Jane Graham Memorial Award Memories

by Graeme Sheffield

 

I think my first interest in blacksmithing began when I visited the local living history museum pioneer farmstead. I was about ten years old. Of all the displays that enchanted me, the most was the blacksmith shop. I was amazed at how the blacksmith could take a piece of plain straight steel, heat it in the fire of his forge, transfer it to his anvil and deftly turn it into a horseshoe nail ring, which he then presented to me. I still have the ring. Twenty–odd years later, I still had fond memories of that farm smithy, so decided to teach myself blacksmithing as a creative way to relieve my stress from my job. This decision sent me down a path of discovery and learning that changed my life. Within two years of part-time dabbling in my new-found passion I was accepted to be part of the 2005 Guelph Studio Tour. My creativity at the forge increased dramatically as the tour weekend approached. I was envisioning a new type of clientele that I had never met before. One who would admire and appreciate my work as an artist and the medium that I had chosen to work in. I was also apprehensive of the public’s view of my work and my newly discovered skills. I was pleasantly surprised with a successful tour weekend, making sales and receiving commissions from the exposure. This positive experience drove my passion for the art further and a greater desire to learn everything I could about blacksmithing. I heard about the untimely passing of one of the respected Studio Tour members, Jane Graham, earlier in 2005. Various Tour members commented on Jane’s passion for art and that it helped define who she was. The Graham family had set up a memorial fund to award successful applicants who demonstrated a commitment to advancing their artistic practice, through a professional development opportunity. This was exactly the boost I needed. This bursary would allow me to attend an intensive workshop with another respected local smith to develop my skills as a budding professional. The Graham family and the Guelph Arts Council were pleased with my application and genuine commitment to furthering my skills and the craft of blacksmithing, so awarded me with the second annual Jane Graham Memorial Award. I’m very glad to have been awarded the Jane Graham Award when I did. It gave me the boost I needed to launch me in the direction I wanted to go as an artist. Here I am ten years later. I run a successful artisan blacksmithing business full time. Between completing commissions, I participate in art shows, give lessons, and public demonstrations. My passion for the art remains strong. It defines me. - Graeme Sheffield, Blacksmith

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