By Eden Ramsay (@EdenRamsay)
WINNIPEG — The ancient art of blacksmithing is still going strong. A local man by the name of Matt Jenkins is keeping the art alive and well at Cloverdale Forge.
When I visited Fort Gibraltar at Festival du Voyageur this year, the blacksmith forge was the busiest out of all the buildings in the working, voyageur village. Jenkins was the man pounding away at molten-hot metal like blacksmiths would have in the time of the voyageurs. But this is a modern-day, way of life for him.
Jenkins creates contemporary designs using traditional tools and techniques that date as far back as over 2,000 years ago. He has hand-crafted his internationally acclaimed and award-winning designs for 20 years at Cloverdale Forge on Jenkins’ family farm in Selkirk, Manitoba. If you are interested in trying the ancient craft for yourself, he also teaches a basic blacksmithing course at Cloverdale Forge.
I visited Jenkins at his Cloverdale Forge pop-up shop at Normandy last week. Although Matt mostly makes larger pieces including signs, fences, and trophies, he reserves mostly smaller items for sale during his pop-up shops and at festivals. You could find him at last year’s Winnipeg Folk Festival as one of the artisans in the handmade Village. He says the other few local blacksmiths he knows consider themselves hobbyists. To my knowledge, he is the only local blacksmith selling his wares at pop-up shops and festivals.
You really notice the quality of his one-of-a-kind metal creations. They are contemporary in design, with a soft and delicate texture. They often feature subtle details such as stamped images or text, a textured surface, or a stylized finish. Some items for sale at this pop-up shop included garden trowels, axes, bottle openers, belt buckles, and coat hangers.
I love the playful quality to some of Matt’s pieces. There were some very whimsical, octopus coat hangers, with two holes for eyes and fine, sucker details on their four, curved tentacles. There were even one or two masquerade mask-style, metal moustache sticks in case you need a quick disguise.
I left with a small bottle opener. The high-quality craftsmanship of the tool, its handmade nature, heavy weight, and the Festival du Voyageur logo stamped onto its surface, have instantly made it become my favourite bottle opener of all time.
Pick up a piece of Matt Jenkins’ work at Normandy, or find him during a festival or at one of his pop-up shops. Meet a blacksmith who is truly passionate about his craft and takes the time to make each piece a functional, treasured keepsake.
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Eden Ramsay is a Creative Communications student at Red River College. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) from the University of Manitoba and majored in graphic design. She loves culture, design in its many forms, and exploring the world around her.