Jay Campbell found his inspiration for blacksmithing at Abraham Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site, 2 miles south of Petersburg, Ill.
The village is a reconstruction of the place where Lincoln spent his early childhood.
Campbell has always been drawn to the ways of the past and inquired about blacksmithing at the village. He was encouraged to study the craft and attended a blacksmithing class. Campbell then spent time as a volunteer for five years in the 1830’s village, demonstrating period tool-making for tourists.
To pursue his hobby, Campbell set up a home studio where he creates metal works depicting nature, such as a garden gate or table with leaves or a flower.
‘‘I don't always make things to sell,’’ he said. ‘‘I make things I like to make, and if they don't sell, I take them home.’’
Blacksmithing is demanding and physically testing work, with heat from the forge rising to 2,000 degrees, Campbell said.
“The blacksmithing in the 1800s was very hard, and learning the craft makes me appreciate their work even more,’’ he said.
Over the years, Campbell has attended many classes and worked with blacksmiths in their studios.
‘‘There is a network of professional blacksmiths who are available to students like me on an informal basis,’’ he said. ‘‘It is a pass-along philosophy and a very friendly group of people to be involved with.’’
Campbell creates hand-forged artwork and functional pieces for the home and garden. In addition to the garden gates and tables, he creates pot racks, small flowers, candle holders and butterflies. His current work is a fireplace screen with lilies.
His work is available through the Arts and Heritage Center’s gift shop. Visit Campbell on his Web site at hiddenoaksforge.com to see more of his work.