by Jennifer Odom
Right away I was captivated by this adorable brother and sister blacksmithing team. Heinrich Hole (38) and Heather Fordham, (27), Members of FABA, or Florida Artist Blacksmith Association, are the perfect representatives of the organization.
I first located Heinrich Hole,
a teacher of blacksmithing with the Barberville Pioneer Settlement for the Arts, while gathering research for a novel.
Wow! I jumped at this opportunity to come down and experience via the five senses, just what a blacksmith actually does. I quickly emailed and asked to visit. Mr. Hole very graciously agreed and offered several possible dates. (But he kindly enlightened me that his name was not Mr. Faba, which I’d assumed from his email).
(More about the FABA organization and the pioneer settlement below). Upon arrival I met several delightful people, but these two fascinating siblings had wonderfully entwined blacksmithing pasts .
For Heinrich, the seeds of blacksmithing were sown at a young age by his father when he took him to the FABA meetings in Barberville. The fulfillment of Heinrich’s keen interest, though, would be delayed.
Heather recalls an early fascination as well. “I used to go to the Pioneer Art Settlement as a kid for the Fall Jamboree. (See more on the Jamboree below). Every year as soon as we got there I would hound my parents to take me to the blacksmith shop and I convinced them to leave me there while they enjoyed the rest of the event. I was in awe and fascinated by the work. After several years of doing this, just parking my butt in front of the blacksmith, they finally acknowledged that I was getting old enough to actually get involved, and I was invited to meetings and shown the basics.”
Heinrich, an avid enthusiast of astronomy, physics, math, and a student of many “how to” subjects, says, “All my life I have been exposed to handy man type of working skills. Even before I was able to really do the work (my father) was already bringing me along so that we could have some father-son time. He really put a lot of effort into my growth as a craftsman.” These skills linked naturally to working at the forge.
When six years ago, Heinrich’s sister invited him to a FABA conference, it rekindled his interest in working with hot iron.
“ I’ve never looked back,” he says. “The ability blacksmithing gives a person to enable themselves to do what they want is incomprehensible.
“I’ve always had to be making things to be happy in life, and what you get is a lot of output. I’ve been making items from wood, beads, stone, and anything else I can get my hands on for as long as I can remember. Now consider that I’m that guy that has to show each thing I’ve made to EVERYbody I know, and what you get is a super creative, production, demonstrator, blacksmith.”
And no surprise. His talents led to 3 years of teaching and assisting at the FABA conferences and a chance to instruct at Barberville Pioneer Settlement for the Arts.
Besides this, Heinrich is now the N. E. Regional coordinator for FABA, and says he considers it an “opportunity to take my quadrant into whatever direction I think will make it the best it can be.”
Heather, with her own multiple interests, enjoys the outdoors and most things hands-on. She’s spent the last two years playing roller derby with the Thunder City Derby Sirens, and reads a lot, mostly sci-fi and fantasy.
Her training in iron work started out 9 years ago, when she studied under Lewis Riggleman. “It was probably the best weekend I ever had. That’s when I learned I would always have a place in my heart for this craft.” She especially enjoys making slightly decorative “handy house items and fire place tools. Anything I make, though, I want to be useful, not just art.”
Her next goal is to work on forge-welding. “There have been too many times that I saw something I wanted to make and backed down because I’ve been too intimidated by the welding aspects.”
The brother and sister team started their iron-work together underneath the shade of an oak tree. “You can’t work hot metal if you are in the sun.” Henrich says, “because you can’t see its color. You don’t know how hot it is and that’s a really big deal.”
They soon moved the operation under their dad’s vacated shade structure, which now protected them from the rain as well. At first they shared one anvil and a brake-drum forge. Now, Heinrich says, “we each have our own tool for most of the things we do and can do most of what we want.”
The siblings plan to always be learning the next thing and growing together in their craft skills.
In fact, they’ve already selected a corporate name, and Heinrich and Heather hope to one day have a full shop of their own in a “proper manufacturing setting.”
Their advice to beginners?
“Don’t look at the shops you see in videos,” Heinrich says. “You don’t need that. In the beginning you will need to develop your skills in improvising, but you can get by with a hole in the ground and a sledge hammer head half-buried in the ground for an anvil. In blacksmithing your creativity will determine your limits more than what tools you have. If you don’t love problem-solving then just put the hammer down and back away slowly.”
Heather advises, “Just go for it! Find a class, take it. Find out if it’s something you can be passionate about.”
Most importantly, she assures us, and as evidenced by the women attending the FABA meeting, “It’s not as hard as it looks. You don’t have to be a big muscular man to get the job done. Don’t let people discourage you from trying. It’s totally worth it!”
“If you do love problem solving,” Heinrich says, “and can’t find enough creative outlets to satisfy you, then come on over to the dirty side and see where you can take it. Blacksmithing has changed my life forever, and I’d love to share it with anyone that is willing to show an interest. Come see me on second Saturdays at the Barberville Pioneer Settlement and I’ll share my love of the craft with you.”
For visits or lessons you can contact Barberville Pioneer Settlement of the Arts at 386-749-2959 or visit the website at https://www.pioneersettlement.org/
What is FABA?
Florida Artist Blacksmith Association (FABA) is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to teaching and preserving the art and craft of the blacksmith. First formed in 1984, FABA is an affiliate of the Artist-Blacksmith’s Association of North America (ABANA).
FABA is a group whose purpose is to “promote the art and craft of forging metal.” They are “a group of people from across Florida who meet to teach and learn about blacksmithing and related metalworking skills,” and declare that “all interested parties are welcome at all meetings.”
My daughter and I attended and were warmly welcomed. We found that FABA is not a group of stuffy, grumpy old men, but a vibrant gathering of interesting, clever individuals, both men and women, who are interested and willing to teach and share their skills.
Barberville Pioneer Settlement for the Arts, where this quadrant of FABA meets, has several forges. During the meetings the blacksmiths take turns demonstrating, practicing, and teaching.
For more details, see https://blacksmithing.org/
Their annual conference will be held in Ocala, Florida October 26, 27, 28, 2018 . For more details see https://fabaconference.org/
What is Barberville Pioneer Settlement for the Arts?
Just the best kept secret ever….!
Barberville Pioneer Settlement for the Arts, a non-profit historical village museum, is a collection of buildings and artifacts on Hwy 40 between Ocala and Ormond Beach, Florida. Founded in 1976, their mission is to educate and entrust the public and future generations with knowledge of the pioneer lifestyle of our forefathers, through hands on experience, folk life demonstrations, preservation and historical exhibits.
There you’ll find many activities: music workshops and lessons, blacksmithing and lessons, square dancing, weaving, candle making, chili cook-offs, ice cream churn-offs, raising of farm animals, and so much more.
Their big event coming up is the Fall Jamboree on November 3 and 4, 2018. See
for more details and a flyer.
But don’t miss the main webpage. There is so much more!
See you there!