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Local blacksmith teaches trade at Kent’s Sloane Museum

KENT — The Eric Sloane Museum showcased the talents of local blacksmith Ian McCarthy on Aug. 26.

From 10 a.m. to 4   p.m., visitors at the museum were able to watch and learn from McCarthy as he demonstrated and talked about his trade and skills.

The event happened to be on National Dog Day. Puns were utilized and “dogs” were forged, log dogs, to be exact.

Also known as andirons, the iron-fashioned tools hold firewood together for efficient burning. While not the fluffy pets the day commemorates, McCarthy’s log dogs are still objects worth noting.

As McCarthy primarily fashions cookware and homegoods, he presented a large display of handcrafted iron skillets in front of his demonstrative station. Originally a carpenter, McCarthy shared that once he began using blacksmithing techniques to create tools for himself, he switched his focus and honed his skills. Now, eight years later, he sells his handcrafted pieces and teaches others how to do the same.

Andrew Rowand, museum curator and administrator at the Eric Sloane Museum, shared his goals for the education programs that he is helping to integrate and establish. “If the people who come here, of any age, learn even just one thing when they visit, then we’ve accomplished [our goal],” he said.

While the museum is full of intricate tools of iron, Rowand acknowledged that visitors “can’t touch anything, even though they want to,” so in conjunction with McCarthy’s demonstrations, there were interactive exhibits set up just yards away that integrated fashioned iron with larger machinery and carpentry.

The museum is a time capsule of American trade pioneership and invention. Lynn Worthington, of the museum staff, shared that “most people don’t know” of the museum’s extensive collection of original tools, as well as the vast knowledge of unique skills that the curators and staff have, and all within reach of the community.

“Tradework is so important now,” Ms. Worthington shared, because the term “includes so many more skills than people realize,” like that of electricians, plumbers, landscapers, and others.

“Maybe people will become interested if they see” all of the possibilities that exist, and have existed, in Kent and in the greater Litchfield County.

Rowand’s plans on maintaining demonstrative sessions, like that by McCarthy, as a way of spreading tradework education in the community, but reminds that the real spectacle will be at Touch-A-Trade in October, when blacksmithing, along with more skillsets, will be on display.

Rowand added that, while the museum is prioritizing education and preservation, the staff doesn’t  forget that “these skills are fun.

“We show kids that, too.”

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