that original workers on the farm used tools made just like these.
We used the tools to plant garlic and onions. It's highly likely that original workers on the farm used tools made just like these.

Michael is one of the few working blacksmiths remaining in America, and one of only a handful who understand the process from beginning to end.  Michael travels to West Virginia several times a year to mine his own ore from which he creates incredible works of art.  His work can be found in museums and private collections and some of his pieces have garnered up to $14,000.

I could spend hours (and have!) in Michael’s shop, listening to him talk about the craft and staring in amazement at the things he creates.  Even the glowing red coals have the ability to mesmerize.

Michael likes to say that you can’t tell the story of America without telling a story about iron, noting that iron played a roll in the earliest incarnations of the American Dream. John Deere (who we know well at Beekman Farm) started out as a blacksmith making blades for plows.  And the iron rails that opened up the American West were the catalysts for many of the great American fortunes (when fortunes were made from hard work instead of hedge funds).

We are so excited to have Michael as part of the B. 1802 Rural Artist Collective and hope you will enjoy his first two creations for the Beekman 1802 Mercantile.

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The B. 1802 Iron Block is an elegant bud vase available in two sizes from the Mercantile
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Sturdy enough to hold towering arrangements and even entire branches without tipping
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Also designed to hold tealights, votives, and tapered candles

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The B. 1802 Fruit Spoon, hand-tooled using a spoon mold dating back to the 1700s

We are proud to support Michael’s dreams of preserving the art and history of blacksmithing.

We’ll be telling you more about other master craftsmen we’ve met since putting down roots at Beekman 1802.  In the meantime, we’d love for you to give a shout out in the comment section below to any national treasures inhabiting your own community.

by Josh and Brent

Reader Comments

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Marie Chilcote

I love the way you point out that there are artists in every community, we just have to find them. I wanted some stained glass projects done, so I went into the local stained glass store to ask how much it would cost. I could not afford their prices, but they did offer me classes. My son and I took the class together (another plus) and finished the projects I had in mind at the time. They look great. And I’m still working with stained glass now 6 years later. A neighbor recently asked me to donate a piece for an auction at her children’s school. I did and as she was walking away with it she commented that she would bid on it herself. Another neighbor asked me to make a piece for her sister-in law’s birthday. I did and she came over to learn how to work with stained glass with me, so we created the piece together. Community!!

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Gwyneth Jones

What a great article about blacksmith Michael McCarthy! I'm curious, why don't you show his picture? He's a handsome & talented craftsman. As a historic re-enactor & librarian I love to see hand-crafted items, learn about those who lovingly create them in the traditional manner – must to get that fruit spoon!. Cheers!

~Gwyneth

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Boni Vinson

MOST BEAUTIFUL. If most people would engage their minds and their hands to create beautiful things, this world would certainly be a better place. You and your neighbors have done exastly that. I am so glad about it.

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Gerry Mullins

Thanks for the emails and great article about Michael. Being from Kentucky and a rich family history, I find at this point in my life I am drawn to handcrafted items more than mass produced items. You products and philosophy inspire me to get back on the potter's wheel and also to learn more about quilting. And this summer I plan on going back home to spend some time with my family canning vegetables. These iron blocks will make a great gift this holiday season. Blacksmith work is almost a lost art and thank you for bring our attention to Michael and his art. Gerry M.

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Dr. Brent

Hi, Gerry

I hope you'll show us some pictures of our pottery and quilting when it's done.
I've had a tremendous time working in the forge.

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Elaine

Michael sounds like a fascinating and very interesting person and a wonderful artist. His work is a perfect addition to the Beekman Mercantile. The items are wonderful and I love that the vase can hold a branch without it tipping over!

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