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In the American colonies, it was com- mon practice during the winter months for a blacksmith’s home hearth to be used for making nails. When operating a family business, family members were the cheap- est form of labor. Finding a female ap- prenticed to blacksmithing was extremely rare but not unheard of. History not- withstanding, Aislinn strikes a decidedly feminine pose in a dress with shoulders and sleeves specially designed to allow a full range of arm motion as she works. “My interest in blacksmithing began when I was a young teenager,” Aislinn recalls. “I started volunteering at George Washington Birthplace National Monu- ment in Westmoreland County just down the road from where I lived. Initially I began working with the livestock because I had an interest in animals, but they also had a small blacksmith shop set up as part of the Colonial era farm, and I spent a lot of time watching the volunteers there, which I found fascinating. Encouraged to give it a try rather than just watching, I spent almost two years volunteering in the shop and learning from the two smiths there.” Learning that a blacksmith guild was starting up at Rice’s Hotel and Hughlett’s Tavern in Heathsville under the auspices of the RHH Foundation’s Heathsville Blacksmith Forge, Aislinn spent four years learning the trade at their coal-fired forge powered by a manual bellows, becoming more and more enamored with the trade. After graduating from high school, and with no desire to be stuck working behind a desk, she went searching for a way to combine her love for history with her fascination for blacksmithing. Aislinn discovered the American Col- lege of the Building Arts in Charleston that educates and trains artisans in six areas of traditional building arts: timber farming, architectural carpentry, plaster, masonry, architectural stone carving, and blacksmithing. The unique curriculum fosters exceptional craftsmanship and encourages the preservation, enrichment, and understanding of the world’s architec- tural heritage. The school’s summer internships encourage students to seek employment in historic work and one of Aislinn’s professors, previously associated with the Anderson shop, encouraged her to apply to CWF as an apprentice. Upon gradu- ation she gained full-time employment


The House & Home Magazine


With preconceived notions of a toiling brawny male, Aislinn dressed in a fitted 18th century English linen gown, cap, and a leather apron imparts a feminine flair and spawns flurries of questions.


Red hot iron is worked on an anvil. Photo courtesy of Fred Blystone.


and now, as a newly papered journeyman, works alongside three other journeymen and an apprentice, all overseen by Black- smith and Master of the Shop Kenneth Schwarz.


When one thinks of blacksmithing, many envision horseshoes and weapons, notions gathered from movies and televi- sion. In towns like 18th century Wil- liamsburg however, it was the farrier who forged shoes and sod horses. Elsewhere, cutlers specialized in making swords, dag- gers, and other sharp edge tools. Black- smiths on the other hand worked with iron and steel to hammer out and repair


useful and everyday items: tools for other tradesmen, household utensils, fireplace equipment, cooking utensils, agricultural implements, door hinges, keys, signage hardware, weathervanes, and nails. For nearly four decades Ken has been leaving his mark from one end of Colonial Williamsburg to another. In recent years he’s overseen the reconstruction of the armoury building, including four black- smith forges, a kitchen, privy, and a tin- smith shop that is the only pre-industrial tin shop in the country. Ken’s knowledge of the trade and leadership role leads him to seek out qualified candidates who pos-


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