The 1960s saw the end of the traditional blacksmith.  Those that had clung to the profession retired and had no one to replace them.
However, a new metal worker began to emerge. One that did not rely upon repair work, household goods, farming or transportation. 
The blacksmith artist emerged during the 1960s. They created decorative iron art, sculptures and furniture, using a blend of traditional hand tools and modern equipment.


Bill Lishman was one such Canadian artist. He began his metal sculpting in the late 1950s. Lishman had his studio in the Greenwood Blacksmith Shop in Pickering, Ontario in the early 1960s.  He used the original forge in the shop and said he learned his skills “from the ghosts of the past blacksmiths.”


Colour photo of artist Geordie Lishman hammering a piece of metal on an anvil inside of Pickering Museum Village's blacksmith shop.
Artist Geordie Lishman.

Courtesy of Pickering Museum Village.

His son, Geordie, follows in his father’s footsteps to carry on his metal art legacy. 


Watch the video below to see how blacksmithing transitioned into an art form in the late twentieth century.

English subtitles are available for both videos below.

Link to Introduction to Blacksmithing in Ontario in the 1960s video.

Link to 1960s Blacksmithing Challenge video.


Introduction to Blacksmithing in Ontario in the 1960s:

Descriptive Transcript for 1960s Introduction Video:

[A head shot of Canadian artist Bill Lishman.]
[A drone shot of the exterior of Pickering Museum Village’s Greenwood Blacksmith Shop. The blacksmith shop is painted red and one of the entrance doors are open.]
[An archival photo of a blacksmith holding a hammer and a heated metal rod on an anvil. He is standing beside a burning forge. The flames are bright and strong in the foreground.]
[A black and white photo James Peak and blacksmith Mike Read sitting side by side with their legs crossed.]
[NARRATOR:] Bill Lishman was a Canadian artist who got his metal sculpting start in the late 1950s and early 1960s in the Greenwood Blacksmith Shop. Using the original forge, traditional blacksmithing techniques, and the wisdom of the last blacksmith's surviving apprentices, he often said he learned his skill “from the ghosts of past blacksmiths”.
[A shot of Geordie Lishman hammering a piece of metal on an anvil.]
[Geordie hand cranks a blower inside of the Pickering Museum Village’s blacksmith shop. Sparks slowly appear in the forge as he does this.]
[NARRATOR:] His son Geordie carries on his metal art legacy and will use his father's techniques in our shop with a piece of his own art. Geordie exemplifies of how the artistic tradition of blacksmithing has been maintained, adapted, and appropriated over time.
[A close up shot of Geordie cranking the blower by hand inside of the blacksmith shop.]
[Various shots of Geordie’s metal art sculptures located at the City of Pickering’s Esplanade park.]
[NARRATOR:] Geordie Lishman art can be viewed at the City of Pickering Esplanade Park. His sculptures, form, and style reflect the beliefs and traditions of Pickering culture. Each work communicates specific emotions that all audiences can relate to.
[A drone shot of the exterior of Pickering Museum Village’s blacksmith shop during the daytime.]
[NARRATOR:] The blacksmith shop is of significant heritage value to Pickering. Not only is the shop larger than average village blacksmith’s it also features space for three distinct trades.
[An archival photo of two men and a young lady standing outside of a blacksmith shop.]
[A black and white photo of a general store and the blacksmith shop from the 1800s. An early automobile is parked between the two establishments.]
[NARRATOR:] The shop was in use from 1847 to 1959 by various blacksmiths. William Beaton, son of Hector Beaton and brother of Donald Beaton, leased the blacksmith shop from 1884 to 1885.
[A black and white portrait of local blacksmith Robert Grieg.]
[A black and white photo James Peak and blacksmith Mike Read sitting side by side with their legs crossed.]
[NARRATOR:] Several of the past blacksmiths used the shop for wagon making. George Law, Patrick Reed, and William Marshall all advertised their wagon making and repair services in the local newspapers. Walter Wilson was the last blacksmith to work in the shop in its original location.
[Photo of Bill Lishman speaking in front of an audience.]
[Photo of a younger Bill Lishman crouching beside his ultralight aircraft.]
[NARRATOR:] After Wilson retired, the Rogers family rented the blacksmith house from Edna Green, and used the shop as a stable for horses. Artist Bill Lishman and Brian McKenzie rented the shop and used it as a studio in the 1960s. Roy Rogers rented the shop and associated house to Bill Lishman for only fifty dollars a month.
[An archival photo of the exterior of the blacksmith shop during the daytime.]
[NARRATOR:] Initially constructed in 1856 as Greenwood’s blacksmithing and wagon-making facility, this integral piece of Pickering's history has undergone an exciting remodel and renovation that will provide an interactive state-of-the-art means of bringing the past into the present.
[Geordie crumples up pieces of newspaper beside the forge inside of Pickering Museum Village’s blacksmith shop.]
[GEORDIE LISHMAN:] “I’ll show you the way my father taught me, how to start this up with newspaper. Used a lot of different stuff.”
[A shot of Geordie cranking the blower inside of the blacksmith shop by hand. He then throws the pieces of newspaper inside of the forge.]
[GEORDIE LISHMAN:] “Make a ball and you put it inside. And then, you want to make like a little mushroom.”
[Geordie repositions the coal inside of the forge using a small metal shovel. Smoke begins to rise up.]
[NARRATOR:] Our Pickering Museum Village blacksmith has accepted a challenge to create a metal sculpture using a variety of traditional and modern techniques.


If you were a blacksmith in charge of making a metal art piece, what would you do? How would you use new and old technologies to create an aesthetic piece of metal art work during this era? Watch the video below to find out.


1960s Blacksmithing Challenge Video:


Descriptive Transcript for 1960s Challenge Video:

 [Geordie continues to reposition the coal in the forge using the metal shovel. Smoke increasingly appears as he is doing this, until eventually he sees flames amongst the coal.]
[A close up shot of the flames inside of the coal forge.]
[Geordie cranks the blower beside the brick forge. Smoke can be seen rising from the middle of the forge.]
[NARRATOR:] The blacksmith is required to increase the temperature. Traditionally, large bellows were used and required an additional laborer. However, as blacksmithing evolved, blacksmiths started using hand-cranked bellows to propel air into the fire, making it hotter. The blacksmith then had to decide which type of heat was necessary. There are three types of heat: Snowball heat or white heat, full welding heat, and low or light welding heat.
[Flames continue to burn inside of the coal forge. Geordie takes a pair of blacksmithing tongs and moves the coal around inside of the forge.]
[GEORDIE LISHMAN:] “And this is what’s going to burn and keep the heat going while the coal catches.”
[A close up shot of the blames burning brightly inside of the coal forge.]
[GEORDIE LISHMAN:] “So, my goal, is going to be, to heat this up nice and hot and create myself two nice long tapers.”
[Geordie uses a pair of blacksmithing tongs to hold a heated thick metal rod over an anvil. He strikes at the heated end with a hammer multiple times.]
[Geordie presents the metal bending fork attached to a wooden table inside of the blacksmith shop.]
[The metal rod now has a tapered end on one side. Geordie placed the pointed end on the face of the anvil and begins flattening it with a hammer.]
[Geordie takes the tapered metal rod to the metal bending fork on a table and places it in the middle. He begins twisting the heated rod until it curves into a “C” shape.]
[GEORDIE LISHMAN:] “So, to make a taper, I’m first just going to flatten it out in a graduation. So, as I make it skinnier in one dimension, I make it fatter in the next dimension.”
[Geordie places the curved and tapered metal rod over to the horn of the anvil and hammers around it, creating a smoother curve shape. He then moves it over to the face of the anvil and carefully hammers the metal tapered end.]
[Geordie picks up the metal taper rod with a pair of blacksmithing tongs and dips it into a bucket full of water. The water sizzles and smoke rises as he does this.]
[GEORDIE LISHMAN:] “Okay, so I’m going to cool this side off, and do it again on the other side.”
[Geordie takes the heated metal rod and places the opposite, non-tapered end on top of the anvil using a pair of blacksmithing tongs. He takes his hammers and pounds at the piece of metal, performing the same actions he did on the opposite end.]
[A close up shot of Geordie striking the heated metal rod on the anvil.]
[NARRATOR:] Geordie is performing an act known as tempering. Tempering is a form of heat treatment that controls the toughness and hardness of steel. A piece of steel is tempered by heating it to a high temperature and quenching it in water. The process increases hardness at the expense of resilience. The higher the carbon content of the steel and the faster the cooling, the harder the tool will be.
[Geordie continues to strike at the piece of metal over the anvil using his pair of blacksmithing tongs and a hammer.]
[Geordie uses the bending fork again, and places the heated end of the metal rod in between the two prongs. He begins twisting the metal to form a “C” shaped curve using a pair of blacksmithing tongs.]
[Geordie moves back to the anvil with the tapered piece of metal and continues to strike at it with his hammer. He switches back and forth between the face and the horn of the anvil.]
[Geordie places the completed tapered piece of metal on the face of the anvil. The camera zooms in on the finished product.]
[The video transitions into Geordie’s own workshop. He is outside wearing a welding helmet and a pair of welding gloves. Geordie crouches over while using a welding device in order to attach the tapered metal pieces onto a bigger metal art sculpture.]
[Geordie stands beside his metal sculpture outside of his workshop. The sculpture is made up of narrow rods of metal. Two heart shapes can be seen in the center of the sculpture, and metal swirls and curvy lines are attached throughout the entire piece.]
[Geordie assembles the final pieces of his metal sculpture to reveal the word “Love” sitting above the metal pieces.]