Georgia Magazine - March 2018 - 30
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A new generation leads the
resurgence of blacksmithing
and bladesmithing in Georgia
hen Trent Tye was 7, he took a field trip with
his Calhoun County Elementary School class
to the annual Andersonville Historic Fair.
The students eagerly awaited the blacksmith
demonstration, giggling and whispering on the wooden
benches set up to replicate an antebellum setting.
Now 40, Tye remembers the blacksmith, clad in
overalls and a cap, walking in front of the group, reaching into a fire and pulling out an iron rod that glowed
white with heat. Sparks jumped from the middle, and
the students immediately hushed in awe.
"Superman, eat your heart out!" the blacksmith
crowed as he bent the rod in half effortlessly.
Tye knew then he wanted to learn blacksmithing.
The image burned in his mind as he went through
school, and by his teens, Tye was reading books about
blacksmithing at the library. He built his first forge out
of a tire and his mother's Vidal Sassoon hair dryer and
made his first knives, which he sold around Georgia.
When he started classes at Georgia Southwestern
State University in Americus, fate called again. Tye
earned money by scouting cotton around the state
and realized one day that the blacksmith he saw at the
Andersonville fair so long ago, Jay Reakirt, lived just 10
miles north of him.
"He was coarse and terse and had lived a rough life.
When I found him, he was at a terrible low point," Tye
says. "But he became a father figure to me."
Tye and Reakirt began working together and did
demonstrations around the South, including the Georgia
and Carolina Renaissance Festivals. Before long, Tye was
BY CAROLYN CRIST
Trent Tye, owner of Purgatory Ironworks in Morgan, competed on the
second episode of the History Channel series "Forged in Fire." To see
the show featuring Tye, go to history.com/shows/forged-in-fire.
flown to the Los Angeles County Fair, a 28-day festival that
draws 1.6 million people, which boosted business. Tye
also worked with demonstrators in the Stone Mountain
area and balanced a corporate finance job with a blacksmithing hobby that was increasingly becoming full time.
Then in 2014 he got the call. "Forged in Fire," a History Channel TV series, wanted Tye to be in Season One of
the show, competing for a $10,000 prize by forging blades.
He took second place in Episode Two (each episode features a different group of contestants) and felt the fire of
performance and competition. Tye began posting demonstrations on YouTube, some of which have drawn more
than 9 million views. His business, Purgatory Ironworks, is
moving into its fifth year of year-over-year growth in selling blades to collectors and farmers who need them.
"We're facing a skills gap in this country. Everybody
is going to college, but nobody knows how to make
anything," Tye says. "We've been told our whole life that
getting a piece of paper makes the world our oyster, but
we're coming away from that fantasyland and navigating
what really makes a business work."
Tye is among a growing group of Georgians-both
hobbyists and professionals-who are leading the rediscovery of the handcrafted arts of blacksmithing, bladesmithing, gunsmithing, quilting, weaving and basketmaking.
More online at www.georgiamagazine.org