Posts Tagged With: blacksmithing


Some years, I’m imbued with Christmas Spirit. Other years I have to be dragged to the storage shed that holds the decorations. Why that is, I haven’t a clue. This year I got everything together early, humming and singing carols,  and enjoying the nostalgia of Christmases past. I invited the neighbors in for soup. Unfortunately, considerable wind damage up the hill prevented everyone from coming. The kiosk at Big Trees State Park was destroyed by a tree. Trees were blown onto several homes, others blocked driveways and the highway. Fires erupted and the winds fanned the flames. Power was out for 13 hours in some places and 26 hours in other places. Some still don’t have power. Yikes!

We sipped and nibbled. Karen, knowing I was tired of apples after my trees provided a bountiful harvest, brought me a gift.

The last apple on the tree. As you can see, it isn’t much bigger than a cashew nut.  It was a two-biter and I ate the darn thing while everyone laughed.

The Italian sausage soup was delicious and the decorations cheerful. Though missing several people, we enjoyed our time together.

I like to decorate several small trees that can be stored with their decorations intact. Our main tree is lit with candles on Christmas Eve.

The next day, with power restored,  I brought soup up to Quyles Kiln and we had lunch in the work room. Her showroom was dizzy with customers for about two hours before we got a chance to eat. While waiting, I crossed the driveway to Bryce Station Winery Tasting Room, and chatted with Pam’s sister Dolores, pouring their estate wines.

She, too, was busy, but had a small break.

I poked around the blacksmith shop and noticed two very young apprentices, a  girl and a boy.  Pam and Dolores’ father died several months ago and Eden, his first female blacksmith student, is now running the forge.

This is Eden with a young 12-year-old boy. Smithing is a fading craft, kept alive in little pockets like this one. It is basically a non-profit.

This couple told us stories of their exploits in Japan. They bought five Japanese sushi plates and a chopstick rest. Pam has that quality where her customers become instant friends.

Pam reminded me that I took video of her son’s first steps as a toddler. He is now 21 years old.  It is hard to believe we’ve been friends for so many years. While there, a guy from Copperopolis, Mark Viola, discovered the kiln and the printing presses that reside there. He was blown away that so much activity is close by and he had never seen it.  If you get a chance, Quyles Kilns  it is a great place to visit.


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Paul Quyle, left, brought his printer friend, Mark, from Campbell, CA. as his guest to meet us last night while we hashed over some CCTV business. Mark is a modern printer and Paul has a printing press from 1899. Paul gathered his type set and molds and showed how it was done in three videos. One of the videos can be seen on the link below, the next two will follow on the same website. Paul is a fascinating person from so many angles its hard to choose one. He is a blacksmith, a master potter, printer, and retired teacher. He studied Marine Biology, art, he took welding classes, saddle making, veterinary medicine. He has a woodworking shop, orchards and gardens.

He entered the printing trade from necessity, to print labels for his clay business instead of tediously hand stamping them. Now, he is a master printer and  has over 120 printers in his collection. But, the 1899 press, one of only 12 in the world, rarely gets used.

Paul, at 82, remembers the days when trade secrets were jealously guarded. If he couldn’t get into a guild, he’d figure out how to do the task himself, whether it was printing, making clay that didn’t explode, building a house or a kiln, he would do it. You forge something, fix something, make your own tools, a philosophy that today seems arcane in a throw-away, assembly line style of doing things. Self sufficiency is as ancient as the rocks where passing on skills to the next generation is the natural order of things. It works for the Quyles where a new generation of family artisans now run the ranch,  a winery, the pottery and continue what Paul started while he still plays with printing and blacksmithing.

People drop in all the time to see the works on Highway 4, just above Murphys, along with the pottery, paintings, glass work, and wine tasting from Bryce Station Winery.

Here students of Paul’s work in his blacksmith shop.

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Pounding a piece of molten metal on an anvil is undergoing a revival in western communities. Paul Quyle has been teaching blacksmithing for twenty years. (Paul wasn’t available the day I visited. His students were on their own.)
More and more women participate in the craft as evidenced in this class. Students have a choice to pound and shape on the anvil, the “old fashioned” way…
…or use this power hammer above.
Most of them use both methods in combination for their projects. Forging a hand wrought piece to place in your home is difficult and time consuming, even it its just a simple hook or spoon. It puts a whole new slant on hand making your Christmas presents.
This renaissance in heritage crafts is popular in the western foothill communities and in places like Colonial Williamsburg, and in Texas and Wyoming. There is a North American Blacksmiths association at:
It seems strange that some people actually earn a living as a blacksmith.
Posted by Mary Matzek at 7:23 AM
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