Evolution of a Blacksmith

by Charles Madrid

Blacksmith Alex Chavez stands next to his light fixture.
Blacksmith Alex Chavez stands next to his light fixture.

If you have ever found yourself working on a more advanced mechanical or household project, you understand the value found in the quality of your tools rather than solely their function. It is the responsibility of the blacksmith, a term derived directly from the phrase “person who hits black metal,” to make the tool – among other decorative and functional items – for the public through many creative and painstaking techniques.

One of Pueblo’s local blacksmiths is Alexander Chavez, a native of New Mexico, who has been working with metals for over twelve years and as a blacksmith for the last six. Chavez is an active member of the Rocky Mountain Smiths Organization, which makes available resources to Colorado’s blacksmiths, including their yearly blacksmith conference and demonstrations of different techniques of the trade put on throughout the year.

Of his trade Chavez observes that, “without the blacksmith, no other craftsman could easily master their own trade.” Determination, he has found, is among the most important keys to success in the trade. The reliance of others’ labors upon his work lets Chavez know that “nothing is unseen” and “the quality of [his] work must be superb when another blacksmith or tradesman judges it.”

Chavez began smithing with the full intention of solely being an artist. But, throughout the years, he has found himself accepting projects to recreate functional hardware for some of Pueblo’s aging houses and other metalwork you may find yourself using around town. Since this leap into functional pieces, he says he has become more of a “traditional” blacksmith.

Most of his iron works begin as sketches on paper. This is the point at which the blacksmith must figure what steps are to be taken to realize the concept. Being the creatively driven smith that he is, Chavez finds that his favorite moments stem from when a work, “surpasses [his] expectations from the beginning concept.”

Accordingly, one of the projects that produced the greatest feeling of accomplishment for Chavez in his smith work was a wine rack that was commissioned a few years ago. The wine rack stood as a beautiful work of art and proved to be very heavy and intricate. While the end piece was frustrating and difficult to arrive at, it became one of his most beautiful creations to date.

Chavez will be combining two of his passions in Germany for four months beginning April 1, 2012. There he will be visiting with several master smiths and attending Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. A member of the Pueblo German Club, Chavez hopes that his trip will aid in his aspirations of becoming fluent. Chavez says, “Whether or not I get a degree is not important to me. [I] just [want to learn] German.”

Alexander Chavez can be contacted through Govannon Iron Works at 719-553-8491 or ac.chavez@colostate-pueblo.edu.

Correction – photos shown or used with permission from Tim Sparks, Sparks Bros Media. In April’s print edition, we incorrectly gave credit to Charles Madrid. 

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