A few months ago I was doing a photoshoot for a magazine, and the location was in an historic pioneer museum. The most delightful thing about the entire experience? I met a blacksmith named Lin Rhea. Not just any blacksmith, an ARTIST of a blacksmith. He runs the Blacksmith Shop in the Historic Arkansas Museum as well as his own website where he sells his handmade knives.
I knew that after I was done with the shoot, I’d want to head back and get to know him better. And so we did, and it was tons of fun. Keep reading to learn more about him and his inspiring philosophy.
When and how did you first become interested in blacksmithing and how did you learn the craft?
My first interest in blacksmithing started with my interest in knives. I took a bladesmithing course in October of 2002 in Old Washington, Arkansas at the Bill Moran School of Bladesmithing. By smithing my blades it exposed me to the methods and tools of the blacksmith. From there it blossomed.
Your favorite part of blacksmithing is…
The historical methods and how these methods expose me to ideas and practical thinking that otherwise would be lost to me. These things serve to instill a deep respect for our ancestors and their ability to thrive under much more difficult circumstances.
What is the most important piece of advice you’d give to someone looking to learn blacksmithing in this day and age?
Learn from the best. Locate the best at the craft and follow their work and if possible, take a class or receive tutoring under them. Also, spend time at the anvil. Only with practice will anyone get better and it’s the same with blacksmithing.
What is your favorite thing to make?
I like making well designed things whether it’s knives, tools, or art. If it’s art, I want it to be functional art.
The best memory you’ve had while pursuing your craft:
I have so many good memories in connection with my knife making and blacksmithing that it would be difficult to decide which is the best. I do, though, appreciate the hand drawn cards and crayon scribblings of young children who I’ve taught or demonstrated for over the years. These I save and treasure.
What effect do you want to have on your local community?
I want the community to know that the blacksmith still has a place, even in our modern times. It’s a connection with the past and exposure to living history. It may be the spark of a young person’s initial interest in their lifelong field of interest.
What do you do to get creative inspiration? Who inspires you most?
While my early instructors (Joe Keeslar MS, Greg Neely MS, Master Blacksmith Peter Ross) inspired me and taught me and continue to do so, I get the most inspiration from instructors from long ago. By reading what few books that there are on the subject as well as studying objects made by past masters, I sort of “get in their minds”. By recreating their work or by applying techniques long unused, I feel that I’m in a unique position of having “known” them.
If you could pick one person to create something for who would it be and what would it be?
I’ve made my family members knives and I think that’s very important. However I would like to make a knife for an actor to be used in a truly classic movie. I would want it to be someone who is a good example in their personal and family life. It would be an accurately depicted account and a knife that fit the period depicted. I specialize in period knives and materials so I think this would be a good fit. A western with the likes of Tom Selleck would come to mind.
Be sure to visit Lin’s website to see all of his beautiful work.