Black­smith lives with “in­ten­tion”

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Walder, VT

Black­smiths, once at the heart of every pi­o­neer com­mu­nity in the East­ern Town­ships, have all but dis­ap­peared from the land­scape. Even Stanstead had its own black­smith shop years ago which, thank­fully, was left to stand af­ter the last black­smith left. Black­smith ham­mers out a pulp hook as It now pro­vides a beau­ti­ful set­ting for the they were made be­fore the In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion.

lo­cal art gallery, Le Vieux Forg­eron.

To high­light the tem­po­rary ex­hibit “Tra­di­tional Trades and Crafts of Stanstead County”, the Colby-Cur­tis Mu­seum re­cently held ‘old trade’ demon­stra­tions for the pub­lic. Ver­mont black­smith James Teuscher was there with his small mov­able forge, ham­mer­ing away on hot metal to make a pulp­wood hook, demon­strat­ing the old trade that was once so essen­tial in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties as well as big cities. In an in­ter­view with the Stanstead Jour­nal, Mr. Teuscher spoke about how he dis­cov­ered black­smithing and why he likes to de­mon- strate this ‘liv­ing her­itage’ to the pub­lic.

Orig­i­nally from Mary­land, Mr. Teuscher left the south to find af­ford­able prop­erty so he could “go back to the land”. “I also wanted to leave Mary­land be­cause, back in the six­ties peo­ple were still seg­re­gated. I couldn’t deal with those red­necks.” He found that per­fect spot in Walden, Ver­mont, forty­four years ago, just a large wood­lot and a stream. “I moved there in the early sev­en­ties with a wheel­bar­row and a pup tent. I called it ‘Water­gate’ be­cause of what was go­ing on in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics at the time.”

With­out any pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence with horses, Mr. Teuscher bought a draft horse from a friend so he could start haul­ing out logs to build a home. “He was a sea­soned horse so he taught me how to log a for­est. It was at the time of the en­ergy cri­sis so I thought I’d build a cart and drive him ev­ery­where,” ex­plained James about his first forg­ing project. Af­ter build­ing a sec­ond cart to sell, he heard about a black­smithing course be­ing given in the area by a fa­mous black­smith from Eng­land, James Hor­robin. “When I took that course I re­al­ized that it was the medium for me. I had been a poet, a painter, but when I tried black­smithing it was like an epiphany for me. James Hor­robin be­came a ma­jor in­flu­ence on my life and work and I’ve gone to Eng­land to work on projects with him,” men­tioned Mr. Teuscher.

James, who not only puts on forg­ing demon­stra­tions but has also taught many young peo­ple how to forge, ex­plained why he is so keen to get oth­ers in­ter­ested in the trade. “Black­smithing is a sig­nif­i­cant medium in terms of the past; this is where tech­nol­ogy came from. It’s a very ‘hands on’ kind of skill and I like to show, es­pe­cially young peo­ple, that we can ac­tu­ally do things with our hands. Boys and girls can both do it; the boys like to make knives and the girls make flow­ers. I tell my stu­dents that, if noth­ing else, black­smithing will teach them pa­tience; every time you bring the ham­mer down you have to pay at­ten­tion. It’s very sat­is­fy­ing to move metal.”

Mr. Teuscher was happy to re­port that he has seen a re­vival of the trade in the North­east King­dom. “There is a new gen­er­a­tion of both men and women in the trade. Es­pe­cially close to Stowe, there is a mar­ket for dec­o­ra­tive iron­work. But I also know a black­smith up near Sut­ton who is very busy work­ing in the Town­ships.”

Liv­ing in the area that James re­ferred to as the ‘gran­ite cap­i­tal of the world’, (I as­sured him he was off by about thirty miles and a bor­der), this black­smith has more re­cently be­gan com­bin­ing gran­ite with steel to make ta­bles. But he is also much more than a black­smith.

A sculp­tor him­self, Mr. Teuscher runs a unique art gallery, the White Wa­ter Gallery, which is set up be­side his An­tique Auto En­clave in East Hard­wick. “I thought I could get the lo­cals in­ter­ested in art if I com­bined it with cars some­how. We live in a car cul­ture.” Open only one day a week, the gallery fea­tures the work of lo­cal Amer­i­can artists al­though James is hop­ing to at­tract some Canadian artists to show as well. The mod­est com­mis­sion col­lected from the sale of work, com­bined with the freewill do­na­tions col­lected at the door to the gallery, is do­nated to the lo­cal li­brary and to a ser­vice for se­niors.

He also takes peo­ple on of­froad tours in his cus­tom-made ‘doo­dle­bug’, takes peo­ple sail­ing on Lake Mem­phrem­a­gog in a re­stored wooden sail­ing sloop, and builds in­ex­pen­sive cas­kets from the logs on his prop­erty when asked. That prop­erty that he moved to forty-four years ago now fea­tures seven build­ings and ev­ery­thing runs on ei­ther so­lar power or hy­dro power.

“I am a man on a mis­sion; I live with in­ten­tion,” he con­cluded.

Mr. Teuscher will be putting on a black­smithing demon­stra­tion, on Septem­ber 29th, at the Peacham Fall Fo­liage Fes­ti­val, in Ver­mont.

Photo Stanstead Jour­nal

James Teuscher us­ing a small mov­able forge for his demon­stra­tion at the Colby-Cur­tis Mu­seum.

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