Walter Howell, Artisan Blacksmith
Walters work at the forge is about so much more than producing forged iron work.
It has opened doors of opportunity and introduced us to people who have enriched our lives and made new friends out of a new customers. Throughout his life he has been blessed to have gained a wealth of practical knowledge from elders and "family" that aren't kin. Never realizing it was all schooling for a gift that lay waiting to be discovered.
As skills developed, that pride of workmanship instilled in him at a young age by grandfathers and his father, set the standard for the quality of each piece. It doesn't leave the shop until its right. As with most artist his joy is in the process. Forging is slow by nature. There are no shortcuts. The fire and the iron often have a different design in mind and you have to "work" your way through until its done. But handwork is soothing to the soul and the process soothing to the artist.
Within days of taking hammer in hand he found he had natural skill for the work and a deep understanding of the process. A class in the basic foundations of skills and techniques with a master smith was followed by two years of practice and development of proper techniques and knowledge before he felt his work met his own high expectations. His goal is to provide a product of artisan quality that will serve for generations.
Each One Teach One
Walter welcomes those who want to try their hand at the craft by offering 3 day, one on one classes. We have an article on the Blog that can give you some insight and thoughts on where, if and how to get started down the path of fire and hammer. We welcomes visitors to the forge to watch and ask questions. We particularly enjoy the young folks who seem perplexed about the whole concept of Making Things. Walter's youngest apprentice started at the age of twelve. He has a whole library of tales, stories, testimonies, common knowledge and "believe it or not" things to share with anyone that has ears.
There have been stepping stones long the way that we have been honored to receive. I would like to share a few of them here.
- Walter has won awards for several pieces including an Award of Excellence from the Alabama Wildlife Federation for his iron still life, "Gunnars Bog" and a First Place award for 3 dimensional sculpture at the Hermitage in Nashville. We are humbled to have several pieces that have found homes in collections along side other fine works.
- He was included in the publication "American Blacksmiths" by Vince Novaknics, an accomplishment we are extremely proud of. He has also been featured in several Alabama publications and has had his work featured in "Southbound" magazine.
- Walter has worked with Jacksonville State at The Little River Canyon Center as a demonstrating artist at events and summer months. He is also featured in an HD film produced by NASA that is shown daily at the education center atop Lookout Mountain.
- Demonstrating artist at Desoto State Park on Look Out Mountain.
- We work with several education organizations such as the Alabama Legacy Program, Auburn City Schools and the Scottsboro Heritage Foundation doing demonstrations for students and educators. We also give demonstrations at the forge for home school groups and tour groups.
- We are very excited to be announcing Walter's first all sculpture exhibit at the Carnegie Visual Arts Center. The opening on November 21 showcases 3 artist who use fire in their creative process. There will be an artist reception on November 30th. You can visit the Carnegie Center for all the information.
Walter Forge has been an unexpected journey and Blessing in our lives that is still in process. We welcome you to be a part of our story. Come and see what we do here in North Alabama. Send us an email if you are in the area and would like to visit.